Let’s take a minute or ten to appreciate the cover.
Now. The heart of this story is serious. We are invited to a small town in Australia called Red Maine. This town could be anywhere in the world because, unfortunately, it still is a placeholder for what goes on in narrow-minded people.
Meet Will Tanner and North Underwood. Will has been an openly gay guy since his teenage years. In this small town you are judged, sentenced and ostracized for being what is deemed not normal. He has been living with the knowledge for a long time and while he isn’t OK with it he has learned to live with homophobic people. Sarcasm is his defense against bigotry.
North likes women. A lot of them. Half of the town’s women. But. He has a dirty secret called Will Tanner. North and Will used to be best friends but that summer with Will twelve years ago left both of them destroyed. Enter an abusive father and they went separate ways.
“Once, North tore my whole world apart. I promised myself I’d never fall again. Turns out I lied.
Neither of them has forgotten what they were like and Will’s chip on his shoulder is as big as the whole continent of Australia. North killed him when he walked away. What he doesn’t know is that it killed North too.
“….because we’re not friends. Not anymore. And though I maybe be the only person in the entire world he can talk to, instead he swallows it all back like the licqor in his glass, and I grow tired of trying to find North in all that he won’t say.”
This story isn’t about putting labels on a relationship. It’s about love and finding out who you are. And not giving a damn what people think about you – because at the end of the day you need to be able to look into your own eyes and and say that you didn’t betray yourself or anything you believe in.
“You can’t control what people think of you, North. You don’t get a say in what makes them tick, in what they’re okay with and what they aren’t. That’s beyond even your capabilities. The thing you do have a say in is whether you’re ok with you.”
The beauty of this story is that they both grow, how Will learns to forgive and North how to conquer his fears.
“The fear, a blackness that roils constantly in my belly, threatens to overcome me and all I want to do is sink to my knees and sob. Instead, I fall into Will, and I find it’s a pretty soft place to land.”
It’s the journey of two men who have been in love with each other their whole lives and about learning to own up to it and letting go of hurt and anger. It is not about North admitting that he is gay – it is about him admitting and embracing his love for his childhood friend. And we are invited to join them. On the journey we learn what made them fall apart and why North turned his back on Will (and believe you me, it’s a revelation and to me it had little to do with cowardice).
The sexy times are steamy and frequent (but don’t distract from the story) and I quote my friend Jen here: “Why do gay guys have the hottest sex?”
It was my first Carmen Jenner book and I absolutely adore her writing style. The scarcasm, the snark, the emotion. Not my last one, I swear, not my last Carmen Jenner book.