Oh, L.A. Witt, you had me at hello with this story. Ex Equals begins after the end and then works its way backwards. Confused? Well, you won’t be when you read the book. The present conflict and the flashback sequences not only kept me on the edge of GAH! the entire time, but also kept me turning pages in hopes that what Chris and Justin had already endured wouldn’t stand in the way of where they could go if only they were capable of prioritizing their careers and their love for each other.
Lost opportunities, colossal screw-ups, and the end of a forbidden romance that suffered under the scrutiny of DADT, as well as a promotion that suddenly turned Justin into a man terrified of being discovered are at the heart of the story. Chris Rueben and Justin Hayes met in the Navy and began a love affair that remained their secret, though the rumors of their close connection being more that just friendship began to surface at a point when Justin’s career was at a make-or-break point. Terrified by what might happen if anyone found out he was in love with Chris, Justin reacts badly—conduct unbecoming a boyfriend, for sure—and deliberately throws away his one chance at happiness.
Three years later, and the tables are turned. Now, it’s Chris who must worry about his new career as a math professor, when Justin suddenly turns up as a student in Chris’s algebra class (which is a fun and fitting backdrop for them) and throws his life into a turmoil of anger and resentment. Will Chris put his bitterness and career ahead of his happiness? That’s the big question.
Where some stories begin with the happy and end with the heartbreak, L.A. Witt begins with the agony and makes the reader work for that hope that Chris might once again allow himself to place his faith and trust in the man who’d broken his heart–and that Justin would be worthy of it. Did Justin redeem himself and earn that gift? Well, I think that depends upon how much the words “I’m sorry” can make amends for mistakes and how much forgiveness can be given when there’s love there to back it up. Sincerity can often go a very long way.
If there was any one thing that prevented this one from being a 5 star read for me, it’s that the story felt as though it was in a bit of a rush to end, but the end was incredibly sweet and satisfying in only the way they can be when an author creates two characters who seem destined to be together, characters that I very much wanted to be together in the end.