Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3 stars
Provided by Author
Blurb: How do you save a drowning man when that drowning man is you?
Jake Moore’s world fits too tightly around him. Every penny he makes as a welder goes to care for his dying father, an abusive, controlling man who’s the only family Jake has left. Because of a promise to his dead mother, Jake resists his desire for other men, but it leaves him consumed by darkness.
It takes all of Dallas Yates’s imagination to see the possibilities in the fatigued art deco building on WeHo’s outskirts, but what seals the deal is a shy smile from the handsome metal worker across the street. Their friendship deepens while Dallas peels back the hardened layers strangling Jake’s soul. It’s easy to love the sweet, artistic man hidden behind Jake’s shattered exterior, but Dallas knows Jake needs to first learn to love himself.
When Jake’s world crumbles, he reaches for Dallas, the man he’s learned to lean on. It’s only a matter of time before he’s left to drift in a life he never wanted to lead and while he wants more, Jake’s past haunts him, making him doubt he’s worth the love Dallas is so desperate to give him.
Review: This was a book I was anticipating with great interest. While the bones of the story were solid – interesting characters, darkness to light theme, sweet love story – I found certain elements of the story weighed it down rather than buoyed its flow.
Jake is a young man who isn’t living for himself at all. He’s caught up in caring for a dying father who is and was nothing but evil. Jake is gay but has been brainwashed by family, in particular his deceased mother, telling him how sinful it is, so he’s suppressed his sexuality completely. He’s tired of it all. He contemplates an out. Circle back to the opening of the book, in which we see this contemplation occurring through vivid imagery. I found this section disturbing; well obviously it’s supposed to be, yet, for me, an opening sets a tone for a book, a reason for me to want to keep reading. The tone here was dire and quite devoid of hope, and the scene seemed prolonged. Now, I’m not one who doesn’t enjoy the theme of characters struggling through hardship to come out stronger, yet I may not have been compelled to keep reading were I not reviewing this book. Interestingly, the dark tone did not continue through the bulk of the story. Oh, Jake had struggles, had huge demons, and needed support, but the story took an upward journey into the light after the dark opening.
The juxtaposition of the dark opening of the book with meeting the other main character, Dallas, was a pleasure. Dallas leapt off the pages radiating purpose, positivity, hope, and caring. The fateful, searing eye contact he shared with Jake across a crowded street served well as a hook into their coming relationship. Dallas was immediately likeable to me. We were shown he had a history of being a good, patient man as well as seeing him demonstrate these qualities on page. Despite some painful issues in his own past, Dallas was exactly what Jake needed. Watching Jake flourish and gain strength at Dallas’s side was satisfying. I felt the relationship was entirely believable and was rooting for them to make it without any major upsets occurring between the two of them, so I was happy that their relationship moved at a steady, supportive pace. At all times I knew exactly what the characters were thinking, and I appreciated this POV.
Per usual, the author used setting, this time WeHo, to great impact. I enjoyed hearing about the local scene and the building Dallas was renovating. The building renovation dovetailed so well with helping Jake find confidence and purpose. The secondary characters, in particular Dallas’s bestie Celeste and Jake’s boss Peter, shone. They complemented the story immensely rather than overpowering the MCs. There’s even a mini-mystery in the story, though the MCs are don’t do any sleuthing, it’s an interesting side-story. Seems like a body is going to show up in a Rhys Ford book somewhere!
The big issue I had with this story was with stylistic elements. The author has wonderful ability to convey mood, locale and emotion. I appreciate her wit and ability to turn a phrase. My impression of this book was overuse of such descriptives. They significantly weighed down and stalled the flow of the story for me. It felt as though I had to sift through superfluous words to discover content which could have stood on its own.
As previously stated, the bones of this story interested me: plot, characters, setting. The development of the romantic leads and the fruition of their relationship kept me turning pages. Though it still strikes me as out of place, I was able to work past the very dark beginning and get carried along by the heart of the story, which developed into not only a satisfying romance, but a triumph of two men working together to repair the broken past.