Title: Nothing Ever Happens
Author: Sue Brown
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (280 pages, word count unlisted)
Rating: 5+ out of 5 stars, DIK
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: Andrew and Nathan struggle through seven long years, three marriages, children, a death, and a nosy neighbor with a clipboard to finally get their Happy Ever After. Beautifully drawn characters and an epic love make this book so worth suffering along with them.
***This review contains what might be considered spoilers.***
Andrew’s life is a cliché: he’s a gay man trapped in a loveless marriage, thanks to his religious, overbearing mother. Then a new couple moves in down the street, and Andrew finds himself falling for Nathan in a big way. Nathan is straight, married, and just about to be a father, but after one fateful night out together at a club, Nathan has to face the fact that his feelings for Andrew go way beyond that of a friend and neighbor.
When Andrew’s wife asks for a divorce, both men’s lives are thrown into disarray. Arguments about their responsibilities to their wives and children, doubting themselves and each other, and some harrowing lies pull them apart… but they never leave each other’s thoughts.
First, if you haven’t figured it out from the blurb, let me state up front that Andrew and Nathan fall in love and have sex while each is married to women. While not together, they each have sex with others. I know that these can be auto-reject issues for a lot of readers, so if one of these is your hot-button issue, this book may not be for you.
Andrew, a photographer, is married to Stephanie. They’re the best of friends, but are not in love. They married at sixteen when Stephanie became pregnant with their son Colin, who at book’s open, is nearly ten. Andrew had been abused as a teenager by his homophobic, bible-thumping mother and her belt-and-buckle-wielding pastor, who tried to beat the gay out of him. His reaction was to sleep with Stephanie. She got pregnant. They got married and settled into a life together for their son. Their marriage is in name only because they have both come to accept Andrew’s homosexuality and the love they share is not romantic.
Nathan has just moved to the neighborhood with his very pregnant wife, Alex. The two couples meet at a welcome-to-the-neighborhood party at Allison and Jim’s place. Nathan has just graduated with his teaching certificate and will be teaching fourth grade, Colin’s class, at the local elementary school. Upon their initial meeting, Nathan and Andrew spark a friendship, beginning a tradition of cutting out of the parties early to play soccer in the park with Colin and Nathan’s dogs.
Over the course of the next few months, Nathan and Andrew’s friendship grows closer until Nathan finds a gay porn magazine in between the cushions of Andrew’s couch, seeing Andrew credited as the photographer. This triggers a lot of issues for Nathan, but he mans through it for the most part. A few months after a rather traumatic birth for Nathan’s son, Daniel, Nathan accompanies Andrew and Gary to a gay club for the first time. Gary, Andrew’s best friend and fuck buddy, is very protective of his friend and lays the groundwork for his role in the rest of the book–Drew’s guard dog. It is because of this club visit that Andrew and Nathan’s friendship faces its first very serious crisis.
The first time I read the book, I devoured the first nine chapters without pause. I only stopped because I worked early the next morning and required sleep. The second time I read the book, it was the same way. It is in Chapter Nine that Andrew’s world begins to explode when Stephanie asks for a divorce because her boyfriend Joe has proposed.
This is a difficult review to write because so very much happens that it’s hard to talk about how our heroes change and grow without giving away secrets or getting into the details of events in the seven year span of the story. Instead of that, I will say that after reading this book the first time, I couldn’t stop thinking about Andrew and Nathan and all they’d been through together and separately. Andrew is, simply put, a good man. He stood by Stephanie and Colin when she got pregnant at sixteen and would have probably continued putting his son first had Stephanie and Joe not decided to get married. He fell irrevocably in love with Nathan but refused to pressure him to leave his wife so the men could be together, leaving Nathan to slowly, slowly find his way on his own. I find Nathan honorable. He never expected to fall in love or lust with another man. He and his best friend, Gabe, had fooled around once, but that was it. Then when he finds himself feeling so deeply for Andrew, he’s torn between staying with his wife and supporting his child or losing his family, his career and his comfort zone to pursue Andrew. It is not an easy place for either man to be and is, occasionally, a difficult read. I set it aside several times when scenes were too intense, but found myself seeking it out again after only a short break. Reading a second time did nothing to diminish either man and has only caused me to think about them more frequently.
In all the drama, though, humor sparkles. After the first club visit, Nathan and Andrew take Colin and his friend Bobby on a weekend camp out. Bobby is an obnoxious little boy who never shuts up and constantly gets himself in trouble. On the drive to the camp site, Bobby keeps up a constant stream of chatter, driving Nathan crazy:
He glared at Andrew, who was looking pretty fucking relaxed. Fucker! As soon as they started the journey he’d put his earphones in and blanked everyone in favor of something with a really irritating beat. What was worse was the mindless humming and the leg slapping. Oh yes, the leg slapping really pissed Nathan off. He wouldn’t put it past Andrewto start playing air guitar with his leg.
And yes, there it was.
I did have a couple of niggles. Often, I was unsure of exactly what Gary and Gabe’s relationship was, though it seemed to be as much in flux as Nathan and Drew’s. Several times, the timeline lost me. At least one time was intentional, as it lost Drew as well. Also, Andrew was referred to as “the older man” far too many times. It wasn’t enough to annoy me, but enough that I noticed. Probably one or two more of the phrases would have hit the Annoy Buda button. (No, Wave, you can’t have one!) Lastly, at the end, when Nathan finally comes to Drew, I wasn’t entirely convinced he did it of his own volition. When he says he’s just gotten used to being bi, I wanted to cuff the back of his head. Seven years after first sleeping with Andrew? Slow learner much? Andrew is hesitant to accept that what he’s wanted for the last seven years has finally come to pass, but eventually Nathan convinced us both.
Though the first reading left me a bit emotionally unsettled because of all the men go through on their arduous journey to their Happy Ever After, I couldn’t stop myself from delving back into their lives. I freely admit to being an angst whore, and this book delivers in abundance. Sue Brown wrote two incredibly flawed, genuinely human, incredibly adorable men I couldn’t help but fall in love with.