Summary Review: It was not Jack’s lack of candor about his previous life that hurt Tony the most, but the deceit.
This review contains what could be considered spoilers
When your lover becomes a stranger, trust is the weakest link of all.
Bartender Tony Gemetti has it all: a rich, hot boyfriend, a McMansion in the ’burbs and unlimited sex in an expectation-free zone. He thought that was all he ever wanted out of any relationship—until Jack begins making excuses for frequent disappearances. Realizing he has more than his libido and enough drawers for his T-shirt collection riding on this relationship, Tony figures it’s time to find out what’s going on.
Jack Noble has spent his life hiding his real self behind a carefully created image. With Tony, he finally knows real freedom, real happiness. Now a past of buried secrets and lies is closing in, and no matter how hard he tries to stop it, the truth is tearing through. Once Tony learns what kind of man Jack really is, he won’t stay. Jack’s sure of it.
Suddenly the past shows up in a completely unexpected way, testing the boundaries of their old, coasting-along-on-fun relationship. Tony indeed finds that Jack isn’t the man he went looking for, but it’s too late. There’s too much at stake to just walk away. First, though, he has to make sure there are no lies left for Jack to hide behind.
Not Knowing Jack follows the lives of Jack Noble – an uptight, stressed out Executive Chef – and his boyfriend, bartender Tony Gemetti, two men who couldn’t be more different in personality and outlook in life. Jack and Tony met through their friends Sean and Kyle in Regularly Scheduled Life reviewed by Leslie and I have linked this review, but this book is not a sequel although the characters do visit.
Jack and Tony have been living together in Jack’s home for just over a year. The sex is the stuff of dreams and is hotter than either expected. Each night is a new adventure under the sheets. Everything seems to be going great with their romance although at 39 Jack is 6 years older than Tony and their personalities conflict. One day when they’re out shopping for household linens Jack disappears in Bed, Bath & Beyond and when Tony finds him he’s on the phone having a heated and very private conversation. As soon as he sees Tony Jack ends the call, which makes Tony suspicious especially when this incident is added to Jack’s recent frequent unexplained disappearances. Tony had had a previous relationship with someone who cheated on him so this was not a good omen.
Jack’s secretive behaviour continued to escalate and he offered no explanations, although Tony kept asking. His biggest fear was that he and Jack could be drifting apart, and no way was he prepared to allow that to happen without a fight. Then he found out why Jack had been acting so strangely – it wasn’t another man as he had feared. Jack’s secret was totally unexpected – he had been married before and it ended badly years ago. He also had two children at boarding school whom he rarely saw. For someone like Tony who had suffered through abandonment issues as a child because of an absentee father, this was almost a deal breaker.
Tony was devastated that Jack had kept something as important as a marriage and children from him, and their relationship continued to spiral downwards because Jack was not forthcoming about his wife, the issues in the marriage that led to the divorce other than he was gay, and why his kids were not living with him. Then Jack’s ex came to the house and everything that Tony had believed turned out to be so much worse. The only solution for Tony seemed to be to leave Jack because of his total lack of candor. He could not continue living with a man who kept such a large part of his life secret from him when he had made it a condition of them moving in together that they would be upfront with each other and share their dirty laundry. Tony left Jack but he came after him immediately and in order to get him to return made him a promise that there would be no more secrets. Could they mend their damaged relationship and rebuild the lives of two very vulnerable children who needed their father?
If you know anything about K.A. Mitchell’s writing it is that her stories are full of angst and her protagonists and other characters are very flawed. Not Knowing Jack follows this pattern. Jack is a control freak and an over-achiever who spends most of his time at the restaurant where he was Executive Chef. He loved Tony but treated him like someone who didn’t share his life but was only with him because of the hot sex. He told Tony the bare minimum about his personal history other than his sexual history and this was a major issue between them. Tony, on the other hand, was immature and juvenile, portrayed as a tattooed, pot smoking airhead with no material possessions, who loved having a good time and lived his life from day to day on the principle of zero expectations. His favourite television shows were on the Cartoon Network, he didn’t have a career and tended bar for just enough money to get by. Two more diverse characters would be hard to find. Then Tony’s life changed overnight when he had to share Jack with his children, and it was wonderful to see his character’s growth from an irresponsible, “no expectations” individual to a lover who helped Jack to provide a stable environment for the kids, co-parenting in every sense. Jack also evolved from a workaholic control freak in order to change his son Brandon’s hatred of him and feelings of abandonment and deal with his daughter’s emotional and psychological trauma, on the way to becoming a real father and someone of whom they could be proud.
This book will touch you on many levels. Tony’s and Jack’s relationship evolved from just having a good time in bed to being responsible adults and a real family. The kids needed their father and the four of them had to make a very difficult transition in order to erase all the grief, fear, hurt and anger of the past. Some of the scenes are so intense they will break your heart as Sarah showed how fragile was her grasp on life and reality, and Brandon was protective of her by trying to ensure that their father wasn’t going to leave them once again but the character I fell in love with was Tony, and so will you.
Not Knowing Jack is emotionally charged and raw and all the characters are three dimensional – from Patrice the ex wife, to Jack’s hateful father in law, to his MIL who loved her grandchildren enough to give them a chance at a stable life. Tony and Jack were so in love that their emotions lit up the pages. As for the sex, K.A. Mitchell writes some of the best sex scenes that are so hot you wonder how she does it. Usually I’m bored by a lot of the sex in these books because the scenes are not exciting, but that was not a problem here as Tony and Jack were burning up the sheets wherever they happened to be, and best of all the sex was emotional and inventive. 🙂
I did have a couple of niggles especially in few scenes from Brandon’s POV and the level of detail, mostly in the outings with the kids, but overall this was an excellent story. If you’re a fan of this author, or even if you’re not, you should pick up Not Knowing Jack.