malicious compliance coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel


Jules has come back to New York from London, forced to start his life over almost from scratch. As a teen, he was a musical prodigy, getting an elite scholarship to study cello in Europe. Jules’ had a bright future ahead of him until he caught the eye of famous composer, Nicolai Ivanov. Nicolai pretended to care about him, but instead, he used Jules, wore him down and taught him to doubt he could be anything without Nicolai. And when Nicolai tired of Jules and moved on to the next bright young thing, he left Jules with nothing. Jules lost his home and all his money, and no one in the elite musical circles will hire Jules for fear of Nikolai’s retribution. Jules is now returning home to New York to try to start over. He can barely afford to survive, and would be on the streets if his uncle wasn’t letting him live in a run down apartment in the building he owns. It has no heat and is falling apart, but at least it is a place where Jules can regroup and figure out his next steps.

Jules hopes to find a job with another symphony, but he is not sure if anyone will hire him, despite his skills and resume. But he does manage to get a job doing private musical tutoring. Unfortunately, it turns out he shares a wall with a man in the building next door — a very thin wall. His neighbor not only yells when Jules plays or makes any noise, he is up at all hours and makes it impossible for Jules to sleep. Eventually, however, the men come to a rough truce and, with time, even begin a grudging friendship as they have conversations through the wall.

Jules slowly begins to find that spark in himself once again, and a regained belief in his own talents. It is not easy, not after all Nicolai put him through, and that fire inside him is still very fragile. Jules is surprised to find that much of his renewed enthusiasm and confidence comes from the man in the apartment next door, the one who Jules finds himself talking to night after night, confiding in, and even playing music for. In fact, it is has become one of the most important relationships in Jules’ life. But he has never met the man in person, and it is clear that Forrest (as he eventually learns is his name) has something major in his past that makes him unable to leave his apartment much and definitely terrified about meeting Jules in person. Yet despite the strange circumstances, Jules and Forrest are falling for one another and, if all goes well, Jules may finally be about to meet his mystery man in person.

Malicious Compliance is the first book in E.M. Lindsey’s Loose Lips Sink Ships duet, which is followed immediately by Instant Regret. This book is truly part one of a continuing story, and you will definitely need to read both books to get the full journey. Fortunately, the two books are releasing at once, so you can get them together. While I am writing this review before starting book two so I can give my separate thoughts for each half, I am absolutely ready to dive into the second story to see how it all ends, as I am completely captivated by this duet.

What makes this book unique is that we not only get the whole story just from Jules’ exclusive POV, but without ever seeing Forrest at all. We don’t even learn his name until almost the end of the book. It gives the reader such a deep immersion in Jules’ POV because we literally know nothing more than he does about Forrest and it almost all comes from their interactions through the wall. It gives an intensity to the story, as we are learning everything along with Jules, and I felt so engulfed in Jules’ journey with this kind of a singular focus. The style also builds a sense of mystery about Forrest, as Jules never meets him in person and Forrest is clearly keeping some secrets. He doesn’t want Jules to see him and he doesn’t seem to leave the house, aside from rarely with his brother or best friend. Slowly, we learn more about Forrest as he opens up to Jules, as well as through some bits of information that come from Forrest’s brother. But the story ends with most of our questions about Forrest unanswered. Yet somehow, Jules and Forrest have found a way to connect and fall for each other despite the strange circumstances. There is this slow thaw between them as they start out fighting and eventually form a friendship, and soon, Forrest is the most important person Jules has in his life.

Much of this story is focused on Jules’ journey as he slowly begins to come back to himself after his life as he knows it falls apart. Lindsey does such an amazing job really digging into Jules and exploring his pain and the depth of betrayal from that relationship. Nicolai was a predator; he used Jules for as long as he needed him, then took relish in destroying his life and his future. I could really feel Jules’ pain as he is caught between hating Nicolai, but also having a part of him still be emotionally connected to this man who was his entire world for years. The relationship not only left Jules destitute and without a career, it crushed Jules’ sense of self and belief in his music and his ability to create. The connection with Forrest helps nurture that ember, that tiny spark of strength and sheer will that still lives inside Jules and we see it slowly beginning to grow back.

I was completely drawn in by this story and absolutely loved it. I am itching to get started on book two and see how Jules and Forrest’s journey together develops. We leave the men at a pivotal point in their relationship and I can’t wait to see what happens from here.

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