---Years of loving in secret. Now the secret’s out.---
Mage. Reasonable. Mature. In love with his best friend’s little brother.
Dawn. Painfully shy. Crazy talented. An anxious cinnamon roll in need of protection.
Mage has always been Dawn’s hero. He’s been there for him when Dawn was bullied, when Dawn came out, and when he joined The Underdogs. He’s also been Dawn’s first and only love—painfully unrequited, since Mage is straight. But that’s only for the better, because they’re bandmates, and Dawn’s brother is Mage’s best friend.
It would all be too intense, too complicated, too real.
But then one drunken kiss proves Mage might not be as straight as he seemed, and their whole world turns upside down. Even though Dawn craves Mage’s love so much his heart could burst, his shyness stands in the way of any future they could share.
While they have to keep their budding relationship under wraps and they prepare to sign a major record deal, Dawn’s anxiety gets out of control. Mage will have to choose between the success he’s always craved and the love of his life.
Note to self: always take what these two ladies say very very seriously.
From the moment K.A. Merikan first posted about the progress they were making while writing this story they emphasised how sweet everything about it was, but my thought was "surely it can't be that sweet". It turns out that it actually can and it is! The good news is that it wasn't over the top, it somehow wasn't corny or eye-roll inducing. It was indeed their sweetest story to date, as they warned us all themselves, but it felt right to be that way.
We've seen Dawn and Mage enough in the previous two books of the series to be clued in that there's something happening between them. In "You. Forever. Always." we finally get their story and, as a bonus, their take on Sid's pursue to win Asher back. Dawn is a very quiet and private person - the exact opposite of his brother -, he suffers from anxiety and is prone to panic attacks when a situation is proving to be too much for him to handle. Mage is the adult in the band, the responsible and the one that aways thinks before he acts. He's had a tender spot for Dawn ever since he met him and is always by his side helping and supporting him through everything he might want.
After a drunken make out session, Dawn and Mage have a long overdue conversation where they reveal their feelings for each other. That's the beginning of a secret relationship that moves slowly but surely foreward at a pace that Dawn is comfortable with. I liked how the story took place over several months and how we got to see the different stages of Dawn and Mage's relationship.
One thing that bothered me was everyone's attitude towards Dawn's struggles. It was clear that just the support and good intentions of his friends and family, while very important, weren't enough to help him deal with his anxiety and he needed outside help to get better. However, no one ever even hinted at that. In the end, it took a well meaning nurse to make them all see what needed to be done and for Dawn to finally start making progress and getting better.
I was excited to see Asher and Sid again and had a smile on my face everytime they were part of a scene. I liked that Asher always had to have some kind of contact with Sid's skin, that he protected and cared for him, that they were so good together and that they were supporting each other. These two remain my favorite couple of the series and I wish that they had a bigger part here.
Dusk and Lolly were, once again, their annoying and immature selves. I don't remember them being that way in their own book but in the next two I can't say that I liked them very much. They seem self-centered and as if they don't care for those around them as long as both of them are having fun. However, when the issue at the end appeared, Dusk surprised me in a very good way. His stance on the matter, the passion and conviction with which he defended Dawn and the things he said were able to erase some of his annoying behavior.
The epilogue at the end was a nice addition and a great way to say goodbye to this band and learn what happened with them a few years down the road. I don't think I'll advice you to read it as a standalone, but if you like "The Underdogs" you don't want to miss this book!
*An ARC of this book was kindly provided to me by the authors in exchange for an honest review.*
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