lessons in timing coverRating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel

Four men, one month; four stories, one happy ending. Is love a creation of sparkles and magic, or is it just a matter of being in the right place at the right time?

Armand has flown to California from England to give a comic workshop. He’s struggling to find his footing now that he’s sober, far away from old haunts and old habits. All he has to do is talk in front of strangers about art, catch up on the newest pages of his comic, Surrogate Goose, and participate in an international convention … which he really, really doesn’t want to do. Armand hates public speaking, hates having to socialize, hates having people stare at him, and that whiskey bottle is looking pretty tempting right about now.

Robin is small, but fearsome. As Armand’s liaison, he’s responsible for getting the visiting celebrity to and from class and helping him with anything he needs, all while keeping up with his own schoolwork, working on his own comic, and starring in the local show. Things would be fine — fine! — if it weren’t for his high school bully suddenly showing up at school determined to make his life hell yet again.

Skyler is hiding from his past, having run away from Oregon to California for school without his brother, who can’t understand why Skyler left. And Skyler can’t tell him, can’t tell his brother that he’s feeling attraction for his brother’s girlfriend — which is all the more confusing when Skyler knows he’s ace. How can he stop feeling things he doesn’t want to feel? And how much longer can he keep lying to his brother?

Lucas is dealing with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem to understand how much Lucas wants to please him. He’s keeping an eye on his weight, he’s trying to fit in with Darren’s friends, to make him proud. Lucas knows Darren is the one; they’ve been each other’s boyfriends since high school and now, nearly thirty, Lucas is ready to settle down with the man he loves. Until Darren decides it’s not working out, and Lucas’ world comes crashing down.

This book is told, chapter by chapter, from the four points of view as their stories wind around one another creating a tangled mess that somehow works. Robin knows Armand, who is sharing an apartment with Lucas; Lucas meets Skyler and gets him a job as his horse sanctuary; Skyler helps Robin deal with the aftermath of his bully’s prank; Armand hires Skyler as a model for his class that Robin is taking; and the connecting stories are revealed in ever deepening layers. This style might not work for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Armand and Lucas, for all that they share an apartment, have differing schedules and, as such, they never meet face to face. Lucas can’t stand the idea of living with someone he doesn’t know, and so leaves Post Its and small notes about the apartment, to which Armand replies, setting off an epistolary friendship that slowly grows into something more as Lucas needs support after he’s dumped and Armand needs a friend to talk to — one who won’t judge him, one who doesn’t know him. It’s easier to pour your heart out to someone you’ll never meet, someone who can’t later use your pain against you.

So, of course, the two of them have to meet. Robin and Skyler are witness to both sides and take great delight in knowing both people involved. How irritating to be flirting with someone only for their liaison to mention, offhand, “oh you’re the one he’s talking about!” or for Lucas to hear, second hand from Skyler, what Armand sounds like when he talks. Their flirtation is cute, and the banter and humor was a strong part of their relationship.

In the background, Skyler and Robin are having their own story. Robin, quick to fall in love with the handsome Skyler who has rescued him, wants nothing more than for Skyler to like him back. Skyler, though, only wants a friend. Someone to help him be less lonely; Lucas is great, but Lucas is his boss, and a decade older. Robin is his own age, and they get along great … if only Robin didn’t want something Skyler can’t give him. And there’s a moment where feelings are revealed and considerations are made, as both young man have to decide what they want out of the relationship that feels very genuine.

The writing is good; the pacing, though, is a bit wobbly. A lot of time is spent on moments that — while they advance friendships and relationships — feel circuitous and repetitive. Lucas has several scenes with Darren being unpleasant and, while it adds to the toxicity of the relationship and shows that Lucas is better off without him, there didn’t need to be the same scene three times in a row. The first half of the book did feel slightly lethargic with all of the setup, made only  more noticeable as the last half of the book zipped along light and quick. The plot itself is well put together considering it’s four storylines connected to all four men.

In all, I had fun with this book and think it’s worth the read, and I can’t wait to see what else the author comes up with! For all that there are some darker elements of bullying — both Robin and his childhood bully, as well as Lucas and his ex-boyfriend, which leads him to disordered eating — the story is relatively low angst, with a lovely, happy ending.

Note trigger warnings for disordered eating, emotional abuse, gaslighting, death of an animal