It’s no surprise Riley Connors is dealing with issues. He was kidnapped as a young boy, and his parents abandoned him after his newsworthy return. He bounced from foster home to facility and back. Now an adult, ghosts from his past continue to haunt him. After a suicide attempt, he is locked away in Hartfield so that people can make him tune in to emotions he has tried to bury.
Hunter Morgan had the kind of love that spans ages. But the stress of college and adulthood became too much to handle, and the love of Hunter’s life turned to drugs. After he overdoses, Hunter finds himself soaring out of control on the same miserable path. His brother finds him and calls an ambulance, and the sister Hunter would rather not have calls it a suicide attempt, landing Hunter in Hartfield.
Finding love isn’t easy, but it can happen under the most dire circumstances. Together Hunter and Riley may be able to grow from their pain. But they will need to learn to live for themselves, letting love come second.
"We found love in a hopeless place..." Ain't that the damn truth.
This book was about facing your past demons and realizing that until you do that, head on, the past is where you will continue living, with no real hope for a future.
Riley has been living in fear and isolation since being kidnapped from ages 6 to 10, then being abandoned by his mother and bouncing around, unloved, in the system until he eventually attempts suicide.
Hunter hasn't been living since losing his first love to a partying lifestyle and drug use that began when they started college at Tulane in New Orleans, 4 years ago. And on the day of his mother's funeral, a drug and alcohol overdose land him in the hospital.
The book does not focus on explicit details of Riley's kidnapping or of Hunter's experiences as Cody's life spiraled into drug addiction, infidelity and ultimately his life-ending overdose.
I would have liked a few more details into both those backstories, but they weren't essential to the story as it was told. So that's just me being greedy and wanting more than the "once upon a time there was a boy" styled run down that the book delivers.
The first half of the book focuses on how Riley and Hunter meet at Hartfield, a mental hospital, and each begins their healing process by being one another's rock (and then heart) during those few short months.
Riley immediately returned the kiss, but shyly. Hunter forced himself not to go trying to tongue smother the guy, but he was overcome with the need to show Riley how much he liked him. But this wasn’t a bar, and Riley wasn’t a hookup. This was Riley, and those soft lips moving against Hunter’s were enough to make his heart try to sprout wings.
Once Hunter is released, he and Riley stay in contact through letters, but they don't discuss happily ever afters because Riley still believes that he is a "lifer" and won't be getting out. Ever.
I wish you’d help yourself too. You need to help yourself too.
But eventually Riley realizes when a mutual friend commits suicide after being readmitted to Hartsfield that he doesn't want to die. That he wants a real life.
“None of you really care. He’s just another nutcase who offed himself. Well, fuck y’all. Hartfield can’t have me.”
One of the best parts of the book for me was when Riley admits to his psychiatrist that he doesn't want to die any more, either inside the walls of Hartfield or out.
“I don’t believe you, Riley.”
“You don’t matter, Doc. I believe it.”
So Riley begins doing the hard work he's avoided to help himself heal and get released.
Then nearly a year later, when it is possible for Riley and Hunter to actually *be* together, I liked the fact that the story didn't take the clichéd route of Riley and Hunter running into one another's arms in a field of wild flowers as cherubs flittered above their heads.
They both realized that they still had to work on themselves first, which was the only way that anything real could happen between a manic depressive and a recovering alcoholic reestablishing their places in the world.
The book handled that part very well and we do get our happily ever after, but not until they've each sledge hammered the huge boulders of their own individual problems into much more manageable sized rocks.
This was not a *fluffy* story and for a large portion of the book, this was not what I would call a happy read, but I'm extremely glad that I read it.
4 1/2 very solid stars for this book and I highly recommend it, but only if you're in the mood to read something more substantial than glitter and rainbows.
My ARC copy of this book was provided by the publisher for a fair, unbiased review.
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