Brett Taylor’s world collapsed three years ago when he lost the love of his life. Almost as bad as the grief is the advice he’s starting to get from everyone and their brother, telling him it’s time to move on. They’re flat-out wrong. He left his career as a musician and escaped to his ranch because he needs the peace and quiet, and he’s doing just fine. He doesn’t want anyone invading his memory-filled, booze-fueled solitude.
JT Campbell’s world has been defined by his parents’ money, status, and his own empty relationships, until he’s desperately sick of it. A quest to find something meaningful leads him to Brett’s failing ranch. It’s supposed to be a brief stay. JT never wanted to be anyone’s savior or compete with the ghosts of lovers past. Still, he can’t help wanting this gruff and grieving man.
JT’s mind knows it’s a bad idea, but his heart keeps pushing him to find out what lies beneath Brett’s rough and broken exterior. Brett’s not going to make it easy. JT can only be patient, keep his sense of humor, and hope for the day he may be allowed far enough into Brett’s world to unbreak his heart.
This review is for the upcoming second edition release of this title.
So here's the thing -- I really wanted to love Unbreak My Heart, and I thought the first half of the story, in spite of it being utterly depressing, was pretty good. After that point, though, the story felt really disjointed. I alternated between really liking it and finding it tiresome. Overall, I liked the story well enough. Mostly. I liked the characters. Mostly. And I loved the slow burn of the romance. The letters tore my heart from my chest and I wanted to cry with each one that I read. They were the words of a broken man to the one person he never wanted to live without. They were truly heartbreaking.
Brett is a man who can't seem to leave his grief behind. Or his guilt. For three years he has ceased to live so much, he might as well be waiting to die. Or drown in the bottom of a bottle. He feels responsible for his partner's death, as if being there would have changed anything. And he can't or won't move on. He's determined to spend the rest of his days in penance for not being there. Grief and isolation are not good bedfellows, but Brett is determined to wallow in both, along with a not so healthy dose of guilt that does not really belong to him.
JT is adrift. He wasn't what his family wanted so he left them behind. I get that, actually. If your family can't accept who you are or who you want to be, when who you are is doing no harm, then they're not family, in my book. For a year, he traveled from place to place doing odd job after odd job and then moving on when he took a mind to. He ends up at Brett's ranch because of Brett's meddling mother. JT ends up with a job at the ranch and the more he gets to know Brett, the more he feels for the man. JT's always been a bit to emphatic for his own good and that trait shows here in spades.
For secondary characters, we have Ray, Brett's ranch foreman who is kind of like a father to Brett. I liked him a lot, though he struck me as being a lot older than he was. His word choices when talking really sounded like the generation before him. Maybe he didn't get out of the country much, I don't know. He really cared for Brett, though, that much was clear.
Also, very much in the picture is Brett's mom. I also liked her at first. She spoke her mind and took no prisoners. She was fiercely protective of her son and wanted nothing more than for him to be happy again. But she really started getting on my nerves with her heavy handed manipulation of forcing Brett toward JT. He was getting there on his own but she kept pushing and pushing to the point I wanted to tell her to mind her own business! She wanted Brett to move on, but I think she went too far.
And the last secondary character, or almost a third MC was Brett's deceased partner, Walt, who was ever present, though Brett, for the whole book.
The bulk of the story happens in the three months following the third anniversary of Walt's death. In that three months, Brett tries and fails to hold himself apart from JT. They become friends and then flirt with the idea of more. Brett was very hung up on getting too sexual, though. I guess I understand that. He still felt like he was betraying Walt. It'd been three years, but grief doesn't exactly come with a schedule, especially when you refuse to do anything but grieve. For JT's part, he was immediately attracted to Brett, but felt that his boss was off limits. At least until Brett told JT that he was gay. Then JT still felt like Brett should be off limits, but he was less inclined to stay away. But Brett had to think about it and talk to Walt a lot and brood heavily for a spell before he decided to let JT in. At least a little.
I was ready, though, to give Unbreak My Heart 3.5 stars right up to the point of the 'big conflict'. Brett was mad, and I get why. Things were said - and done - that were not meant, and I expected that. Emotions were running very high at that moment, so I was not at all surprised at the how the event unfolded. It was what happened after that that made the story fall apart for me. They magically resolved their issues and Brett is suddenly a new man. Brett needs therapy and probably an alcohol treatment program, but after years of pouring himself into a bottle, he suddenly just doesn't need it anymore? That wasn't believable to me. And for the rest of the book we are told, rather than shown, just how far they have come. The ending, itself, was way too cheesy and mushy for my tastes.
Overall, I'd give Unbreak My Heart 3 stars.
ARC of Unbreak My Heart was generously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Get the book: