Declan knows he’s a loner. He has a group of three friends that he hosts a podcast with; they are his family and they all know how he is. His childhood was disruptive and lonely and Declan has no interest in getting closer to too many people. Hookups have always worked for him and, when he meet Sebastian, they have no-strings meet ups. The men keep in touch over ten years, and during that time, Sebastian becomes a popular movie star. However, when Sebastian moves in with a boyfriend, he calls off his meetings with Declan.
Sebastian is now back in California after finding his boyfriend in bed with his best friend. He wants to take a break from acting and a break from life and he wants to reconnect with Declan. The men have never done anything together outside of the bedroom and when Sebastian asks Declan to hang out, Declan is suspicious because it feels like dating. And, to Declan’s surprise, he doesn’t hate it, but he also doesn’t want to admit that.
The men should make no sense together—a loner and a man wildly in the public eye—but the more time Declan and Sebastian spend together, the more time they want to spend together. But to make a relationship work, Declan has to be able to let Sebastian in, trust that Sebastian truly wants to be with him, and believe that people will not always leave him.
This new Vers Podcast series from Riley Hart starts with The Loner and Declan and Sebastian’s story. I liked the opening of the book and how we see the men meet and then quickly move through ten years. During those years, the men maintain a casual relationship of hookups, with Declan advancing his career from bartender to bar owner, and Sebastian becoming a famous movie star. Their relationship is casual over the years—so casual that Declan is barely cooled off before he’s getting dressed and bolting for the door—and there is a fine line between casual and callous.
Sebastian always felt a little extra spark for Declan, but with his life as an actor and Declan not wanting a relationship, he never pursued something more. Now, though, he wants Declan and he’s laying out a plan of how to make that happen. Declan is leery of being with anyone. He’s been alone for so long that’s all he knows and when he starts to want more with Sebastian, he holds himself back and doesn’t even know how to let himself reach for more.
Declan has a group of friends that he hosts a podcast with. I always like stories of found family and Hart does that well. We are told that the group talks about meaningful topics in the LGBTQ+ community on the podcast. Yet, when we see them recording, we mostly see back and forth banter between the guys without a whole lot of substance shown. The banter is also similar to what I have seen from Hart in the past and it feels juvenile and makes some of her characters sound the same across books and series. I also felt that there was not a lot happening in this book and what was happening was incredibly slow. Declan’s father is a side character here and he’s a caricature of the mean, homophobic, disrespectful parent without any character development behind him.
I liked the characters here of Declan and Sebastian and I liked the close group of friends. While I would have liked a little more spark and movement around their relationship, it was enjoyable watching them fall for each other. I am also invested in the group of friends and will look for them to find their HEA.