Title: Growing Strong
Author: B.L. Dayhoff
Publisher: Torquere Press
Release Date: May 11th, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Page Count: 185
Reviewed by: PrinCkhera
Heat Level: 1.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
A chance—and embarrassing—encounter brings Hunter and Chase together, but it’s patience and kindness that keep them there. Through a slow-blossoming friendship and a series of misunderstandings, Hunter finds himself fighting an attraction he thinks isn’t returned. But with the help of his roommate, Tony, he may just be able to make the leap and confess his feelings.
But love isn’t Hunter’s only concern. With his sister’s upcoming nuptials, he also must learn to face a family that hasn’t quite disowned him for his sexuality. With Chase by his side, it’s going to take strength for Hunter to stand up for himself and to hold on to what really matters
Overall, an enjoyable fluffy, at some times angsty, read that tried to be very deep but didn’t do as well on that front as I feel it could have.
I enjoyed it because it showed two people finding each other. I liked it because it gave Hunter a sense of time passing, something to live for, because it seemed as though he was drowning in himself and I’m not all too sure how well he would have done had Chase not been the one to pick him up outside that bar.
I also liked how well the author did writing out Hunter’s family in a manner that made us, the readers, feel for Hunter without it coming over as something we’ve seen before and not exactly “new”. The phone calls his mother makes made me want to slap the woman because they were 1) cruel, 2) cruel, and 3) really fucking cruel. When Hunter picks up the phone, he’s hurt over and over again. It’s nothing overt like his mother saying “Don’t be gay”. Oh no, that would have been too easy (besides she already did that), it’s more like completely ignoring the situation hoping it’ll go away. Bulldozing Hunter, and making him pet sit while they go off for the holidays. (Like, who does that unless they’ve deliberately being cruel/obtuse?!)
If anything, how Dayhoff made me want Hunter to get rid of those shackles his already tenuous relationship with his family (through his mom) had put on him, was really well done.
How Hunter finds in Chase what he’s been looking for. Someone who understands him, sees right through him and someone who supports him, regardless of what decision he makes.
“So, what should I do?”
“Tell them no. Say you’ll do it on the weekends, but not the week. Don’t even ask for the days off, just make it a nonissue. You’re already giving up a holiday among friends for them, don’t give them even more when they’re giving you nothing.”
Someone who tells him how it is, and doesn’t try to mince his words.
“They’re your parents, you want them to accept you, and every time she does that, it’s reaffirming that they don’t.” Chase winced at his own harsh words and pulled Hunter closer. “But I do. I’m here for you, right? And Tony.”
While we read Hunter’s story, Hunter is busy writing one himself and it feels as though they might be the author’s thought processes on his decisions when creating Hunter and Chase. They were nice, a story within a story, which made these like a simultaneous draft of a story that could have been, and sort of was. What was annoying about this though was that the formatting was absolutely the same, which made it difficult to see when exactly Sean and Erik’s story came into play, unless you saw one of their names. Italics would have really helped.
Dark past? Cliché. Family troubles? Cliché. Maybe he should have taken longer for them to meet, hook up, start dating, and find happiness. But he didn’t want to wait. He didn’t want Erik to wait. He wanted Erik to have something from his chance encounter. One of them should be lucky in love, and God knew it wasn’t him.
That being said, I had a difficult time figuring out whether I liked Hunter and Chase or whether I tolerated them. Hunter was sweet, insecure, and I felt for him. So, I definitely liked him. Chase – I’m not so sure. He and Hunter were adorable together, but it was difficult getting to know him, and seeing what Hunter saw.
There’s character growth on Hunter’s part. He blooms into the kind of person he can actually be relatively happy with.
No pressure. No point in freaking out now.
“Yes, because that ever stops me.”
That being said, I felt as though the story had a bit left to be desired. The story Hunter’s writing, mirroring his relationship with Chase. Hunter briefly panics about whether he was projecting his character’s feelings onto a RL person, but it’s not really used later. It could have been an interesting addition, Hunter trying to figure it out. It didn’t fit with his constantly fretting character to not keep worrying about it.
There was also a minor discrepancy when Hunter and Chase were talking about Hunter’s family situation, and Chase was aware of the pet sit even though Hunter hadn’t told him.
The misunderstanding plot that drives Chase to hold off on not pursuing Hunter felt a bit contrived. Because, he is pursuing Hunter. And even though it’s clear to the reader what both Chase and Hunter were thinking, the obliviousness was a bit too much.
The ending, though nice felt a bit rushed. The reader never really finds out why Hunter’s sister rejected him so harshly. His father doesn’t make an appearance. It’s quite clear where Hunter’s mother stands, and these two in their own way. But, why exactly his sister had/s such an aversion to her brother being gay, even though she doesn’t care if it’s someone else feels sort of hypocritical.
While I enjoyed both Hunter and Chase getting together, at times the characterization of both characters felt disjointed. Sometimes it was difficult to see why exactly they were together in the first place. At other times, I was rooting for them and had this big smile on my face.
The description is a very clear summary of the whole book. A few mixed feelings, but overall a recommended read.