I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Pre-read thoughts: Holy crap, that blurb. This is gonna hurt, innit?
Review: Holy crap, that hurt. My poor heart!
Trigger warnings: PTSD, suicidal thoughts, depression
Homeless and orphaned at barely 18, Josh has only one goal - get to New England for the Fall to watch the leaves change color, in honor of his mom, whom he lost, a trip that was something he and his mother had hoped to do, and then curl up and let the harsh climate take him. He spends much of his last funds on a bus ticket to get to the small New Hampshire town. Josh has basically given up.
Mark is an ex-Marine, with a gaggle of older brothers, trying all his life to live up to them. He failed miserably, and has hidden himself away in a small cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, denying himself the one thing he wants - a man to love. Coming out to his conservative family and his older brothers is not possible, so Mark has beaten that part of himself into submission and given up. He's a handyman and currently working on painting the exterior of a huge Victorian house for an older lady.
Due to some fortuitous circumstances, Josh ends up under a covered bridge near the cabin, where Mark discovers him. Mark takes one look at the emaciated young man and brings him to the cabin to help him. He offers him a job as his assistant to get the house painting done before winter.
The romance is subdued, and I had a somewhat difficult time believing that someone who had shut down as much as Josh had here would be able to form a romantic attachment in the short time frame of this novel, considering that he traveled to NH to basically die, but perhaps that was survival instinct, or a bit of hope.
The amount of angst in this book is massive, which I expected just from the blurb, but that expectation didn't help with the tears I cried or the heartache I had from reading this book.
I'm not going to tell you what happens, or how this ends, because I think this book should be experienced without any spoilers, but I will tell you that you should buy this as soon as you can, and read it. Have tissues ready.
Eli Easton demonstrates her writing chops here. Her characters are fully fleshed out, and they are flawed. They are real. They are complex. And they learn lessons here too.
Josh is written perfectly - a teenager, barely an adult, whose grief is crushing him, but who still has the impetuousness of youth dictating some of his behavior. And Mark too is written realistically - a ex-soldier whose invisible wounds run deep, and who has little hope for happiness, just trying to get through every day as best he can, and despite being older than Josh, not being any smarter in matters of the heart.
This isn't a sweet fluffy romance, and any happiness is hard fought for. There are times of darkness not just in the shortening days but in the souls of these two men, and they have to claw their way out by the skin of their teeth.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author for review. A positive review was not promised in return. **