From the blurb:
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.
This book tore me up! Wow, what an emotional punch from debut author Erin McLellan!!
Sometimes you just read a book that works, and this one WORKED for me. It was that intense, emotional ride that I didn't know I wanted but, apparently, sorely needed.
It is a hard-fought romance. It is slow burn, without that element of immediate attraction, which I actually loved. The MCs come together organically and naturally over time, and I couldn't get enough. I just couldn't put it down!
However, that being said, I feel like this is going to be a love or hate kind of book with themes that just don't work for everyone.
*Some very minor spoilers may follow*
It is angsty... VERY angsty. I mean... wow. It's been a long time since I've been ripped apart with emotions like this. Though it is angsty, it isn't a depressing story, which is where I draw the line most of the time. It is just emotional, and both guys have trunks full of baggage to unpack. However, there is mention of suicide, for those who are triggered by that.
It deals with religious extremists. Some people want nothing to do with books with religion and we get some religious ideology here. It didn't bother me, but it might bother some people. In fact, I found the religious stuff to be downright fascinating.
While there is NO cheating, there is sex with people who aren't the other MC during the story. Some people don't want their characters hooking up with anyone else before their MCs get together during the story. I felt like everything in the story worked, even these aspects.
For me, everything just clicked. I really loved these characters, and the story felt fresh and vibrant and relevant. Not to mention the sex..... LORD, the sex! It was smoking hot with plenty of smutty details to satisfy readers like me!
Erin McLellan just put herself on my auto-buy list with this one!
*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
Catch ya later!