Author: K.C. Wells
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Narrator: Finn Sterling
Can he step out of the shadows and into love’s light?
Eight years ago, Christian Hernandez moved to Jamaica Plain in southern Boston, took refuge in his apartment, and cut himself off from the outside world. And that’s how he’d like it to stay.
Josh Wendell has heard his coworkers gossip about the occupant of apartment #1. No one sees the mystery man, and Josh loves a mystery. So when he is hired to refurbish the apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, Josh is eager to discover the truth behind the rumors.
When he comes face-to-face with Christian, Josh understands why Christian hides from prying eyes. As the two men bond, Josh sees past his exterior to the man within, and he likes what he sees. But can Christian find the courage to emerge from the darkness of his lonely existence for the man who has claimed his heart?
I loved this story so much that I decided I just had to listen to it in audiobook. Unfortunately, that was a mistake. I did not like the voice the narrator gave to Josh, at all. Not even a tiny bit. In fact, a great deal of the narrative felt off to me—the rhythm of the sentences, comma pauses, exclamations, etc. So, though this is an audiobook review, I’m just going to list what I liked about the story, but I’d recommend it in e-book only. Sadly, I had to knock my star rating down from 5 to 4.5 stars because of the narration.
But, I loved the way the author allowed the romance to develop between the men as they get to know one another, do little things to make each other happy, build a friendship, finally go out on a date, and avoid sex as a lubricant to romance. Eventually, Christian, a scarred and emotionally damaged young man, reaches the point where he can accept a declaration of love from Josh—all before ever getting to the bedroom. It’s so rare to see this and it was just right for these MCs.
Josh is a gardener and handyman in a housing complex where a mystery man resides in the first-floor corner apartment. Christian is a mystery because no one ever sees him, and they’ve even noticed he gets everything delivered—from food to other necessities. When Josh is promoted to the role of remodeling the apartments, his first assignment is that one, and when he arrives to the quiet of an empty apartment, he’s a little disappointed not to have met the mystery man. It doesn’t take him long, however, to figure out that Christian is there—he’s just hiding behind the locked bedroom door.
Over time, the two start to have conversations through the crack of the door—mostly about the apartment repairs—but when Josh arrives early one day and hears a crash in the bathroom, he rushes in to find Christian on the floor with the shower curtain covering his groin and blood flowing from his forehead. However, it’s the scars covering half his face, his right arm, and hand that immediately grab his attention and he instinctively knows he needs to maintain a neutral expression and look at Christian, not his scars. It’s this instinctive reaction that sets the pace for a friendship to grow between the two.
Ultimately, trust grows as well, and then affection. And then Josh goes out of his way to find a restaurant where he can take Christian to help him make baby steps back into the world. Christian finds the courage to accept this first date, and then the courage to meet Josh’s best buddies, and to go bowling, and finally, to tell Josh he loves him.
I can hardly begin to describe how well the author built these characters, infusing them with life and warmth, sweet personalities, and an obvious need for each other. Christian’s injury and resulting scars was gently handled and clearly portrayed. Josh’s personality, his humor, his circle of friends, and his slowly developing love for Christian were all so very well done. As I said in my previously published e-book review, this just hit all my buttons and I devoured it like a starving woman. And, as I stated early on, I loved it so much I wanted to reread it, so I decided to try the audiobook. And though I’m disappointed in the audio version, I would still highly recommend this beautiful love story.