one for the road coverRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
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Length: Novel

 

Max grew up in the small town of St. Jack’s Bay and couldn’t wait to get out. Ten years ago, he left the town — and his lover, Rome — behind. The men were teenagers in love and Max’s departure broke Rome’s heart. Max has never quite settled since leaving home, and neither man has been able to move past their feelings for one another. Now, Max’s mother has passed away and he is returning home for the first time since the funeral. Neither man knows how to handle seeing each other once again, but in a small town, avoiding each other is near impossible, particularly as Max’s twin sister is Rome’s best friend and an employee at his bar.

Rome and Max had always had plans to leave town together and Rome hasn’t gotten over being left behind. But that doesn’t stop him from still loving Max, even as he is still so angry. Seeing Max again brings up all those old feelings and the chemistry between them is just as hot as ever. The men can’t resist falling back into bed together, even as Max is clear he will be leaving town once the memorial service is done. The guys are so good together, but with Max once again planning to leave Rome behind, the men have to figure out if this is just going to be a short fling, or if there is any chance they can find their way back together for good.

One for the Road is an intense, character-driven, lovers-reunited story. The book takes us deep into the relationship between Max and Rome as they navigate seeing each other again for the first time in ten years and figuring out if there is a way to make things work the second time around. Hawthorne really delves into the emotions here for both men as they are both rather stuck. Neither has been able to move on since Max left ten years ago, and they so clearly still have feelings for each other. I could really feel how strongly these guys were connected, even after so much time, and how intensely they feel about each other. We slowly see Max and Rome move from fearful they will run into each other, to working through that first contact, to giving in to the intense attraction and acting on it. All the while, there is this ticking clock, as Max still plans to leave. On top of that, they need to figure out how they work together as more experienced adults, versus the teens they once were together. Back then, both men were new to kink and had no idea what they were doing or really wanted, and now they are revisiting it through the lens of more experience, which I thought added a nice additional layer to their dynamic. So this is an angsty, emotional read and I think Hawthorne does really well diving deep into the nuances of their relationship.

The story is very focused on the present, and while we do learn over time more about what happened all those years ago, as well as what the guys have been doing in the intervening years, it is not explored in as much depth. I did wish for a little more clarity on what Max has been doing in all this time he has been gone, as we know he has never really settled. But I also can see why Hawthorne has honed in on the present relationship and focused on exploring that dynamic, as it gives some additional intensity to the present-day situation.

I’ll be honest that I struggled a little here fully warming up to Max. I think it’s partly because we see how much he hurt Rome by leaving and it takes time to really understand why Max ran out (or even for Max to understand fully himself). But also Max not only left town and left Rome behind, he also didn’t speak to his mother or twin sister in that time. Even as his mother was dying, Max refused to come home and had to be pushed into even returning for the funeral. So I found him a little selfish and I wanted to see him make amends more. Not just with Rome, which he eventually does, but also with his sister. She is a major side character and a link between both Rome and Max, so I feel like the way he treats her and the impact of his leaving on her is something that needed some closure.

Overall, I enjoyed the way this story really digs deep into the lovers reunited trope. There is just a nice intensity and really well explored dynamic here between them. It takes a while for these guys to find their way, but it ends up really rewarding and I was rooting for them to come back together.

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