Title: Unbreak My Heart (First Edition)
Author: K-lee Klein
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Buy Link: Updated Amazon Buy Link
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Rating: 4.25 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: What happens when you lose the one person you love? How do you manage to pick up the pieces and go on?
Blurb: Brett Taylor has been doing just fine living in his own little world for the past three years, thank you very much. Losing someone special is life changing, and Brett doesn’t understand why everyone and their damn dog thinks they can get all up in his business about him needing to move on. He managed to make the transition from musician to rancher without relying on anyone else’s opinion or help, and he certainly doesn’t need some city kid coming into his life to disrupt his routine—one that involves grief, isolation, and a whole lot of Jack Daniels.
Moving from one meaningless job to the next, JT Campbell is on a quest to escape his old life and figure out who he is and where he belongs. He’s not looking to save anyone, let alone a secretive, hotter-than-hell rancher who wears his heart on his sleeve. JT likes working for Brett, but Brett’s made it perfectly clear that any relationship between them other than a professional one will never see the light of day.
But when JT’s lust turns to love, and he gives in to his desire to find out what makes Brett tick, will his interest push Brett away? Or will he, through his patience and support, be the one who can finally unbreak Brett’s heart?
Review: What to do when you feel you allowed a career to overshadow the most important thing in your life, the loving relationship of a partner, a best friend? And what can you do with all the guilt and unbearable sadness when that same person, your reason for living, is taken from you and you weren’t there to say goodbye? Unbreak My Heart by K-lee Klein is a quiet and painful study in how to deal with those questions and so many more.
The story is a deceptively simple one. Brett Taylor, a former country music singing star loses his lover of six years suddenly while he is off receiving yet another award. Now, three years later, a virtual hermit and owner of a run down ranch that he has been selling off piece by piece, Brett finds solace in his bottle of whiskey and the fierce gut-wrenching moments when he can anesthetize himself to the point where he can write love letters to his deceased partner, Walt. Occasionally, Brett still puts down lyrics but these are full of tortured memories and raw pleas for forgiveness. Ray Durant, Brett’s ranch manager, and Millie, his mother, are the only people who Brett allows into his life now. And so, it is with no surprise at all, when his mother turns up with a slightly battered young man and asks her son to take him in and put him to work.
JT Campbell also has some real sorrows he is trying to escape. In his case, it is the wealthy life he left behind, along with a failed medical degree and the qualifications to be a psychologist. He is trying to escape the stifling judgement of parents who felt he never quite measured up and so he has come to a sleepy small town in the south to find his way. Fresh off a bar room brawl over the fact that he is gay, Millie finds him along side the road and brings him to the ranch. Thus begins a slow and steady dance with one man full of patience and another trying to swim his way to the surface and step out of the pool of grief and guilt that has held him for so very long.
I want to assure you there is a happy ever after to this very long and ofttimes deeply sad story. However, it is the journey to that happiness that is the skin and bones of this novel. Without a doubt, Unbreak My Heart is an in-depth character study of a grieving lover. Even JT seems to be secondary to Brett in this deeply moving saga of one man’s fight against himself. Brett cannot let go of his memories, his guilt and his shame, for to release those emotions means that somehow Walt is truly gone and deep in Brett’s heart he knows that to acknowledge that truth will kill him in ways the bottle he keeps in his desk drawer cannot touch. Not only has Brett cut himself off from the possibility of ever loving again, he is absolutely positive he does not deserve to feel happiness in any form.
JT slowly but surely begins to sway Brett’s thinking. Layer by layer, JT’s quiet strength lifts one burden after another from his boss’ fragile heart. The slow build in this love story is both delicate and hauntingly sweet. There were moments when my heart just wept for Brett. Author K-lee Klein certainly displayed a deft and talented hand at writing lasting and memorable characters, Brett being a prime example. I was so grateful that there was not this instant turn around in Brett’s thinking or quick healing when it came to his deep and abiding grief. Rather, the author allows for a more realistic build of emotions to happen, a tenuous grasp on the idea that happiness can once again be Brett’s and the reality that there is enough room in a person’s heart for more than one lasting love of a lifetime.
While I enjoyed the speed at which the love aspect of this novel unfolded, I also felt that at times the story itself got bogged down by a constant rehashing of old emotions and feelings. JT continually berates himself for thinking like his rather snobbish and judgmental parents–looking at the surface of a person rather than getting to know them first. I understood that this was something he was trying to change and escape from but I also felt it did not need to continually resurface as a plot point in the novel. After a while, I felt as though it was being thrown in just to keep the relationship from going forward too fast. Overall, JT’s self-doubt coupled with Brett’s continual self-flagellation over not being present when his lover Walt died seemed to be a bit overworked to me.
This is where the novel stalled for me. While I wanted that gradual build, I felt, at times, that the story ground to a halt and we got mired down in the same reasoning, the same internal arguments that each man dealt with as they danced around each other not admitting their feelings. However, the last third of this novel certainly redeemed any pacing issues the first two thirds experienced. This is when the conflict arose between the two main characters and we held our breath wondering if all was about to be lost. I especially savored the ending of this novel as the humorous side of author K-lee Klein just beamed off the page and had me laughing through real tears of joy over her story’s resolution.
Unbreak My Heart was a lovely story of redemption and forgiveness. Author K-Lee Klein digs deep and gives us character that reach beyond the page and into our hearts, lodging themselves there for good. This was a sweet story that sometimes lost its way but stayed steady and sure, ending in a breathtaking moment of fierce joy.