Subverting character expectations realistically and creatively is a favorite of mine in fiction, especially in romance novels. This book could have easily gone the way it looks on the tin, in which robust and manly bear rescues twink with car trouble, and they live happily ever after. Instead, Mac is quite different from the burly, tattooed/pierced persona he portrays, which happens to be a perfect match for Quentin, who is tired of fulfilling the relationship expectations set by his body type.
Sparks between them fly immediately, and while the sexy bits of this book are both sweet and delightful, it is how the two characters relate to each other that makes this a romance to treasure. I spent half a second raising an eyebrow at how much Mac initially offers Quentin when the latter finds himself in a bit of a pickle amidst a New York winter, which is far outside the latter’s comfort zone. However, all fiction requires some suspension of disbelief, so I decided to enjoy and roll with it. That trust in the author is returned manifold, as the secrets in both Mac and Quentin’s lives are revealed.
I appreciated the dichotomy of Mac’s point-of-view scenes, in which his vivid and intelligent internal narrative is at odds with this speech impediment. It speaks (no pun intended) to the relationship and dynamic that develop between Quentin and Mac that Quentin doesn’t necessarily need Mac’s words to communicate with him.
The dark moment in this book carried the appropriate amount of angst. Again, the ending could have followed expectations and still been okay. But once again, Phoenix subverts the narrative and provides readers with an incredibly satisfying finale that gives these men the happily ever after that is best for them. I encourage readers interested in this author to check out this excellent stand-alone novel to get a taste for Phoenix’s strong writing and storytelling ability.