I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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A male escort looking for a way out of town and a mostly blind man needing to get to a specialist eye doctor in Atlanta take a long road trip out of California in a beat-up pickup truck.
Marcus Townsend lost most of his eyesight during an IED explosion while deployed overseas with the Army. One honorable discharge and one metal plate in his head later, Marcus feels stuck, annoyed, and fighting new life. Frequent headaches are robbing him of what little sight he has left, and he resents anyone who tells him he cannot do what he used to be able to do.
Except, he actually can't. He needs to get himself to Atlanta, but flying is out of the question, because pressure changes make his headaches worse, and he obviously can't drive because he can barely discern light and dark.
While rebelling against his cousin's hovering, he finds himself in a bad part of town, about to get mugged.
Enter Rye Bellamy, escort but hating it, who prevents the mugging and takes Marcus home.
Except Marcus considers himself straight - he's never been attracted to a man, and while we don't find out much about his previous love life, the reader is left to assume that Marcus feeling attracted to Rye comes out of left field.
I wondered about the novel's assertion that Marcus is demi-sexual - which is alluded to fairly early on. It was my understanding (which may be wrong) that demi-sexuals need to have romantic or very friendly feelings for a person to feel sexually attracted, which, if that's the case, the revelation of Marcus' sexuality comes much too soon in this book, before he and Rye even had a chance to get comfortable with each other. Again, I may be wrong, but I questioned it here.
Either way, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of this novel, and I kept on reading as Marcus and Rye get closer, not only in mind but also in body, and read with rapt attention of their adventures on the road.
Marcus annoyed me on occasion, because he came off as unreasonable sometimes, but I did love Rye. He really "got" Marcus, and while it wasn't all smooth sailing, Rye didn't misstep much, and I got the feeling that his careful "handling" of Marcus enhanced their relationship. He simply did what was needed, without impeding Marcus' dignity, always careful to not make the other man feel useless or helpless.
As their attraction grows, so does their physical relationship, and Rye slowly introduces Marcus to the joys of male on male sexy times. While those scenes were explicit, I thought that they were also not too numerous in this book to take away from the actual message.
And that's about their journey. As they put miles upon miles behind them on their trip, both men also undertake a personal journey of growth. Marcus learns that he still has things to learn, and that he has to come to terms with his new limitations. And Rye learns that he's more than "just a whore", and that he has options beyond being an escort.
They help each other with their individual journeys - much like Rye doesn't belittle Marcus for his limitations, so neither does Marcus ever treat Rye as a paid companion, or berate his life choices. He's just Rye to Marcus - someone he trusts, someone who's kind and caring, and someone who knows when to step back and give him space to deal.
I even liked the ending, even though we don't get that HEA. Instead, the author leaves us with a strong HFN, one that is achieved only because both men, at the end of their cross-country journey realize that they still have many roads to travel.
A journey well worth taking, especially considering this is a debut novel.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **