But love isn’t Hunter’s only concern. With his sister’s upcoming nuptials, he also must learn to face a family that hasn’t quite disowned him for his sexuality. With Chase by his side, it’s going to take strength for Hunter to stand up for himself and to hold on to what really matters.
Growing Strong. Not just a Game of Thrones house motto.
I kid. It's actually an apt name for this book, which at its core, is a very sweet love story.
But to get there, you have to suspend some belief, because this story has one very inconsistent MC, a few plot holes, and some hazy details that should have been defined more. Not to mention an advisory tag of RAPE that's missing. Yeah, cause that happened. More on that in a minute.
It starts from the very moment we meet Hunter, who randomly comes out to his best friend and roommate of 9 years.
It was a jolt for the reader, for sure. In Hunter's narrative, he's a 28 year old (I think), who hasn't had sex in 6 years, and (I'm guessing randomly) decides that tonight's the night he's going out to get laid. He succeeds - He ends up drugged and having alley sex with a random stranger.
Damien hadn't been gentle. Not that Hunter had really explained the Hey, this is my first time having alley/any sex.
Here we come to not only the first inconsistency with the story, but that lack of rape warning I mentioned. Because if you're drugged, you can't consent, and afterward, Hunter was left vomiting on the sidewalk, and didn't really remember what happened. It's a fucked up situation and I was left wondering why Hunter wasn't upset by it. He brushed it under the carpet like it was nothing out of the ordinary. And when his best friend Tony found out about it? "Lightweight" I was hoping for a bit of moral support, but whatever.
At this point our second MC, Chase, finds Hunter in bad shape on the sidewalk and takes him home to care for him. Needless to say, Hunter didn't make the best first impression to Chase, and to make it up to him, returns to Chase's the following day with a peace offering.
Which leads to a date.
That neither of them know they're on.
Because make no mistake, these two date for months without either of them realizing it. How? Because NO ONE EVER TALKS TO EACH OTHER.
Meanwhile, Hunter goes on a blind date with another man (who... was looking for friends through a dating site?) I don't know what happens on it... it was skipped over.
Details get skipped over in this book. Deal with it.
And just when I thought they would never get it together and realize what was in front of them, Tony happened. Oddly enough, it's the best friend who I initially wrote off as insensitive, that is the most mature. He cuts through all the bullshit and get things done. Without him, I doubt Hunter would ever get the courage to say something to Chase about his feelings.
And Hunter and Chase officially begin to date.
Which brought some much needed sweetness to what was becoming a baffling read. I say that because it's not the character inconsistencies, or the missing details... it's that Hunter is an aspiring writer, and he often writes a story about two characters named Eric and Sean, who, incidentally, are more interesting and fleshed out than Hunter and Chase. It might be because I read an ARC of this that I found it confusing due to format, but Hunter just dives into their story, and I was left confused as to what was happening.
I got so far into Hunter's head, that I couldn't differentiate what was real and what was not.
By now, you must be wondering, did I even like this read?
Halfway through, I was wondering that myself.
Hunter puts himself down constantly, has a horrible family that would put Cinderella's to shame, (and when I say that, I mean I despised every moment they were on page) and has mood swings where you never know what Hunter you're going to get. Sometimes, these two acted like teenagers - like when a disagreement occurs because Chase has a cold. Chase retreats for 4 days, Hunter gives him space and has a sudden burst of maturity, and I'm left wondering wtf was Chase doing for 4 days that he couldn't call his boyfriend to apologize?!
I was one moment away from headbanging my desk.
And then something cute would happen between Chase and Hunter, and I'd be all
And the book started growing into something really sweet. Hunter started growing as a person, and I started to see the light.
I mean, Hunter was still inconsistent. At 50% into the book, I had no idea what he looked like, his age, or even where he worked. I think he went to work... I don't even know where this book is set. It felt kinda American, but had Britishisms sprinkled throughout.
It's true. America sometimes feels like the redheaded stepchild of the world." "Well, least we're not Canada."
happened. As a redhead, and a Canadian, my displeasure was growing by the second.
But I forged on, because there's something so likeable about Hunter and Chase, and the awkward love story between them. I kept reading because I wanted more of them, and I liked that Hunter was maturing. He even grew a backbone and stood up to his family - which felt a little out of character, but I was proud of him nonetheless.
Some things in this book just really worked, and other things? Not so much.
It wasn't until Valentine's Day that Chase finally said "I love you." They were lying together in bed, a little sweaty, a little sticky...
There was so much telling in this story, and one of my biggest niggles was this: If you're going to have a story about an inexperienced virgin who's only had one go at it, don't make the sex scenes, significant ones at that, be fade to black.
The reader missed out on all of the important stuff. Which is a shame, because this really is a sweet, kind of adorable read. There's a good love story here, but it's buried beneath everything else.
The thing I liked best about this was the ending. It was romantic and adorable and, although abrupt, just about melted my redheaded, Canadian heart.
So, there it is. It didn't really work for me, but, as you can see, it does have a good core, and I can see a lot of people really enjoying it.
Give it a try and see if it grows on you. (*nudges you* see what I did there?)
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