Title: Controlled Burn
Author: Erin McLellan
Release Date: August 14th 2017
Page Count: 309
Reviewed by: Ele
Heat Level: 4.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.
This was a nice debut novel from a very promising new author. Erin McLellan’s words are beautiful, albeit unpolished sometimes. There’s a rawness to her writing style that’s so on point, I found myself totally invested for the most part of the book.
If there’s one thing this book gets right, it’s grief. You know, when you can’t let go because that means moving on without the person who’s not here anymore. So you keep latching onto little things, which become BIG things but you still can’t let go. You just can’t let go because you still love a dead person. Simple as that. This book got this.
Joel just can’t let go. Three years ago, his boyfriend’s death cost him his family, his name, his whole life. For these last years, Joel has been existing instead of living, hooking up with everyone available, harboring this huge secret. And then, along came Paulie.
I loved Paulie. He’s a bit femme, outgoing, sweet and so much fun! Paulie will start tearing down Joel’s walls.
Other things that I liked:
-Joel and Paulie’s relationship evolved very naturally. I liked the steady pace at which they became friends, and eventually boyfriends.
–The steam! This is a very steamy read with some hot and heavy man on man action.
–The secondary characters. Even the parents are very well crafted; realistic but not ridiculously evil. The dynamics in Joel’s family are the perfect example of why family relationships can never be black or white. I also LOVED Travis! Whatever happened to his ginger cowboy? Something tells me we might get his story in the future.
-Overall, there is a constant tension that makes this book a page turner. Despite my niggles, the angst was delicious sometimes and I found myself really invested in the story.
What didn’t work:
-I feel I would have liked this more had it been shorter. It was a pretty long book and Joel’s inner thoughts got repetitive. It took forever for Paulie to learn Joel’s secret. So many times he went back and forth about revealing the truth but decided against it, it got so old after a while.
-Sometimes Joel and Paulie would say the most cruel things to each other. I know they ‘re young and not really experienced in the relationship department, but how do you get back from
- “Could you maybe tone it down a tad?” (he means the femme thing),
“Well you certainly begged for it like a . . . like a—”
“Like a slutty little faggot?” he asked, voice quiet and deadly.
“And guess what? He’ll actually fuck me like a man.” (referring to another guy because Joel didn’t want to top at first)
Dunno, I just couldn’t get over all these despite the characters apologising to each other. And not having Paulie’s POV didn’t help at all.
For the folks that don’t like separation periods, or the MCs hooking up with other guys, know that you ‘ll find both here. But NO cheating.
Overall, I did enjoy Controlled Burn. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do, if you like relationship angst. Will I read more from this author? Definitely!