* I DNF'd at 60%. This review is to explain why. *
POV – 1st person, single character POV
Would I read it again – No!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Coming Out, Age Gap, Dom/Sub elements
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
To be totally honest, I feel like I'm the odd one out here. All the reviews rave about this book, but it had SERIOUS issues for me, mostly around the form of consent and first-time experience. Those two factors alone, besides all the other issues I had, mean that I won't be reading this author again. In fact, I couldn't even push myself to finish the book. By the time the real plot of Ty and Henry's situation came about, I was so sick of reading the same thing over and over again that I gave up at 60%.
I'm going to keep this real simple, because I get angry every time I come across another thing I don't like and it could make this a trainwreck of a review. Instead, I'm going to focus on points.
My #1 issue:
* CONSENT *
My issues lie with Henry being an overbearing top, who doesn't take no for an answer, and Zach being a walking, talking carpet to be walked over. Nothing about their interactions is sexy or romantic. What is sexy or romantic about Zach saying he needs to take a leak before they go into a private room together only for Henry to demand he get on his knees? He doesn't take Zach's needs into consideration once. Not then, not when he shows no interest in putting on lipstick when Henry demands it, nor when Henry rims him without once asking if it's something Zach is ready for or willing to experience. Even the first time they have penetrative sex, Henry doesn't ease Zach in slowly and he doesn't even stop to think about it. He just goes straight in, no progression, no waiting, no easing in. “I screwed my eyes shut as the pain speared me, and I realized it wasn’t the only thing f*cking spearing me. I choked on a gasp. Henry was all in. Jesus, was he.” And all Henry has to say for himself is: “I’m sorry, baby boy. I couldn’t wait.” Like that means anything.
No consent is not consent. Especially when consent was never asked for.
Zach thinks his refusals and mutters one or two of them, but Henry never listens, ignores the vocal ones and takes full advantage when Zach doesn't speak the others. Then, all of a sudden, although it wasn't something he wanted or agreed to do, but he did because Henry wanted it, suddenly Zach is screaming “Yes, do it!” inside and outside of his head. He even tells Henry later that he's turning him into a slut.
* AGE GAP *
I have no issue with the age gap between Zach and Henry – 27 to 46. It's 19 years, but Zach is very mature and Henry is written as a very young 46 year old. Yet, while I appreciate Henry doesn't do the whole “but you're just experimenting and it's not real” gig, he simply comes across as a predator, to me. I'm sorry, because I know all those 5* reviewers will hate me for it, but I don't care. Henry is that innocent looking guy who is all nice and attentive, who suddenly turns into a sexed-up dominant God, who believes that he's entitled to demand anything he wants from Zach. He is a PREDATOR! He preys on Zach's innocence and ignorance, to get what he wants out of him.
And the way Zach jumps literally head first into the physical relationship with Henry just makes me twitch. Here's a guy who has been curious, confused and still finds it hard to believe he might be gay or bi after TWO YEARS. But, the minute he meets Henry, everything is on the table. Suddenly he admits to having weird and freaky dirty fantasies, probably to make it seem okay when Henry forces him into things later on. When most guys who have never had one experience with another guy before would be tentative even going in for a kiss, Zach's eagerness is set off by alcohol making him brave. That's fine, until it leads to rimming without showering, fingers without lube, and forced submission. This just screams to me that Zach is much more emotionally immature that he's made out to be. He's a rug just waiting to be stepped on so that he can say thank you for the boot prints left behind.
* SERIES *
This book is part of a series. It wasn't advertised that way. Not on Goodreads, Amazon, in the blurb or the hundreds of FB posts I saw about it. I never knew it was part of a series when I picked it up. The books in this series are all, apparently, “standalone” but it didn't feel like that when reading it. And, reading other reviews after writing mine, I can say that they confirmed it. Half of the secondary characters are those from other books in this series. That's all I'm going to say, because that part rubs me up the wrong way. I don't like being tricked into a series.
