Review: Please Don't Go by Felice Stevens

Danny Friedman knows all about loss. His father left to start a new family and now that his mother passed away, he's even more certain love is only temporary. People always disappoint him in the end, a lesson he learned years ago when his summer camp best friend and secret crush disappeared without a trace, never to be heard from again. Until now.

Fifteen years ago, Paul Merola left everything behind when he ran away with his mother to escape his abusive father. He lived life on the run for years, but never forgot his best friend, Danny. When his job transfers him to the New York City office, the past collides with the present, as Paul finds himself face to face with Danny, who works there as well. To Paul's dismay, a reluctant Danny makes it clear he has little desire to rekindle their friendship.

Despite Danny's desire to learn what happened all those years ago, he refuses to fall victim to Paul's charm, fearing he's being used to get ahead. Paul, finally secure enough to stay and put down roots, must convince Danny that there is more to them than a broken promise. Not only does he want to be friends again, he wants love. He wants forever. And he wants it all with Danny.

This story first appeared in the It Was Always You Anthology. It has been re-edited and expanded by approximately 5,000 words.

Hold on to me. I’ll always be there to catch you if you fall.

Call me a sucker but books about first loves who want second chances are my jam. I can’t help but fall for the idea that first loves are forever and that love can be enough if you give it another try.

Told from the dual POV’s of Danny and Paul, we meet Danny first as he is getting ready for work and has a longing of nostalgia for his camp days when he and Paul were friends. We learn that Danny was bullied frequently in school and considered Paul his only friend and we learn that through Paul’s encouragement and Danny’s growing self-esteem when they are together at camp, Danny fell in love with Paul. But Paul disappeared and Danny has now lost his loved ones and is alone.

But fate, it has its way of playing by its own rules and when Danny walks into work, he is greeted with the knowledge there are new employees via transfers and guess who is part of that bunch? Ack! When Danny hears the question about camp and those words whispered my heart hurt but turning the page to get Paul’s POV was worth it.
Fifteen years melted away and the yearning for Paul rushed through him as if once again they’d jumped off that rock, hand in hand.

The men’s reintroduction to one another was rocky. Danny isn’t out at work and of course he has always held a flame for Paul but little does Danny know, he’s been on Paul’s mind as well. The men haven’t seen or talked to one another in 15 years and Danny has no idea why Paul disappeared suddenly. But oh, Paul has some baggage of his own and he needs some strong shoulders with pale freckled kissable skin to help him carry it.

Goodness. It’s stories like these that my hopeless romantic heart loves. I know the feeling of unrequited love and separation. For me though, it ended in a reunion, marriage and children so I know that these things can work out. They have to work out, right?

Of course Danny would be leery of him. They hadn’t seen each other for over half their lives; to come on as strong as he did tonight was pure stupidity on his part. No matter where Paul had lived and who he’d been with through the years, Danny had been the one person Paul had never forgotten. He owed it to Danny to treat him with the respect he deserved.

Each chapter begins with a flashback phone call between teenage Danny and Paul. Some are truly heartbreaking when you see how desperate and alone Danny is with his absent father and cancer stricken mother. It broke my heart to see how much Paul cared and wanted to be there for Danny but his own circumstances prevented it. These two, Ugh. They have such chemistry, history and yes, hurt but they are adults now and things are different.

The story and romance plays out with Danny holding a grudge at not knowing why Paul left and Paul, feeling ashamed at the reason he had to leave and not wanting Danny to feel sorry for him. They go through the motions over few months and Paul even enlists Danny’s ginger BFF Maxi to get Danny to understand Paul is for real but Danny safely and strongly guards his heart after being hurt before. It’s totally understandable for him to be cautious and yet want to jump Paul, you know? Danny just has to know that he won’t be left again, that his heart won’t be broken and after depending on Paul to be there for him, will he stick around this time?

I liked where the story went, how Paul brought up a happy memory from their time at camp and finally telling Danny the reason he had to leave. I was okay with the instant declarations of love because these two have a past, even if it wasn’t a romantic relationship and love blooms when it wants so for me, it was all fine and sexy to have them be head over heels for one another.

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