Author: Cara Dee
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Page Length: 283 pages
Reviewed by: Renée
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
Have you ever woken up and expected to see destruction everywhere?
In 48 hours, I lost everything. I came home to find my girlfriend of four years with another man. The next day a plane crash ripped my family away from me, shattering me in the process. In many ways, I died that day, too. The fun-loving man who’d lived in the fast lane and loved his career in the film industry was gone. Left was a forty-year-old shell that dwelled at the bottom of a bottle.
Only one person knew what I was going through. My sister’s stepson, who hadn’t been on the plane. Julian knew what it was like to lose everyone he loved, too. He’d stopped showing up at reunions when he was a teenager, so I didn’t know him very well. But I told him at the memorial service he could come out and visit me in LA whenever. One day he did, and I guessed it was as good a day as any to start picking up the pieces and see what was left of us.
~This book gets all the stars!~
There is something about Cara Dee’s writing. I simply adore the way she tells a story. And she doesn’t pull you in because it’s the Pride and Prejudice of 2016. She writes in a way that’s the perfect relationship-build, angst, inner dialogue, etc. to come up with an equation that equals perfect in my eyes. This was MY perfect MM romance.
Noah Collins a 40 year old assistant director in Hollywood. The book opens with the complete upheaval of his life. He returns home a day early from a movie set to find his live-in girlfriend of four years, the woman he finally settled down with and thought was the one, in bed with another man. And how does Noah react? He doesn’t do overdramatic. He does rational. He does mature. Even as his heart is breaking. He gets some good digs in, of-fucking-course, but they’re not yelling, they’re calm and rational. He was my hero in this scene.
“See, I knew we had some shit to talk about. That’s why I’m off this summer, so we could work things out. It’s what people do before they get hitched and bring kids into their lives.”
And then, the very next day, his entire family dies in a plane crash (not a spoiler – this is in the blurb). His parents, his sister and her husband, his niece and nephew. He gets a small surprise in the form of Julian at the funeral. Julian is Noah’s sister’s husband’s child from a previous relationship. He’s 23 and just finished college. Julian has lost everything too – his parents, his brother and sister, his grandparents. Noah doesn’t know Julian well, only meeting him a handful of times over the previous years. But Julian surprises him by playing Mad World on the piano and singing along.
Noah is drowning. He doesn’t know what to do, how to continue everyday living. He has an awesome support system – some of the best friends in the world – and they are amazing to him. But he just can’t. He finds himself drinking more often than not, with no purpose.
Until the day Julian shows up on his doorstep. He’s the only one who knows what Noah is going through. He feels the same loss of self. They’ve lost everything, together. And it’s with Julian’s arrival that Noah can breathe again. No pretending. They can tackle this together. Or not tackle anything. Whatever it is, they know exactly how the other is feeling, and can just be, together.
But Julian gives Noah purpose. Noah realizes he has to do right by Julian. He needs to get out of the loft, he needs to start eating, he needs to stop drowning in alcohol.
The grief in this story is done so well. Everyone grieves differently, and Dee told this version perfectly. The grief never overwhelmed the story, where I wanted to slit my wrists reading another paragraph. But it was tangible, emotive, REAL.
And as Noah and Julian become each other’s anchors, a beautiful friendship is formed. They give each other exactly what the other needs to begin again. Combined with a new project to work on, where he will be the lead Director for a script he’s in love with, and Noah just blooms.
A single, premature night of revelations, from Julian and some of Noah’s dreams, breaks the strong connection these men have. A multi-month time jump (which I normally don’t care for at such an integral part of the story) was perfectly placed. It made sense, and it made it even more real.
Gone is the “No Pretending.” They are friends, they spend a fair amount of time together, but gone is the easy camaraderie, the connection.
I didn’t know how two guys managed to stay close and yet be a world apart, but we were kings at it.
Noah struggles with his attraction because he’s Julian’s pseudo-uncle. But jealousy is a fucker, and he soon realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle. Julian lets slip some twinges of his own jealousy. None of this felt contrived. It felt so REAL.
They slowly make their way back to close. How do you write a slow burn without leaving the sexy times to the 80% mark? Dee can do it, cuz she’s magic. The push/pull between these two was everything in this book. And not a single part of it didn’t fit with EXACTLY how it should play out. Casual touches and then purposeful affection had me in a puddle on the floor.
Noah, with as blunt as he is, realizes that he’s been protecting his own heart and Julian probably knows nothing about how he actually feels. Which, of course, is why Julian’s been holding back too. The pieces of heartbreak killed me a little inside.
The smexy times? Holy hell, get your fan ready. Role play, some light bondage….this one made my panties melt.
The best secondary character in this book was the movie that Noah directs. His best friend is the producer, and Julian works on the musical score. The scenes where the camera is rolling came alive, and, I swear, I want to see this movie in RL! Dee is a master. I can’t believe the talent that made those moments feel that way.
Bottom line, read this book. I cannot recommend it enough. It went straight to my all-time favorites shelf!