Bradley Greene’s family all but discarded him when his brother caught him fooling around with another boy. Now Bradley has seventeen dollars and a gas card, and he’s sleeping in his car. He’s an emotional mess and if he doesn’t land a job soon, he’s up the proverbial creek.
Danny Ortega can take care of himself…most of the time. When what started as a date turns into sexual assault in a dark parking lot, he’s grateful for Brad’s help—and an instant admirer of Brad’s military school-honed muscles. He certainly doesn’t expect to see him again, and definitely not as the newest hire at Ortega Construction.
As Brad and Danny’s quiet attraction turns into more, things start to go sour before they’ve even started. Danny grows frustrated that Brad won’t open up emotionally. And Brad is terrified of being responsible for someone else’s feelings. When Brad’s family makes one last attempt to turn him into an “acceptable” son, all bets are off—he and Danny will need to decide if they’re in this together…or apart.
I enjoyed this NA read from J. Leigh Bailey, which not only focused on growing up, heading to college and opening up to the possibility of love, but also had a major focus on family. Maybe not the one that you were born with, but family none the less.
At 16, Brad's parents found out that he was gay and shipped him off to the toughest military school in the country. It was either that or a conversion camp; however, that option would prove too embarrassing for a wealthy family as self-important as the Greene's.
Now 18, Brad has earned a full scholarship to a college in Minnesota, so the book begins as he arrives in Minnesota the summer before college, where he hopes to work for a local construction company upon the recommendation of his high school adviser.
However, Brad's first night in Northfield ends with him preventing a date rape in a truck stop parking lot, prompting his first meeting with near-victim Daniel Ortega.
Sexy, snarky, self-confident Danny is 19 and will be a sophomore at the same college that Brad will attend. Their mutual attraction is immediate, but unbeknownst to Brad, Danny is the gay son of his soon-to-be boss. Danny's also never met a closet that he liked.
Closeted Brad, on the other hand, is still traumatized from his family prior discovery that he likes boys, after which his psychotic brother attempted to *burn his first boyfriend alive*.
Brad's family is a nasty piece of work, to say the least. Brother Nolan is in prison for his tendency to set people ablaze, while their mother makes demands for Brad's return to St. Louis for the appeal. But Brad is DONE and cuts off contact with them.
But Danny's large, Latino family is all-consuming and soon adopt Brad as one of their own, where he learns that, even though someone may be attempting to frame you for stealing from the family's company, family is family. And family doesn't turn its back on those they love. Ever.
And WHAT a family it is, too. When Brad's mother shows up at the Ortega home to bully Brad into attending his brother's appeal hearing, God, Mrs. Ortega's "Come to Jesus" shouting match with Brad's mother was a true thing of beauty.
“It’s this boy, isn’t it?” She nodded toward Danny with a look like she’d stepped on a worm and had to clean it off the bottom of her shoe. “Have you considered that he’s only after your money? He’s no better than a whore, using you for what you can do for him.”
“You will leave my house. Now.” Mrs. Ortega stood and crowded close to Brad’s mother. “You will not come into my house and talk about my child this way.”
She jabbed her finger at [Brad's] mother and continued her tirade. “You are a disgrace. You are his Madre, no? He is your child and you talk to him of duty and money? What about love and protection? Not in my house. You will leave this minute.”
With every step Mrs. Ortega made, his mother took one back. “Out. Now. You will leave Brad alone. He deserves a Madre who will love him, not one who threatens him. And no one, no one, talks about my child in such a way.”
Pretty awe-inspiring, huh?
Brad and Danny's tentative relationship is extremely slow burn, with lots of hiccups along the way, mainly due to Brad's near panic attacks at the thought of anyone finding out that he's gay.
So Brad has a tendency to flee from his problems, as Danny points out.
“Avoidance is just another form of running away.”
That's not always such a great thing where boyfriends are concerned, since shrinking back from innocent touches and pretending that you're just friends in public can seriously damage even Danny's healthy self-confidence.
“Sometimes you make me feel like I should apologize for who I am.”
That is a serious wake-up call for Brad, but he still momentarily considers fleeing as an option.
What if he couldn’t be the kind of boyfriend Danny wanted? What if he tried and nothing changed? Danny deserved someone proud to be seen with him, not someone who wanted to hide from the world.So Brad tries. And tries again. And keeps on trying, until he finally starts getting it right and the HEA finally starts looking like it will stick.
If Brad left, Danny could find someone better.
Oh, hell no.
The violence of his reaction surprised him. And told him he wouldn’t be going anywhere, not right away.
The pacing of the book was a bit slow toward the middle and for those sex-centric readers among us, there was only really one full-on sex scene (with roles being 'negotiable' - I love that), so if you're looking for a sexy read, this may not be the one for you.
But parts of the book were flat out hilarious, so I'd read the book for those alone.
Picking out condoms in the tampon aisle.
“Yeah, he was there. Inside. He picked out the condoms. *Mi papá* chose the condoms.”
Little kids supergluing nearly an entire head of hair to a pillow.
The "I love you" scene while driving was EPIC.
“Crap, crap, crap. Why are all these people out driving? Where are they going? I need to find a place to pull over, like right now.”And my personal favorite, while driving to a department store and Brad mentions lube, then Danny blurting like very few I've ever experienced before :
“You love me?”
“Shh,” Danny hissed. “Not until I park. Damn it, people,” he shouted at the cars on either side of him, “get the hell off the road! Ah, there!”
“Don’t say lube. You can’t say lube and expect me to keep driving. If you say lube I’ll think of sex. And when I think of sex, I think of you. I think of sex with you and my brain explodes and I become a throbbing mass of hormones, and I can’t be expected to pick out pillows when I’m a throbbing mass of hormones. I’ll probably jump you on the comforter display, or fall into a knife display because I’ll be daydreaming about you and lube and sex. You see how this is a crisis waiting to happen. So don’t say lube, okay?”And I'll add one last morsel, just in case you still need convincing, from outside Brad's brother's appeal as his mother makes another unwelcome appearance:
“He stays or I go,” Brad said simply, and re-laced his fingers with Danny’s.As mentioned, the book lags a bit in the middle and the sex-to-page ratio is low, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story, both its serious and the hilarious aspects, so I'd definitely recommend the book.
Her eyes blazed at the connection. “Why do you persist in acting in this deviant way? I had hoped military school would have cured you of that.”
“Deviant?” Danny snapped, releasing Brad’s hand to prop it on his jutting hip. Brad bit his lip. Danny looked like the worst—or the best, depending on one’s perspective—gay stereotype. “You’ll watch your voice or you’ll see how deviant I can be. I’ll take my gay, Mexican ass into that room and flame so bright, the place will erupt in rainbows and glitter.”
My copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for a fair, unbiased review, with no positive review promised.
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