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Where to start? I love Devon McCormack and his books narrated by Michael Pauley are my favourites. May/December romances don’t bother me – I recently read a book where there was 40 years’ difference between the two men – but I do see where Mr. McCormack’s book is pushing the limits. In the heterosexual world, ‘best friend’s dad’ as a trope has been around for a while. This book is different from those, and not just because the two main characters are men.
Jesse is a smart young man who has been convinced by his best friend Ty to take a break and head to Mexico. They are staying at Ty’s dad’s condo and aren’t expecting company. When Ty’s dad, Eric, shows up, there are ripples. First, Eric’s relationship with Ty is rough. Jesse’s loyalties are torn because he understands why Ty is angry with Eric, but he’s also empathetic with Eric that the rift was not his fault. Sometimes, Jesse is the most mature man in the condo.
Jesse and Ty are 23. Eric is 42. From the beginning, Jesse and Eric know that if Ty discovers the relationship they’re forging, he will be hurt. That is not enough to stop them from moving forward with their relationship.
This isn’t a ‘taboo’ book in the purest sense of the word, but it does raise ethical issues. And, as I suspect Mr. McCormack wanted, I did feel bad for Ty. Yes, he can be immature, obnoxious, and mean to his father, purposely calling him ‘Eric’ instead of ‘Dad’, but Eric could certainly put in a greater effort. He’s doing ‘cool’ things, hoping Ty will warm up to him, but after 6 years, it’s clear the hands-off approach isn’t working. A particularly poignant exchange between father and son hits Eric hard as Ty reveals a bit of how Eric’s parenting technique is lacking. Eric is left reeling, but it’s Jesse he turns to for confirmation and validation of Ty’s comments. This is further proof of the dysfunction between father and son.
I love that Jesse has the maturity to see the rift between father and son and tries to encourage both to bridge the gap. Those efforts are constantly undermined when he hops into bed with Eric at every possible opportunity (and a few other locations as well because, let’s be honest, why be in a tropical locale and not have sex in the beautiful country?) My loyalties swayed, making this book more of an emotional investment than I had planned.
That is a good thing. I like when books push me out of my comfort zone and force me to examine my own reactions to a particular situation. Eric says to Jesse that it’s “more important to know weaknesses than strengths.” Now, that could be interpreted as a businessman scoping out a rival’s frailties in order to strike effectively, or it could be a man who knows why he’s never had a lasting deep and fulfilling relationship because he’s never let anyone see his weaknesses, his vulnerabilities.
Jesse is often more mature and empathetic than many 23-year-old guys, but his own history informs that. He’s known pain and rejection. When Eric needs him most, Jesse is there. Words mean a lot, and Jesse uses them well, but his actions go a long way as well. Not leaving. Doing research. Even just being willing to cuddle and comfort. Those are powerful things and made me adore Jesse all the more.
The book is dual point-of-view and I prefer that because I can see the situation through both men’s eyes.
Finally – and last but not least – Michael Pauley. I was going to try to not gush at the narrator of the book, but I can’t help it. I have listened to dozens of his books and he always manages to give each character something unique. Although Jesse is the character with less power (at least at the beginning), Michael’s voice for him was strong. Jesse might be new to same-sex relationships, but he knows what he wants, and Mr. Pauley portrays that need and desire. And the sex scenes? Well, there are LOTS of them and Mr. Pauley handles each one brilliantly. My only complaint is that the women (Dana and Mandy) come off as dippy. To be sure, most of this is Devon’s writing, but Michael’s interpretation of them doesn’t help. There is nothing wrong with women who enjoy sex. They don’t necessarily have to come across as vapid. Devon (and Michael) redeem themselves with Allison. She has depth and intelligence and is portrayed as such. As Eric’s friend, she helps him admit his real feelings for Jesse.
To be clear – this book does not end on a cliffhanger per se. Jesse and Eric are together. But, there are a large number of unresolved issues and I have it on good authority that Book 2 is being written at this very moment. I won’t pressure the artistic process, but I will say I am waiting in anticipation. So, this is a great listen with more to come. And I might even forgive Jesse for not knowing who Kate Bush is. Kids these days…
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