Title: A Hard Habit to Break (The Men of Marionville #1)
Author: K.C. Kendricks
Publisher: White Deer Enterprises
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Extended Novella (32K Words)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Summary Review: Two men who love each other have to decide if that love is worth all the heartache of starting over 13 years later. Both are scared but in the end these wonderful conflicted, scared characters understand the true meaning of trust and love. I liked it and I think you will too.
Every guy in the county knows Travis Templeton, the reigning stud of the local gay club scene, and vies for his attention. Travis wears his crown lightly, careful not to break any hearts. He knows what it’s like to really love someone who doesn’t love you back-at least, not in the way you want.
Heath Kelley made the biggest mistake of his life the night before his best friend Travis left for college. One small action snowballed into years of silent misunderstanding and empty distance. When Heath accepts a transfer that sends him to his hometown, he doesn’t know Travis has moved back home, too. It doesn’t take long for the men to reconnect.
Admitting they never stopped thinking of each other as “best friends” is easy. Forgiveness of past sins is easy, but confessing their secrets comes harder. When Heath discovers the truth about Travis’ private life, the newly repaired bonds of friendship are stretched taut.
It’s time for Travis to choose—the love of his best friend, or a life of being second best.
Travis and Heath had been best friends all their lives until Heath kissed Travis at 17 on the eve of his departure for college and was kicked in the teeth and called every name imaginable by his best friend for doing so. They never spoke to each other again for 13 years. Now Heath is back in Marionville as his company’s representative to work on a project for the town, and to his shock Travis is also back home, it appears for good. To say that Heath was nervous to meet his boyhood crush was an understatement. When they met two days later both were scared because there was a lot at stake – mending fences in their friendship, and then deciding if there was a possibility of a love connection between them after all the heartache.
This book is told from Heath’s 1st person point of view, but we do get enough glimpses of Travis to know that he is extremely conflicted and troubled about being gay because of his religious background, has no feelings of self worth, and doesn’t believe that he’s good enough for Heath because of his past. Professionally Travis is doing well but his personal life is a mess. He wants to be with Heath more than anything else in the world but he knows that in order for them to have a real relationship he has to come clean about these 13 years and he doesn’t know if Heath’s love is enough to accept him, warts and all. Heath, who is bi, has always known that Travis was the love of his life and the one person worth fighting for, so he developed a campaign to win him back by trying to take the courtship one step at a time so as not to scare him off, but that’s not as easy as it sounds since they want each other naked and in bed as soon as they could drive to the closest apartment and tear their clothes off. The sex, when it happened, exceeded their wildest expectations, but was that all they could ever have?
This story has a fair amount of angst because there is a lot that happened to both men during the intervening years. On top of everything else Travis has been through he had to deal with rejection by his parents who were extremely religious, and wanted nothing to do with him as soon as he came out at 20. There are a couple of flashbacks to Heath’s and Travis’s teenage years where Heath remembers those happy times, how close they were, how Travis never dated girls but didn’t let on that he was gay and Heath was too innocent to figure it out. Their friendship was shattered by one simple act. Now they can’t get those years back – all they could hope for was that the love that never went away would be enough to see them through and overcome the barriers that Travis had built. Heath knew that his courtship was fraught with difficulty because at any moment Travis could decide to walk away – he was so fragile.
If you’re looking for a story with a lot of emotion, A Hard Habit to Break serves it up, and your heart will break for Travis and Heath who, despite having other lovers, only ever wanted each other. They saved the best for last but there were issues that had to be resolved and secrets revealed before they could trust each other. These characters were so emotionally charged I could feel the uncertainty between them, and K.C. Kendricks did a very good job building the tension. This might be one of the few books by this author that I’ve read where the protagonists are the same age at 30 and 31; usually one is much older or they are both in their forties, so this was something different. I like this author’s characters and Travis and Heath are no different. However, if there is one thing I hated it was the use of clinical words like “sphincter”, “testes”, and “anus” which pulled me out of the story. I felt at times as if I were reading the American Journal of Medicine. 🙁 Other than this, the book was well written and the characters were realistically drawn although I wished that Travis was not so mixed up all the time and emotionally fragile.
If you like to read about characters who reunite after a long time apart, who are obviously still very much in love, and who light the pages on fire then you should definitely pick up A Hard Habit to Break.