Release Date: February 16, 2016
Length: Novel (222 pages)
Genre: Contemporary M/M romance
Cover Art: AngstyG
Blurb: Neil Bierker is a bit famous in New Halliday: he’s the kid who jumped off the bypass when he was sixteen. At twenty-seven he’s a third grade teacher who manages his depression through running, boxing, and one night a week with Clem Robbins.
He can keep everything else in his life together, as long as for a few hours every week it all falls away.
Clem wants more than one night a week. The way he sees it, if one night’s good, wouldn’t more be better? But he’s had three years of good sex with a man twenty years younger than him and he’s not about to blow it by asking for more, even if he thinks it’s what both of them want.
When Neil’s life begins to unravel, the last thing he wants to do is rely on Clem to keep him upright. Sometimes it takes a crisis to realize just how many people are on your side…and just what you’re willing to do to keep them there.
If someone forced me to squeeze this book into a trope, I’d say it’s mostly a May/December romance with a generous side of hurt/comfort. A fifty-year-old restaurant owner and a twenty-seven-year-old school teacher find their way through a maze of their own insecurities/issues only to discover that they already had everything they needed to be happy, mostly anyway.
This is the third book in the New Halliday series and probably my least favorite of the three. But it’s still a really good book. Each book in the series features a character with some variety of mental illness and I love how the author deals with those challenges. The characters aren’t ever expected to be cured or symptom-free and their partners give them the space to manage their conditions as they need to without any judgment or unnecessary interference. It was refreshing and realistic. Love doesn’t cure mental illnesses.
As an aside, I hate the term “mental illness”. Neither word adequately describes the reality… Mental sounds like it’s all in your head and you can think your way out of it and illness implies that it can be cured. I like the idea of “brain challenge” because mental illnesses like anxiety and depression can’t be rationalized away or cured. They are, by and large, life-long challenges that will always need to be accommodated and managed.
I had a few issues that kept me from loving this story. While I liked Clem and Neil separately, I never quite understood what drew them together. In the end, I think the book starts in the wrong place. I needed it to begin when Clem and Neil first got together and leapfrog through the events of the other two books to where this book picks up the story. The book also ends too soon. As it stands, I’d come close to calling it a happy-for-now rather than a happily-ever-after. I wanted one or two more scenes of Clem and Neil’s new normal to make it satisfying. Overall, the plot is also a little scattered without a through thread to hold everything together. This left characters often just reacting to the things other people did/said rather than any choices/actions of their own.
The sex was well-done overall even if I thought there was a bit too much. Your mileage may vary as I have to admit that breath play isn’t my thing, so some of the sex scenes were lost on me.
Please note, this book has a hard time standing on its own if you haven’t read the others in the series. The author assumes the reader knows why Nova is ostracized by his classmates or who Ralph was etc. Luckily I read the three books in order over a couple weeks, but readers who don’t are going to be confused in places.
All that said this book and this series are definitely worth your time and attentions. In fact, I wish there were another book in the series just because I’m not quite ready to let go of New Halliday and I need to know that Alex, Nova, Zinia and Xan are going to be okay.
The cover is just meh for me. I don’t get the deco theme for these books. It might have worked if it related to the town or stories somehow, but it doesn’t seem to be connected at all.