“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
Author: M.J. O’Shea
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 176
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Rory was Ben’s oldest and best friend until senior year of high school, when they confessed they’d harbored feelings for each other all along. They enjoyed only a few months of happiness until Ben chose closeted popularity over true love… and he’s regretted it ever since.
Eight years later, Ben is out and proud and teaching art at the same high school he graduated from. When he learns the chemistry teacher is retiring, he’s excited to meet her replacement until he finds out the brand new teacher is none other than Rory Newton—the first love he’s never quite gotten over. Despite a painfully awkward start, it doesn’t take Ben long to realize he’ll do whatever it takes to win Rory back. But it’s starting to look like even his best might not be enough.
Review: Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever read anything by M.J. O’Shea that I didn’t like. Whether it’s rockers, hair stylists, or vampires, she has always struck my fancy. This book about teenage love gone wrong, and second chances, is no different.
The beginning of the book is our first introduction to Rory and Ben. These two boys grew up together and spent every possible minute together. They danced around their attraction to one another until they finally admitted it to each other the summer before their senior year in high school. They spent the entire summer exploring this new facet of their relationship. They both believed they would be in love forever, but nothing is ever that simple when you are a teenager.
Next, we skip eight years into the future. We join Ben as he is hurriedly ushering out yet another nameless one night stand. It seems that he and Rory didn’t last forever after all. Ben is now an art teacher at his old high school, and he is completely out and proud. He hasn’t had a meaningful relationship since Rory, and he isn’t in any hurry to have one either. He realizes that he will always love Rory, but he lost him due to his own stupidity eight years ago.
When Ben gets to the first staff meeting before school starts, he meets the new chemistry teacher and he can’t believe his eyes when he sees Rory Newton in the flesh. Ben is excited but also scared at the sight of him. Things didn’t end well with Rory, and he doesn’t know what his reception will be. When Rory avoids all contact and conversation with Ben, he isn’t surprised but he is disappointed. It will take a minor miracle to set things right with Rory, but Ben isn’t going to give up.
Rory Newton had no idea that Ben was teaching at his old high school when he took the job, but there isn’t anything he can do about it now. Ben was Rory’s first love and the standard that he holds all others to, still, to this day. The only difference now is that Rory believes he won’t fall into the same trap he did in high school. He remembers how it felt to lose Ben, and he refuses to go through that again. He agrees to be friends with Ben, but nothing more.
Ben agrees to take what he can get, to start hanging out together, and their friendship grows stronger the longer they are together. Ben hasn’t given up on having more with Rory, and his persistence pays off when Rory comes to him after his latest boyfriend cheats on him. Ben and Rory embark on a “friends with benefits” arrangement. Over time they end up sleeping together, almost every night, for months. There are no words of love, but Ben believes he can feel it every time they make love; he believes they have a connection that will never be broken.
When Ben decides to admit his love for Rory and ask for a commitment, the rug is pulled out from under him. He can’t believe how stupid he has been, and he withdraws from everything. At the same time, a new job opportunity comes up and Ben jumps at the chance to get away from Rory and all the heartache that comes along with him.
The thing I think I loved about this book was the symmetry of the story. In the first part of the book, Rory was the injured party and I was fully supportive of his “hands off” approach to Ben. I was happy that he was dating and trying to get on with his life. Then as the story went on and Ben finally started to reap what he sowed, I was swayed to Ben’s side. I felt that Ben had really learned his lesson and moved past his adolescent behavior. At that point, I was past ready for Rory to forgive Ben and let bygones be bygones, but Rory wasn’t cooperating. LOL.
It took a while to get these two on the same page, but with the help of some hysterically funny friends and the power of true love, I felt that they got there just in time. M.J. O’Shea did a wonderful job of telling both sides of the story and making me feel for both of the MCs in this book. This is a definite must read. You will be kicking yourself if you miss it!