Author: AM Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: After his parents kicked him out for being gay, Marc Villegas lived on the streets before getting a second chance. Now he’s giving back by working at a shelter for LGBT teenagers—because helping fight their demons keeps his own at bay. Including his infatuation with the former best friend he’s sure is straight.
Anthony Romano hasn’t seen Marc since Marc left home eight years ago. In his confidant’s absence, Anthony turned to heroin. Now at rock bottom, he has an offer from Marc to help him get clean. Detox is hard and ugly, but not as hard as admitting the truth: he’s in love with Marc. Always has been.
Marc swore he’d never date an addict, but he never dreamed the one in question would be the man he’s always wanted to be with. As the two explore their feelings for each other, Marc faces a difficult choice. Say yes, and it could cost him his sobriety; say no, and it could cost him his heart.
Review: *Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t read book #1.
This is the second book in a series, and while it could be read as a standalone, I highly recommend reading Come What May first to have a better understanding of the interpersonal dynamics. In fact, read all of AM Arthur’s books while you’re at it. She is an amazingly deft hand at humanizing her characters as they soldier through dark, gritty, soul-crushing circumstances. There is a ton of reality going on without a trace of contrived angst or drama. Keeping it real, that’s AM. . I seriously felt as though I was present in every scene as an invisible observer. I was super excited to see Ezra, Donner, Allesandro and some of the other unforgettable characters from her previous series play key roles in this story
Love alone isn’t enough. Yet…love is everything. Second chances involve lots of it. Marc is living a structured, meaningful, fairly predictable life as one of the founders of All Saints, an overnight shelter for LGBTQ youth. We met him in book one, and know he has a dark past he speaks very little of, even to his best friend and shelter co-founder, Tate. Save for a small circle of friends, Marc basically has no time for a life outside of the shelter, and he’s fine with that. Until someone he’d given up hope of ever seeing again – his close childhood friend, Anthony – comes crashing back into his life. Crashing is just the word for it, as Anthony is strung out on heroin, and has been living on the streets with nothing to his name. Marc doesn’t hesitate to help Anthony – initially as a favor to Anthony’s sister, but eventually because he realizes he’s still in love with this man, just like he was when they last saw one another eight years earlier at age sixteen. Marc does a lot of soul searching, sets down some hard rules for Anthony, and allows him to stay.
The story delves into Marc and Anthony’s troubled and sordid histories. They were both let down in a huge way by their families – and they assumed – by each other. Marc had spent time hooked on drugs – and then some – so he knew what Anthony needed to overcome. But he didn’t expect ALL of the confessions that came pouring out of Anthony, including his reciprocal feeling of love. Wow, was I riveted to their story, and rooting so hard for everything to work out for these two. I really appreciated the interactions between the two men, the fact that it took a long time for them to rekindle their friendship, and their trust in each other, before moving on to becoming lovers. Each man was burdened by so many past hurts and transgressions; it took a lot of trial, some error, a lot of confidence building, and a lot of letting down walls to reach their happy ending. The writing is real, raw and beautiful every step of the way.
A great point about this series is the focus and awareness it shines on the plight of LGBTQ kids – so many of them are disowned by their families with nowhere to turn. Reading stories such as this makes the issue hit home, makes me want to do something more to help. I love how the author writes adults who have been in the same shoes as the kids they are helping – it lends an extra depth and authenticity to the story. Marc and Anthony are both of Puerto Rican heritage, which made their lives tougher, thanks to societal prejudice and cultural bias – and that was before the gay factor was even taken into account. Both men had overbearing, insensitive fathers, and mothers who would not stand up to them – this bothered me some, but I feel it was meant as a representation of a specific ethnic culture. Respect to the author for folding this point seamlessly into the story.
Despite the serious issues Marc and Anthony deal with in this book, the overall feeling when reading it was one of hope, determination, friendship and love. All of Tate and Marc’s friends befriended Anthony, helped give him a hand up. In the process, Marc became closer to several of the guys than he had previously allowed himself to become. Anthony blossomed and returned the sentiments by making himself a better man to look at in the mirror, and by keeping his promises to Marc. Marc was finally able to unburden memories – and the hold they held on him – to Anthony and begin living and loving again. This group of friends looked out for each other, the community came together to aid the shelter. More than one individual who was seemingly lost, found their way home. Such a beautiful story. I could keep reading about these guys forever.