A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: I was having problems suspending disbelief while reading this story, but I did like the ending.
Twenty years ago, Eli Calero fell in love with Kevin Murphy, a jock whose mob boss father physically and emotionally abused him. Twenty years ago, Eli Calero got his heart broken, and he’s never gotten over it.Now, after a career as an investigative reporter, Eli is a true crime author living in Pasadena. He has no interest in attending a reunion back in St. Louis, but he ends up going anyway—and since he’s in the area, Eli decides to settle an old score. He’s determined to gather enough evidence to take down Kevin’s father.
But Eli doesn’t have all the facts, and there are a few things he didn’t count on: Kevin’s still in town. He still has feelings for Eli. And he’s about to get caught in the crossfire.
You may see more short/ISH novellas reviewed by me because I am making an effort to try more new to me authors and I prefer to not risk getting a long book by the new to me author. This review is the result of one of those attempts. I want to stress up front that as much as I am usually very pleased when I find a book where the settings are realistic and the characters act close enough to how real people act, realism is not something that I usually expect from romance/romantic mm fiction. I expect believability. Unfortunately I was unable to suspend disbelief as to several plot turns in this story.
Now, I understand that pining after your first love is a rather common trope in romances, I do, but to me there are varieties of such a trope that could be believable and poignant and ones that I just cannot swallow. Unfortunately I just could not do it in this story. Sure, I can see one remembering their first high school love fondly, and in romances I can even see rekindling their old flame when they meet after a number of years. It all can be done well. But when one cannot forget his first high school love and gets angry and upset every time that person is mentioned when twenty years passed since they last saw each other, I personally don’t know about that. And honestly, to me, when one did not have one meaningful relationship in twenty years after he was in love when he was sixteen – seventeen, I don’t know, I just cannot buy it, at least not in this story. Your mileage may differ of course.
Even if I were to make myself to suspend disbelief as to that part, I just could not muster to feel anything about the guys together. Kevin makes his first on page appearance when the story is half way over and the story only has 1194 locations on my kindle. Eli tells us about their relationship in high school, which made me feel emotionally removed from it if that makes sense. I think that if it was shown to us in flashbacks, maybe it would have worked better for me, I don’t know, I am not trying to rewrite the book the way I would have preferred it to be written, I am just trying to evaluate what is already written on the page and what was there did not make me feel much for the guys.
And the part about Eli trying to take Kevin’s father down (not a spoiler, since blurb talks about it) IMO was a little silly. I just could not buy that he would seriously entertain the possibility of destroying a mob’s boss that way. I have to say though, the subsequent plot twist was not something I expected to see and I was pleased about that. I also liked the ending, I thought it was sufficiently HFN and suited the story. When Kevin and Eli are together (little page space as it was), I thought they had possibility for the future development, I just thought that it was too little too late. I would not mind reading more about them though in another story.