Second Thoughts

Title & Link: Second Thoughts
Author: Terry O’Reilly
Buy link: Amazon.com
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (42,000 words)
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A Guest Review by Buda

Summary Review: If you’ve ever wondered what happens when the new wears off a relationship, this book has at least one answer–but it may not be the one you want to read. Then again, it just might be.

This review contains what could be considered spoilers.

The Blurb:

What do you do when your boyfriend begins acting strangely, and at the same time, you meet someone his total opposite? Do you start having second thoughts?

Jesse Jamison must confront those very questions. After two years of living with his lover Dennis “Denny” Christopoulos, a charming flight attendant, the man starts taking on extra flights, making excuses for not coming home, and receiving private phone calls. During this time, Jesse also meets Nick Warden, a new neighbor. He immediately sees the contrasts between the two men and finds Nick attractive on so many levels.

Meanwhile, Denny has growing reservations about his relationship with Jesse, especially once a new man comes into his own life. Yet Denny isn’t ready to give up the good thing he has going with Jesse since he isn’t sure about the new man’s intentions, or his own feelings.

Nick also struggles with his growing love for Jesse. While he would like nothing more than to claim Jesse for himself, his integrity prevents him from playing the home-wrecker. His hesitation to step in, however, nearly causes his undoing and a missed opportunity at love.

Each man has his own second thoughts. But who will act upon them, and what will be the consequences for doing so?

The Review:

This is a particularly difficult book to review without giving away too much of the plot. I will endeavor to keep hidden most of the surprises not alluded to in the blurb.

Jesse, a textbook sales representative, and Denny, a flight attendant, are two years into their relationship. In fact, it is on their anniversary that Denny calls to say he’s been forced into another flight and won’t be home for the romantic dinner Jesse has planned. Denny has been making extra flights recently, but Jesse doesn’t think about it beyond his irritation when it interferes with previous plans. When Denny cancels that night, Jesse is granted company in the form of Nick Warden, the new neighbor. The two men and their dogs get along well and begin to develop a friendship, even acknowledging that they’re each attracted to the other. But for Jesse, his relationship with Denny is monogamous, something Nick respects without hesitation.

While Jesse and Nick get along, predictably Denny and Nick do not, though through no fault of Nick’s own. In fact, it seems as though great care is taken to ensure the reader, if not actively dislikes Denny (which I did), then at least doesn’t begin to care for him. The few times we hop into his head are remarkably different in tone than when we spend time in Jesse’s or Nick’s head. As mentioned in the blurb, Denny wants to pursue the new man in his life, but isn’t sure enough of him to give up the “sure thing” he has with Jesse. While he tries to decide what to do, the unwitting Jesse grows closer to neighbor Nick.

Sandwiched between Nick’s and Jesse’s apartments is that of Mrs. Kloswick, the Gladys Kravitz of this book. Of course, this nosy neighbor has a perfectly lovely niece, Angela, with whom she tries to set up Nick. Far from being the man-eating shrew one might fear given Mrs. Kloswick’s overly glowing descriptions, Angela turns out to be a rather fun and perceptive character.

For those who like only monogamous couplings, this may be a difficult book to read. Be warned, there is on-page sex between at least one member of the original couple and someone outside that relationship.

What Didn’t Work For Me:

In previous reviews on this site and others, I have seen reviewers discuss head-hopping and how much they didn’t care for it. This book is probably the first time head-hopping has been a problem for me. We read from the perspectives of all three men, and a time or two from that of Denny’s new man. These scenes in particular seemed, to me, rather superfluous–they alternately foreshadowed too much or didn’t advance the plot at all.

The characterization of Denny is perhaps the weakest aspect of the book. Instead of being a confused man with whom we can sympathize, he is almost unlikeable. With the difficult subject matter, I would have preferred a more nuanced portrayal of Dennis, one that didn’t create an almost villain-like character.

What Did Work For Me:

The friendship between Jesse and Nick works very well. It grows naturally and they deal with their initial mutual attraction in a mature way–discussing it and establishing boundaries.

The dogs are almost major characters in this book. Shelby, Jesse and Denny’s blue tick/beagle mix, and Nick’s basset hound, Clyde, eat up a lot of the page giving and looking for love from their human companions. Having a beagle/surprise mix in my own home, the dogs’ presence was both heart-warming and amusing.

Overall:

This book is a definite departure from the usual boy-meets-boy formula. In many ways, it is the story of what might happen after we’ve closed the back cover of any of our favorite romances. It reflects real life, and in that way, may be discomfiting for some who read m/m romance for escape. While parts of the story were disconcerting for me, the end result left me with a bit of a confused smile. Read this one only if you want to challenge your m/m romance comfort zone. The characters, especially Nick, are worth getting to know, if you can handle the difficult subject matter.

6 comments

  • This sounds interesting, Buda. I like stories which take an established couple and look at the stresses and strains of a relationship in flux. I am disappointed at what you have said about Denny. Why do characters have to be so clean cut like that? It would have been much better, as you said, to have shown a confused man with mixed feelings rather than an all out bad guy.

    Like Lily, I’ll bear this one in mind, but thanks for the great review :).

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jen. There was definitely room for more gray in Denny’s characterization. I wonder if O’Reilly was hesitant to draw them all as heroes?

      Please don’t misunderstand me, though. I would read this one again. It’s an interesting look at a post-HEA relationship. I’d love to hear what you and Lily think of it.

      Reply
  • Buda
    I always like to read stories that take me out of my comfort zone. I think that authors who move away from that tried and true formula where everyone lives happily ever after should be commended. Life is not a HEA so why should characters in books always remain in love with each other. DSP is inviting submissions for a new series where there isn’t necessarily a HEA. What a paradigm shift in a romance! 🙂

    I think you captured the essence of the story in the review – great job.

    Reply
    • Wave, there are many times I’ve finished a book and thought, “I bet they’re not together in 5 years.” That we actually got to explore that sort of situation in this book really appealed to me. So much so, in fact, I’m willing to admit I might have expected to much out of it. Not to imply that Terry O’Reilly did anything wrong. Only that I was hoping for a more nuanced portrayal of the men involved, something that would make it difficult for me to side with one over the other–just like in real life.

      I’ve heard about the DSP series and am eagerly awaiting the first roll out. It’s exciting to see the boundaries of the genre expand.

      Thanks!

      Reply

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