I always go into romance novels in which one of the characters has a significant mental health issue with a grain of salt. Since I personally know someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I went into this book with a whole bucketful. I am not an expert by any means, but as a reader, I felt that James handled Oryn and his alters with compassion and intention, especially since we only view him from Vaughn’s external perspective. I appreciated Vaughn’s interest in Oryn based on the circumstances in which they meet, thrown together as partners in a class project because of their differences with their younger classmates. Vaughn notes his physical attraction to Oryn but quickly recognizes that the other man needs a genuine friend more than anything else.
Slowly, Vaughn is exposed to Oryn’s daily life and meets the others who live within him. These presentations spark a significant amount of conflict, but Vaughn is not the type to be dissuaded just because it would be “easier” not to have Oryn in his life. And if that means partying with a kid who is too young for him, and constantly getting cock-blocked by an aggressively protective jock, so be it. However, Vaughn truly steps up when he finally understands how Oryn’s health issues literally put his life in danger. True love does not “fix” Oryn, but it’s Vaughn’s quiet strength that finally gives Oryn the space to consider alternatives to the holding pattern his life had consisted of.
This book is a love story but far from a typical one, and it’s a unique sort of slow burn. I enjoyed reading how Vaughn melds his life with Oryn’s and does his best to support not just Oryn but “everyone” his partner consists of. I recommend this book to those looking for romances on the more difficult end of the spectrum, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider this book “high angst.”