Author: Lane Hayes
Narrator: Michael Ferraiuolo
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars for story: 5 stars for narration
Buy Links: DSP
Received from Publisher
Blurb: A Right and Wrong Story
Successful owner of an upscale boutique in fabulous West Hollywood, Brandon Good swears by his personal edict to “live in the present.” After a bad breakup, he agrees to dog-sit to keep his mind off his ex. Never did he expect the dog to belong to a man from his past, the only man to ever truly break his heart.
When Jake Westley relocates to join the WeHo fire department, the last thing he anticipates is reuniting with his secret high school love. Thrilled with the prospect of reconnecting with Bran, Jake feels no guilt in using his charming old dog as an unwitting matchmaker. As he and Bran rekindle their friendship, it becomes clear the intense attraction they once felt is stronger than ever. But as hard as they try to leave the past behind, painful memories resurface. Bran will have to confront his fears and consider the possibility that the man he swore was absolutely the wrong one might be perfect after all.
Review: This was my first story by Lane Hayes, but it won’t be the last! Her colorful characters of Brandon , Jake and Mack, immediately lured me in and won me over. This book is number two in a series. Having not read the first one, I didn’t feel as though I was in the dark about anything here. Each book features a different main couple. The guys from the other stories provide the supporting cast here, and they are all fun and interesting.
I had the pleasure of experiencing The Wrong Man through Michael Ferraiuolo’s excellent audio performance. He is a gifted narrator; fast becoming one of my favorites. Being as this book is told in Brandon’s POV, the narrator needed to nail his traits, and I felt he did. Brandon’s personality, including his self -proclaimed “fabulosity,” came through loud and clear. A portrayal of Brandon could have easily derailed into all out effeminate — something Brandon was not. Kudos go to Mr. Ferraiuolo for presenting Brandon as Brandon, and not as some caricature. He does a marvelous take on Jake as well, representing the man’s sexy, easy going, yet determined and genuine persona.
This is a sweet story of rediscovery featuring a couple of battered, hopeful guys and a loyal dog. The beginning flowed well, and had me hook, line and sinker. Being inside Brandon’s head was fun, but also a bit sad. He was successful yet guarded; he was fun-loving, yet had walls firmly in place around his heart. I needed to know more about Brandon. Yes, he was basically content and was running B Goods, his successful boutique shop, but I wanted to see him with a forever man. His WeHo décor shop/business sounded divine, someplace I felt I wanted to visit, and such a great backdrop for the story.
As the story progressed and Jake walked into B Goods and back into Brandon’s life, events from the past were disclosed and re-examined. Brandon’s façade of control: his sassy, confident demeanor, his success at the shop, his nice home etc., started to fall away. Jake was Brandon’s high school lover, and coming face to face with him again was shocking. Brandon had been out as gay back in high school (utilizing his façade of bravado), and was also dealing with being a mixed-race kid who had moved to California from out of state. Jake was a star athlete. When push came to shove, Jake had left Brandon hanging out to dry back in senior year.
Brandon and Jake’s renewed acquaintance was facilitated by Jake’s dog, Mack. Seems an employee of Brandon’s was pet-sitting Mack during Jake’s three day stints at the firehouse. I really liked this set up. Jake had just relocated to WeHo, and had no clue his pet-sitting neighbor worked for Brandon. Mack wormed his way into Brandon’s life and heart, and gave Jake a platform to have a second chance with Brandon.
This story was relatively angst free. Most of the conflict involved Brandon’s warring inner dialogue of “do I or don’t I trust, love, commit.” There were also several health scares involving twelve year old Mack. In fact, my heart was in my throat a few times wondering what Mack’s fate might be. He’s a truly special dog. Having a soft spot for dogs as focal points in stories, I couldn’t have been more pleased with how integral sweet Mack is to this one.
The pacing was good, I appreciated finding out exactly what had happened in high school over time via Brandon and Jake’s conversations. It was satisfying to watch Brandon push some of his comfort zones of his own volition, and not because he was pressured by Jake. Jake was lovely with his patience, he simply loved Brandon for Brandon and was amazed at their renewed romance. The author did a great job of presenting realistic scenarios of attraction, resistance, indulgence, second thoughts, and dealing with past issues. Both men were rebounding from other relationships, which added to the mix. The guys had to work through all of this, separately and together.
A few things took me out of the story a bit. Jake’s serious personal issues were something I would have liked to have seen explored in more depth. He had dealt with a lot of crap since Brandon had last seen him a dozen years previously, and Brandon didn’t seem as surprised and disconcerted by these revelations as I would have thought. This story also contains a personal niggle for me: a character (Brandon) going quite far in a relationship and then pulling way, way back. I found this especially frustrating considering Brandon was having huge doubts in his own head the entire time, yet he plowed ahead with Jake. Brandon and Jake were 30. They had each had other relationships. The pair dated for months and then Brandon blew one innocent incident out of proportion and freaked. Even though his fears were clearly presented, I couldn’t quite get my head around him still not learning over several months that he could now trust Jake, or at least trust that he could discuss anything with him. Brandon seemed willing to use Jake for sex and companionship, but not willing to examine his own deepest feelings. It made me feel bad for Jake. Yeah, they worked it through, but somehow Brandon started to irritate me as the story progressed. The presence of the ex-boyfriends seemed a bit contrived and superfluous. Finally, the overuse of all forms of the word “chuckle” had me wincing. It was painfully noticeable on this audio version. Quite possibly this would not have been as noticeable reading the book vs. listening.
Overall this is an enjoyable, well written, sweet story of newfound confidence revolving around a second chance at a first love. The superb job by the audio narrator complements it beautifully.