Author: Mia Kerick
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: DSP and Amazon
Type: Novel in Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: With all of his scratched and dented heart, Nate DeMarco wants to be two places at once, but he’s been forced to make an unbearable choice. Having barely survived high school, Nate and his boyfriends, Casey Minton and Zander Zane, are ready to move forward. Casey and Zander have left home to attend Boston City College. Nate remains in New Hampshire to protect his volatile younger sister from their increasingly violent, alcoholic uncle. Nate suffers with anger, resentment, and loneliness as what he wants battles against what he feels he must do.
Separated, the young men fight to stay in contact. But they are faced with separate issues. Casey copes with residual fear from having been bullied in high school. Zander obsesses over the establishment of One Voice, the gay-straight alliance at Boston City College. And Nate fights for his sister’s survival. Meanwhile, the intensity of the boys’ relationship increases, both sexually and emotionally.
Nate’s effort to live two lives leads to tragedy, which threatens to blast their relationship apart before they can adjust to the changes in their lives. They must find their way back to a united path before it’s too late.
Review: Here Without You is the second book in the One Voice series. It can be read as a standalone but the reader would miss out on a lot of the relationship development between Casey, Nate and Zander as well as Casey’s personal history.
Here Without You brings us back into the lives of Nate, Casey and Zander approximately a year and a half after the end of the previous book. At eighteen, they have now graduated high school and Casey and Zander have gone off to attend Boston City College. Nate is still in their hometown, unable to leave his younger sister, Cindy, behind with the violent uncle they have lived with since their mother was sent to jail. After almost two years, the three boyfriends are still very much together and in love despite one of them being absent from the other two, except for the weekends Nate can find somewhere safe for Cindy to be and make the trip up to see Casey and Zander. However, the distance away from the other two and the regular abuse he endures at the hands of his uncle start to take their toll on Nate.
Nate has always suffered with low self-esteem, but over the last year Zander and Casey had shown him that he was important to them and he had settled into being a valued and equal member of their relationship. The increasing conflict caused at home by Cindy’s constant attempts to rile their already volatile Uncle Rick meant Nate was even more often at the receiving end of Rick’s fists as he attempted to deflect Rick’s anger away from Cindy and on to himself. As a result, Nate becomes more and more distant as he withdraws into himself.
At college, both Casey and Zander are missing Nate and desperately want him to join them permanently in Boston. Zander has created One Voice, a GSA club, like he had done at their former high school. It is slowly gaining membership and Zander is determined to make it a success as bullying has become a cause close to his heart. When a weekend visit has Zander guilting Nate into staying for an extra day, it ends with serious repercussions for his sister causing Nate to sever all contact as he proceeds to spiral down into a deep well of guilt and depression. Casey and Zander are left not knowing if their relationship can possibly survive. If Nate can ever be brought back to them. Whatever happens, the one thing they are both sure of, if it isn’t the three of them, it’s nothing more than friendship.
Us Three, the first in the One Voice series, was written for a YA audience, which suited the story and the characters, as the boys were then sixteen/seventeen and in their junior year of high school. This book is NA, but I found the tone of it to be pretty much the same as the first and the overall writing style more in keeping with a YA. Their dialogue was a bit over the top and didn’t always come across as very realistic for eighteen year old men. However, the author does do a great job making each of the three MCs voices individual. Told by alternating views – Nate’s diary, Zander’s blog and Casey’s narrative, it was always easy to know exactly who’s head you’re in. The guys were very sweet together and you can easily see how they work well as a threesome, although they did come across a little co-dependant at times. One thing the author did without doubt, was make me care about the MCs, as individuals and as a “throuple”, as Casey calls their relationship.
Us Three was mostly told with the focus on Casey. In Here Without You, the focus shifts to Nate. My heart absolutely broke for the situation Nate was in at home, torn between the need to be with his guys and the need to protect his fourteen year old sister. I know Cindy had a horrible home life, but the way she treated Nate was despicable. It made it incredibly difficult to like or find any sympathy for her. Casey’s parents were gorgeous which, given Nate’s, and even Zander’s, family situations, was a good balance. There were a few little plot holes and convenient turnarounds, but overall I enjoyed this book and, by the end, I really had become invested in Nate, Casey and Zander. Perhaps even more than I had realised until the point that Nate was left so broken and their relationship seemingly in tatters. The three of them already had their individual trials in life to try and overcome and then such a major one for their relationship together to withstand, it was hard to not feel their despair with the break-up, their hope that they could come back together and their complete love for each other. Like the first book, there are some wonderful, positive messages interwoven into the narrative about hope for the future, healthy and loving relationships, and communication.