* INFLUENCE *
I read a review before reading it that said it was a great book to encourage people who were thinking of coming out of the closet. That review was part of the reason I wanted to read it. No. No, it's really not. Not only does it have Zach meeting his perfect match on the first day out of his closet, which is unbelievable and not realistic at all, but that guy also coerces and forces him into submissive states multiple times – sex, clothing and lipstick, just to name a few – while also making it seem okay that his very first penetration could be without a single drop of lube. And that a guy can be rimmed without any hint of prep or showering. Nope. Not a good influence for those thinking of coming out. Not at all. It creates undo pressure and lays impossible expectations on them, while offering an alternative reality that is so far from what they will or should experience that it's just plain wrong.
* ROMANCE *
The story is not a romance. There's nothing romantic or sweet about Zach and Henry's relationship, as I see it. It's lust-at-first-sight and nothing more. Even as the relationship progresses, it's 100% focused on their sexual relationship. They barely talk, drifting into personal conversations maybe one or twice in the first half of the book, which is all about their relationship.
* WRITING *
There are lazy descriptions throughout. It begins with things like Zach's full name given as a POV header to chapter 1, because it's the simplest, quickest and easiest way to let us know who the POV belongs to without doing so organically. Then it drifts into descriptions of conversations taking on the whole telling instead of showing (being told in the main text that things are said instead of in dialogue) and having events glossed over that should really be explored.
The plot is completely unbelievable and contrived. Everything is designed to give Zach and Henry an entire week together, without interruption or any outside influence, so that they can get their freak on. The real point of the plot was for Zach to get Ty back under Henry's good influence, except that plot barely gets a mention until 50% of the way in. And by then, we learn that Henry isn't such a great guy after all. He's a controlling dominant who doesn't believe in consent. Yet, he's conveniently rich and well connected, so that Zach gets all these “amazing” experiences and is loaded with gifted goodies from his new sugar daddy, showing him a world he could never have access to without Henry.
The use of language is inconsistent. I don't know of any twenty-somethings who use “dig it” or “dug it” so much, or at all. And what's with this F*cking-A? I've never heard that outside of a book, in my life. I feel like Zach is sometimes an old 60's dude every time he utters “I dug it” or he's trying too hard to be the young cool guy with “F*cking-A”. It just doesn't feel natural to the too-responsible, sheltered, mature character he's supposed to be. Nor do all the times that he turns into a drooling puppy waiting to be ordered around by Henry.
* TIMING *
I find it illogical that no one thought to encourage Mattie to bring Ty to Henry under the guise of some last minute trip. It would be easy enough to say they're just passing through on their way to somewhere else and then have a breakdown or emergency that made them stop. By then, they could pull the whole “no escape” plan Zach came up with. Instead, they give Zach and Henry a very convenient week alone together to get their freak on, before encouraging Ty to travel up. There's no reason for the wait. Despite Henry's parents being the ones looking after Ty, they have no legal right to object if he leaves home or the town. Henry is the one with the legal rights and, with Ty such a rule breaker, it wouldn't be impossible to encourage him to leave despite whatever Henry's parents think or want. In fact, it would make more sense to have that week alone with Ty, where Henry's parents couldn't interfere, than to wait for their permission.
Overall, for me, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone. This book brought up so many issues that I can't imagine how I'm the only one who saw them. The characterisation and plotting were weak, the relationship never grew beyond insta-lust and there was very little chemistry between Zach and Henry unless they were having sex.
This book was nothing but one sex scene after another, with a few attempts at plot in between. It wasn't about a young man coming out as bi-curious, bi, or even gay. It was about Henry finding someone who would willingly do anything he asked, even when it went against their wants, needs or desires. This is the story of how a predator gets what he wants and a young man finds his way into the clutches of a man who willingly supersedes Zach's will with his own. Zach isn't the virginal first-time gay sex of reality. He's the virginal first-time gay sex of porn. There is no going slow, no building up, no experimenting. It's full tilt all the way, right from the start.
No. Without awareness, consent or even the request of consent, there is no love, no relationship, no romance.