Review: Too Close by R. Phoenix

Skylar Orion's life has been complicated ever since his mother abandoned him and his sister Evie. Making ends meet seemed impossible until Tate Chandler took them in -- his knight in shining armor who promised to make life about more than just surviving. But Tate is not the man he seemed to be, and even his whispered I love yous and generous gifts do little to soothe the pain he causes. Knowing he can't give his sister all that she deserves without Tate, Skylar stays with him, relying on bad puns and a worse sense of humor to keep up the charade.

For his sister he will do anything, even if that means acting the responsible adult and going back to his old high school to meet Dexter Weston, the hot math teacher who can make even algebra interesting. Sparks fly between the two of them, but with his dependence on Tate, Skylar isn't free to follow his heart. He wants what is best for Evie, but can he pass up the chance to find love that heals instead of harms?

Warning: Graphic Domestic Abuse and Violence.

This shouldn’t have been a book I could read until the end. It made me raw and was a bit too real for me and yet, I made it.

I’ll start off with letting you know, this book has abuse in it, both mental and on page physical abuse so if that could be a trigger for you, tread with caution.

This was such an emotional read and yet through all the angst, there was the underlined hope that kept me going.

Skylar Orion is doing what he has to do so that he can survive and take care of his younger sister Evie. At the young age of 18, Tate has gone through the death of one parent and the abandonment of another all while trying to make sure he and his sister aren’t separated. When he gets desperate, he decides to sell himself to make ends meet and falls into the arms and under the control of Tate Chandler. Tate is Skylar’s first and only customer as a prostitute and when Skylar gets robbed for having enough to live on, Tate offers Skylar to move in with him and Skylar counter offers with “not without my sister.” This leads us to the present day, of Skylar and Evie living with Tate and Tate controlling everything they do and taking anything and everything out on Skylar with the visible marks of his handy work on Skylar’s body as proof.

When Skylar receives a notice to meet with Evie’s math teacher to discuss her failing grade, he has an awkward yet adorable meet cute with Dexter Weston. Goodness. From the first meeting of these men you feel the chemistry and really want the bad math puns to continue so they can just flirt for hours. But when Skylar gets home and we officially meet Tate, you feel the anxiety, the stress and the fear that Skylar lives with on a daily basis. Through his POV we know that everything he does is for Evie; putting up with the abuse from Tate so that they have a place to live and food to eat until she graduates high school and we also know that it’s destroying Skylar.

I am so thankful that we get the POV of Dexter as well because I wanted to know how he would react to the situation. How he would find out or figure out what was happening at home with Skylar and Evie and how he would handle the attraction to a much younger man. And you know what? Dexter is a damn saint who adores ducks, quails and rabbits. He is amazing and there was never a time where his feelings felt inappropriate or pervy, they were just honest and amazing.

This book, I read it so damn fast because I was on edge with the whole situation. Tate is so controlling and manipulative and yet I am glad the author took care and respect to lay out the reasons and emotions of why Skylar was staying. Looking at abuse from the outside seems so simple and people are quick to judge when the abused doesn’t leave the abuser but love isn’t simple. It’s not an excuse but people stay for love, they endure because of love and sometimes, they love themselves enough to actually leave the one that hurts them.

With Skylar, he knows the situation is bad and he knows that what Tate does is wrong yet the moments of peace, when Skylar is “being good” and not being abused, he cherishes them and holds on for dear life. If he can forget that Tate hits, hates and belittles the holy hell out of Skylar and just remember the times Tate has bought Skylar‘s affection and not just his body, he can make it until Evie graduates. But the level of abuse worsens and when Skylar starts to see what a good man does and can do with the time spent with Dexter at Evie’s tutoring sessions, he begins to wonder how much more he can stand before it’s too late.

Wow. This book was intense. There were actual moments where I gasped and was so damn afraid of what would happen next. I felt the fear every time Skylar did and I felt his confusion, his uncertainty of a possible future away from Tate.

I truly adored Dexter. He was so patient and twisted with his feelings for Skylar. He was amazing every time they were together and his reaching out to Skylar and Evie with an offer of help. It broke my heart to see him so helpless when it came to Skylar and how much he wanted him to know he deserved better and not just in love but in life.


I won’t go into much more but though this was heavy and intense, I did really like it and loved the romance. It’s hard with books that deal with real life issues such as abuse to be understanding with the person who doesn’t leave the abuser; they are judged and condemned them for being weak or even stupid to stay. I will say it again, the author does a respectful job of portraying Skylar as yes a victim, but also as someone who has the power to control his own future if he reaches out for support. They say staying is the easy part and leaving is hard but actually, they both are a terrifying struggle of human perseverance.

Too Close was a gripping and emotional tale of doing what one needs to for survival to find out, surviving doesn’t have to mean carrying the burden alone. It included a sweet romance between two men who truly fit into one another’s life and find the new beginnings can bloom when least expected.

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