Beyond the shadows, his love held true for only one man
Derek Lawrence is a player. There is no other way to phrase it. He's been unstoppable since coming out in high school. Guy after guy, conquest after conquest. He isn't looking for any kind of commitment from anyone. His life is perfect the way it is.
Except for one aspect. Derek has been in love with his best friend and business partner, Justin Leary, since the first day he set eyes on him over twenty years ago.
When an implication surfaces that Justin's feelings for Derek might run far deeper than friendship, he considers approaching Justin about it. But before he can, one targeted act of violence followed by the aftermath of violation, challenges the depth of Derek's love for Justin.
First off, trigger warning - there's is on-page male on male rape in this book. Be aware. The blurb hints, but doesn't spell it out. It's thankfully not drawn out, and done with sensitivity toward the subject matter.
This was my first book by this author. I liked the complexity of the characters in this book, but they exasperated me as well.
Supposedly best friends as well as business partners, Justin has kept a huge secret from Derek, and Derek has a secret of his own. Neither of them has the emotional maturity to discuss things honestly and openly, and their relationship was highly dysfunctional. Even at the end, which is supposedly a HFN/HEA, I didn't believe they will make it. There was a ton of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided if Derek wasn't so emotionally stunted and hadn't make such stupid assumptions, and if Justin hadn't lied for so long. Both of them needed therapy after the trauma (Justin for being violated, and Derek for having seen the violation first hand) to help them cope, but neither got that.
Their inability to read each other's facial expressions and emotions also threw a big wrench into their relationship, so much so that it made no sense considering that they had been best friends since their high school days. They just didn't really seem to know each other at all.
In addition to this, the two of them are also apparently completely oblivious to how their friends perceive them - Justin pretends to be straight and not in love with Derek, and Derek has one-night-stands to distract himself from being in love with his supposedly straight, supposedly best friend, but to everyone around them, they appear to be a couple.
The writing itself was perfectly fine, but the characterizations and the constant back and forth drama between the two main characters who have lied to each other, by omission or directly, for years, in a story that was billed as a romance, didn't work for me.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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75% of the proceeds for the sale of this book will be going to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, in coordination with the Read With Pride campaign the author is running for that same support organization.
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