I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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What an excellent debut novel. Very well-written, with good pacing and wonderfully fleshed out characters.
Carlos is down on his luck. Out of work for a year, barely surviving on his unemployment benefits, he's lost his home, his truck and his girlfriend. While this may sound like a bad country song on the surface, there's also the question of whether Carlos is as straight as he proclaims to be.
Abused for years by his drunken father and mother, Carlos only knows that he has to be a manly man if he has any hope of gaining his father's love. Everything he does - getting a manly job in construction, quickly rising to foreman, getting himself the hottest girl around - still doesn't get him what he wants the most.
At the end of his rope, and short the exorbitant "rent" he pays his so-called friend Hector to sleep on Hector's flea-infested couch, Carlos spots an open window on the 2nd floor of a hotel.
Desperate, he climbs in, intent to steal the shiny laptop he sees on the table to pawn and get some cash for Hector.
Except the room's occupant isn't as asleep as Carlos thinks, and Carlos finds himself at the receiving end of a baseball bat. When he wakes up, the stranger in the room introduces himself and tells him he has a concussion. While Carlos recuperates in Michael's bed, they first argue a lot, obviously, but after a couple of days, some confessions on Carlos' side, and a tentative truce, Michael offers Carlos room and board in exchange for cooking and cleaning for him, with the understanding that Carlos is there as his guest and won't get a key to the room.
Bristling, Carlos walks out. Once he realizes that he has no place else to go, because his girlfriend and his buddy Hector have been cheating on him for a while, he returns to Michael and accepts the offer.
Of course, Carlos is still straight. And Michael is not.
I loved not only how the romance unfolded slowly, but how Carlos blossoms in the relationship. I loved how Carlos gets really through to Michael, how he helps him conquer his demons, how he sees beyond Michael's mask, how he jumps in with both feet when he realizes that what he's feeling is more than simple gratitude, and maybe he's not so straight after all, including mutual wanking sessions and kissing and much more. I loved how he pushed Michael's rigidity but also backed off when he instinctively knew when to stop pushing. I loved how Michael also started to loosen up. There's much between the lines, too, even if Carlos doesn't always get it - this reader did.
This was a fabulous book. I was pulled into the story from the start, rooting for both MCs. Even after Michael can't quite seem to get his head out of his ass, and I ranted at him, I loved how Carlos kept being determined to get what he wanted and went after it.
Considering this was a debut novel, I'm simply blown away at how well this was done. Both men were not perfect, but certainly perfect for each other. And Carlos' determination really made him stand out. The author did a fantastic job of creating not only his two main characters, but also a supporting cast that was equally well done, right down to not being what they initially seemed.
Both Carlos and Michael learn a lot in this book - not only about each other, but also about themselves.
Engrossing from start to finish, I would highly recommend this book.
Please write another, Mr. Rowe.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **