Everyone deserves a hero. Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs. Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons - and insists that they play together in a recital - Owen can't find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick. Owen knows he's falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother's scorn and Nick's secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it's time to be one - for himself and for Nick.
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I went back and forth on how to rate this book for some time, really putting it off for awhile and letting it marinate in my head. Some books, after reading them, tend to stick with me in a positive way, and I'll think about the characters and romance for weeks. Some books, like this one, stick with me for the wrong reasons.
*WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!*
I find it impossible to talk about this book without going into some major spoilers. I'll start with the stuff that I liked, which is spoiler-free, but most of the parts that I didn't enjoy have to do with one MAJOR spoiler.
To start, I liked the narration by Iggy Toma, who always does a good job with his audiobooks. He was a very easy listen, with good differentiation between voices and a lot of emotion there. Though some of his voices aren't my favorite, tone-wise, he still always pleases me with his narrating skills.
I'm always looking for romances with a hero/heroine with a disability. Interestingly enough, though I have a neighbor with an amniotic band constriction resulting in the loss of her arm, I had no idea it was as common as I was led to believe in the story. Actually, after doing some research with my best friend, who is a midwife, amniotic band constrictions are fairly common, but most are very minor and don't result in the loss of a limb or finger.
I really appreciated the fact that Marie Sexton included a character with such a obvious physical disability, and, as some of you may know, love a character with a stutter. Combine that with the fact that Owen was a VIRGIN... whew, you would think that Marie Sexton had this in the bag... right???
I really hate when characters flip flop between hot and cold and don't properly communicate. It really irks me, just as it irks me in real life when people behave like that. I didn't love Nick's attitude, and I didn't get a good vibe from their relationship. I felt like Nick was taking advantage of Owen at times, and I didn't enjoy that.
I also REALLY hate the typical cruel mother, who was over-the-top here, and the melodrama with the mother/father dynamics. It felt too contrived to me. It wasn't my biggest complaint about the story, but I wasn't too pleased with it either.
My breaking point had to do with Nick's secret. Though this book was written a few years ago, it was NOT written in 1988. Simple thing that all M/M authors should know, and all of their CHARACTERS who are affected with this condition should know: HIV does NOT = AIDS. It just doesn't. AIDS hysteria and the lack of common sense awareness about HIV simply does not make sense with any gay characters after 2010. Sure, characters could be freaked out by HIV, but I would think they would know basic facts, like you are extremely, EXTREMELY unlikely to get HIV from a blow job from someone with HIV. And to have a character who is HIV+ refer to himself as having AIDS... just makes no sense. As someone with a relative who is HIV+ and who has lost another relative from AIDS, this is a subject close to my heart. I knew from a very, very young age that you can't get HIV from kissing.
This book just triggered me quite a bit, and the more I thought about the book, the more upset I got. I'd say, listen with caution.
Owen has one shortened arm – since birth – and in his mind it defines who he is and prevents him from ever “being the hero”. He also has a stutter and is very socially anxious. When the new neighbor moves in below him, he knows his denial about his sexuality won’t stand in the face of his attraction to Nick.
Nick is everything Owen isn’t – on the surface. Though Nick is attracted to Owen, he keeps giving off mixed signals. Eventually Owen confronts him about this and thus starts their on again/off again relationship.
Without giving any spoilers Nick is hiding something, and this keeps him from being with Owen or anybody else. His guilt is extreme and being lonely is one way he punishes himself.
Eventually both men exorcise their demons (to an extent) and we get a HFN.
** The Tucker Springs series is full of some heavy subjects. Every book seems to have a big “issue” that gets discussed/overcome/explained away/etcetera. For Nick his guilt is his issue and for Owen his lack of self-confidence.
I think that I’m in the minority when I say that this was my least favorite books in the series. I know many others really loved and bonded with these guys, but to me they never felt as authentic as the characters in the other books.
While I loved some of the unique twists and turns in this story (*** small spoiler warning – Owen TOPS! ***) and things that come about that you wouldn’t expect – I was disappointed in the way Nick’s “issue” is handled.
On the other side of the coin – I loved how Owen’s “issue” is handled. The metaphor of the hero, the references to “lending a hand”, the use of the piano as a tool to let him do something he dreamed he’d never do… these were all wonderfully creative and well done. In fact, they were so well done that it made Nick look even more whiny and I didn’t like his character nearly enough for Owen. As a result, my lack of affection for Nick colored my enjoyment of the whole story.
I think Marie is an excellent writer and this was a compelling story, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by the “feels” this couple invoked.
Story 3.5 of 5 stars
Audio Iggy Toma is very easy to listen to. There are no sound issues or consistency problems, he’s good with emotion and pacing. He didn’t do a lot to differentiate voices, but it was always clear who was speaking. But, I don’t think he added in the extra flair that I’ve seen in other narrations – the acting, if you will. When delivering a groaned out bit of dialog, he doesn’t groan, but speaks the line and tells us it was groaned. I miss those extra touches. That being said, it was a good narration, just not superlative.