One of the review notes I left to myself while reading this book is “Yep, this will hurt.” From page 1, I was hooked on Jake, especially with how Dee brings him to life so well as a former servicemember. In fact, Dee’s usual excellent character work means that I didn’t even mind Jake as a parent (when the single-dad trope is not one of my go-tos). Jake is well crafted as a full character, and I found myself as invested in his possibility-filled future as in the mysteries of his past. This might be a romance (or at least the first half of one), but Jake’s character development is equally compelling as he processes suppressed memories and considers how these revelations affect how he relates to the world.
Or at least to certain people in that world. And though this book is all from Jake’s perspective, I was also totally invested in Roe. “But they were roommates…” is a common enough romance trope that it could have been used as a shortcut to what develops between these men, but that would have been too much of an easy way out. Instead, Dee uses a snippets-through-time bit of storytelling to fully flesh out the whole friendship that evolves between Jake and Roe (and does it so well that I never feel like I’m missing something from the gaps in between). I also appreciated the way Dee highlights the unfortunate minefield that litters interactions in modern male friendships as Jake’s character development directly affects multiple aspects of his relationship with Roe.
But this story isn’t just about Jake and Roe. Two characters can’t exist in a vacuum. Life moves on, and sometimes life even repeats itself. No spoilers here, but certain events make this the worst possible time for Jake and Roe to think changes to their friendship might be achievable. I know some readers will complain, but I didn’t mind that this was only the first half of the story. It could even have been the end of the story; however, this is a romance, not a tragedy. The ending is not a traditional cliffhanger but a good place for a natural break in the story. It just happens to be at a moment when all feels insurmountable. And it definitely hurts.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.