Author: LB Gregg
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 2 hours and 41 minutes
At a Glance: A short but satisfying second chance story, and a fun second book in the series.
Reviewed By: Cassie
Blurb: Buck Ellis’s future seems pretty damn bright. With a full college scholarship in hand, he’s going to ditch Bluewater Bay and pave the way for his kid brother Charlie to do the same. The only fly in Buck’s ointment is his 10-year addiction to his best friend since second grade, his true love, and his Achilles heel: Ari Valentine, Mr. Least Likely to Succeed.
But then Buck’s mother dies, changing everything, and five years later, his future is still on hold. It’s a struggle to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and Charlie on the straight and narrow. Buck can’t afford any temptation, especially in the form of the newly returned, super hot, super confident, super successful television star Ari Valentine.
ADHD poster-child Ari Valentine left for Hollywood and lost everything, including his bad reputation. Then the breakthrough role of his skyrocketing career lands him back in Bluewater Bay, to the stunned disbelief of, well, everyone. But there’s only one person Ari longs to impress – the only person who ever really mattered to him, the person he left behind: Buck Ellis.
Review: Welcome back to Bluewater Bay! If you don’t know, Bluewater Bay is a series of books set in, well, Bluewater Bay (shocking, I know). The series is structured around a sleepy Pacific Northwest town that has been inundated by the cast and crew of the next hot supernatural TV show (a la Forks and the Twilight movies). Each book is written by a different M/M author, giving the series a fun, who’s who in the genre kind of vibe. The stories each highlight a different resident couple, at least one half of which is usually connected to the TV show in some way. Each book can stand alone, but familiar characters show up throughout, which is entertaining.
In this second installment to the series, we meet Buck Ellis. He’s had a rough five years. His best friend (and secret first love) Ari Valentine ran off to LA after stealing cash from Buck’s car to buy the bus ticket. Then Buck’s mother died, and since then, he’s sacrificed pretty much all of his former hopes and dreams to ensure that his younger brother has remained safe, grounded, and in his care. These two events are the defining pillars of Buck’s adult life, and they happened on the same awful day.
Buck’s basically been living day to day, struggling to make ends meet and keep his brother on track. His rut is interrupted when one of the actors from the wildly popular TV show Wolf’s Landing moves into the house next door. I don’t think it will surprise any of us that the actor turns out to be Ari Valentine, on a mission to mend the rift with his former friend. Buck’s understandably guarded, slightly cynical, and focused on his brother, but Ari’s determined to at least get a chance to explain what happened.
This is a sweet little romance. I’m a sucker for a good second chance, especially after the characters have worked as hard to earn it as these two. Most of that hard work happens off the page, which is one reason I rated the story 3.5 stars.
I would have liked to see more. Nevertheless, the pacing is good and the resolution is satisfying enough. Given the length of the book, we do get to learn a fair bit about the characters, which is nice. And we do get some hints of that lovely humor L.B. Gregg writes so well.
The other reason I rated it 3.5 instead of higher is because this is one of those books that made me want to step into the character’s shoes for a few pages so I could argue for them. As in, YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. MOVE OVER AND LET ME DO IT.
Specifically, there’s a bit of a dust up when, at one point, Buck loses track of his teenage brother. I REALLY wanted to jump in and give a couple characters the what-for in the (metaphorical) explosion that happens at the climax of this series of events. I had talking points and everything, none of which got covered by the actual characters. Which is fine, I’m not the author and if I want something a certain way, I should shut up and write a book. But at the same time, I hate it when an argument happens half-way. I don’t want to spoil the following events, so this probably won’t make much sense, but I’ll try. Everybody got sidetracked by something Buck asked Ari when he was angry, and no one got back to the fact that Buck was ABSOLUTELY correct to be royally pissed off. Not even Buck! He ended up apologizing for asking a question I did not feel was actually that out of line. Particularly if you realize that Ari’s been a stranger for five years, how is Buck to know if Ari may have changed or in what ways? Then no one really apologizes to Buck, and he deserved AT LEAST two rounds of groveling. It made me cranky for him and dissatisfied with the whole scene. Which I guess speaks to how invested I was in the characters. So, maybe that’s actually good?
Regardless of that, and overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s a satisfying second chance story, and a fun second book in the series.
Narration: I’ve listened to a few books by Nick J. Russo now, and he always does a nice job. He lands more on the side of performance than reading, though if reading to performing were a spectrum, he’s more in the middle than other narrators I’ve heard. He does provide some slight differentiation between character voices. They aren’t super distinct from each other, but enough to help with understanding and lend color to each voice. I gave him 3.5 stars, in part because there are several mispronunciations. Not awful, and nothing that I was mad about, but enough to make me go, “Say, huh?” a few times. It made me wonder who proofed the audio and whether they were paying attention the whole time.
You can buy There’s Something About Ari here: