From the blurb:
Five years ago, an accident fractured Gabe Cooper’s family. Believing it was broken beyond repair, Gabe and his best friend Jamie Carlson left Minnesota behind for San Diego sunshine and college. Now another crisis brings Gabe home to help his ailing father, and he finally has to face the guilt that kept him away for so long.
Scott Stark also returns to Minnesota, with his young niece and nephew in tow, shouldering new family responsibilities. While Gabe comes to grips with his past, Scott struggles to accept his present role as a substitute parent, caring for two children, each with different needs. As Gabe and Scott get to know each other, reclaiming family life almost seems possible. Only two things stand in the way of love: Gabe’s unresolved relationship with Jamie, and Scott’s plan to leave Minnesota as soon as he can. Both men will have to accept past mistakes if they want to salvage a future together, and time is running out.
I have been trying for two days to formulate this review. It's not working, so I'm just going to gush and spill and squee and be generally obnoxious for the duration.
There truly is nobody
who writes quite like Con Riley; for me, this is simply How You Write.
Con Riley does it for me on so many levels, but mostly because her writing is so darned intelligent. She doesn't write stuff on my nose, she doesn't Tell me anything, but she Shows me all, she doesn't scream at me "You get it?! You get it?! Huh?! Huh?!"
, no, it is so much more subtle. Also, she doesn't tell me everything at once, she doesn't dump backstories and information on me when I don't need it. Yet.
This writing just presents information as it is needed and when
needed. Not a second earlier.
Con Riley has the knack of keeping me on my toes for the whole run, and there I am, thinking, just one more chapter, and then suddenly it's been two more chapters, three more chapters, four, and there's just no stopping me, I keep reading like a river in full spring snow melting water madness running from angry bulls and swimming in deep, dark oceans and it just KEEPS ME READING until my eyes bleed or drop or my iPad hits my face, or I keep on until until until until... it's done. Finished. (And then there is wailing, because. Feelings).
The book is over. (Cue more wailing).
It's finished. (Snotsobbing happens).
And by all that is holy, this was a ride and a half. I adored Gabe. Hated Jamie for almost the whole book, but—no, never mind, you read it, and tell me what you think, mkay?—and I positively fell in love with Scott. Some parts made me scream out loud, laughing like a crazy person, and some just gutted me.
How Con Riley manages to circle around so many difficult themes (ha, you want to know which ones? How about autism, rape, homophobia, handicaps, illness, alcoholism), circle and circle and never get heavy or boring or teaching. Just the softest touch, by a hand that shows me what it means to live with a child on the spectrum. What it's like to have a mother who drinks. How you live with the loss of limbs.
And it never feels like I'm being taught new things, never am I being punished for being whole, unraped, straight, happy (Yes, a lot of books try to make me feel bad about who I am, instead of showing me how other people live. I sincerely prefer the second). This book makes everything just feel like FAMILY. Like fucking family. Warm and good and comforting. Even when things are all fucked up beyond any measure I have ever had to deal with myself.
I appreciate the voice in this telling. I appreciate taking a stand, being there for your friends. Or simply for someone who really needs a hand.
Especially the little woman who stepped up at the mall to tell people to mind their own business when Scott was having a hard time, was brilliant.
And that's the low key bonus in Con Riley's story: she treats women in m/m stories like real people. Like assets. Not like asshats. (Well, some are asshats too, goes without saying).
What really amazes me is how what seems like an unimportant detail in the beginning can go and become a major point towards the end.
Brilliant writer is brilliant.
Why am I not surprised one little bit?
And I'm going to keep all of my own, personal 21 highlights to myself, because you? Need to read this one for yourself. Go slow, and enjoy the wording. Highlight the shit outta this book.
A free ARC of this book was given to me before publication. A positive review was not expected nor ever promised in return.
Thank you for reading, hope you liked this review.
are provided as a courtesy and do not constitute an endorsement of or
affiliation with this book, author or booksellers listed.