“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” ― Marcus Aurelius
Summary: After a traumatic coming out, Max has forged a good life for himself—a great house, a solid job as a cop, and the companionship of his dog Alex. It looked a lot like perfect, until one day his former best friend’s little brother is arrested in his police station, bringing back a storm of boxed emotions from a life he had just started to get over. As the police detective takes the younger boy under his wing, truths start to unfold about what really happened the day Max left Jamie’s life all those years before.
As the two young men reacquaint themselves with each other, and the passion that was always denied starts to unravel, Jamie’s personality starts to threaten the foundation they had begun to build. Throw in the intervention from Max’s former best friend and Jamie’s older brother, Mason, and the whole situation threatens to buckle under the pressure. Can nearly a decade of mounting emotion overcome all the obstacles or does fate have other ideas for the young lovers? Can Max save Jamie with the realization that he was always the one, or is the impulsive young man just beyond his reach?
Review: Okay. I’ll start by saying what a treat it was to read such emotional and expressive prose. It is a rare talent to be able to express the feeling of such situations so eloquently and have the reader feel every ounce of that person’s pain. These are not flimsy, two-dimensional characters. They are deep and inspiring and complex and they had me simultaneously rooting for them and rolling my eyes in annoyance at the situations they found themselves in.
Max was a particularly powerful protagonist. Though his past and the events of him coming out to his best friend had destroyed the relationships that he had come to rely on, this character went on to establish a really good (if somewhat lonely) life for himself. I admired his perseverance and his strength, which only served to invite me into the story more. Perhaps a bit more character development may have been nice to show why he became a cop and why he so rarely dated (especially since he was convinced he would never see Jamie again), but it didn’t damage the way I felt about the character. Likewise, I found the complexities of his previous best friend, Mason, to be very realistic and almost understandable, despite the destructive outcomes of his motives. I found it very easy to believe that Mason would fear his friend’s influence over his younger brother, and though ignorant and closed minded, I could see why he would throw away his friend in an attempt to save his brother from something he could already see developing at a young age. Mason was essentially brought back into the story to progress it, a pawn to drive the plot forward, but I felt that he was addressed in a way to make his character stand out as believable and quite typical.
Then there was Jamie. This character was infuriating. From flashbacks of himself as an annoying fourteen year old, to his present day personality, the boy didn’t seem to have aged a day. Being only three years younger than Max, their maturity levels should have been closer together. But Jamie was childish, petulant, dismissive and reckless, and I found myself getting bored of him quickly, wanting nothing more than for Max to find someone a little more worthy, who wasn’t as passive-aggressive and didn’t weep at the drop of a hat. And true to this character type, he continued to disappoint Max in his thoughtless behavior and put Max in danger. There were reasons for this behavior, of course, but I felt them a little underdeveloped, and I felt myself wondering at times why Max was tolerating the younger man.
I found some of the details of Max and Jamie’s relationship quite difficult to grasp. While I imagine that Max would have felt a draw to Jamie in their younger years, I just couldn’t get my head around a sixteen year old saying he was in love with a thirteen year old. I found it a little on the unbelievable side, since their relationship had always been more brotherly than anything else, and to sexualize it in hindsight actually weakened the power of the bond for me. Towards the end of the story, I believe the author addresses and explains the protective feelings Max has for the younger man, after a shocking revelation of an abuse Jamie suffered after Max had left. Still, a lot of Jamie’s character and past seemed convenient and a little forced at times, and only served to confuse the dynamic between the MC’s. Again, the portion of the story where all the truths are finally revealed seemed like it was brushed over way too quickly and further development would have strengthened the story.
Jamie did not miraculously turn over a new leaf. He continued to make mistakes, and while I felt him an irresponsible and conflicted character, I was glad that no drastic transformations occurred. Though I would have liked to have seen more of an impact made by freeing himself of the secret of his abuse, it was more realistic to read that he was still a mess but was willing to try to change rather than morphing into a better and more conscientious person, immediately. I also admired how the ending, though a happy one, was not easy. It did, however, sign off with a positive nod in the right direction, which is something I feel really complimented the overall theme of the book; that relationships are hard, but as long as you work at them, you can succeed.
This was a very emotional and impressive read, with artistic writing serving to express a very complex story line that spanned the entire young adult life of both Max and Jamie. While I was not completely sold on some of the intricacies of their past, I did find myself invested in their outcome, reading Max’s inner dialogue and praying for his happy ending. That is the sign of good writing, and for the most part, this book was a pleasure to read. I think pushing for the book’s title to be a big revealed secret was a little overwrought but in the end, I enjoyed what I read and look forward to familiarizing myself with more from Hollis Shiloh.
3.5 stars for this tender love story.