Three months after his rescue from an abusive boyfriend, twenty-two-year-old Romy Myers has landed his first legitimate job—bussing tables at his friend’s new coffee shop. The job has brought him some stability after years of abuse have left him feeling damaged and broken. He’s working hard on his panic and social anxiety, and those things are often tempered by the big, burly presence of Brendan Walker.
From the moment ex-football player Brendan helped rescue Romy from his ex’s abuse, he’s wanted to protect him. And he does, from a distance, with joking text messages, a new gym routine to toughen him up and a genuine friendship. So far it’s been easy—but Brendan’s feelings aren’t just friendly anymore…
When an argument spirals out of control, a hot and heavy make-out session causes Romy’s friendship with supposedly straight Brendan to reach a new level. The last thing Romy wants is to fall for another guy who could potentially shatter him, but Brendan also wakes up a part of him he thought had been destroyed by violence—his heart.
After helping rescue Romy from an abusive relationship, Brendan not only feels protective about him, even though he does not know him that well and Romy feels safest when Brendan is around. They are friends of a fashion, but both have fears about anything more than friendship.
The story is told from both Romy and Brendan’s point of view.
I have to admit that A.M. Arthur is one of my favorite authors because humanity and heart are added to challenging situations, with people who appear tough, but have their own vulnerabilities. And the situations and people read as very real, like you have met them, or even want to meet them and you want to be a part of their circle because they are people who really do live without judgment of others.
This is book 3 of the Belonging series, the first book was No Such Thing, that focused on Jaime and Alessandro, followed by Maybe This Time with Ezra and Donner, which is also where Romy makes his first appearance. All the books can work on their own, but I know I loved the characters so much, I highly recommend the entire series – and the first two really set up the storyline for this third book.
Brendan has a history with Donner from the second book for Street Feed, where they cook and hand out food to the homeless without connection to an agency. When not doing that, Brendan works as a janitor, as he did not finish college and believes it may be the best he can do. At the start of this book, Romy has his first legitimate job busing tables at the café Ezra has opened with Alessandro, and he does fine the first day since Brendan also works as door security. As the story progresses, Brendan finds himself drawn to Romy even more, and has to do some soul searching about who he really is and why he has not done anything about it. Romy feels their connection too, but after the life he’s had so far, he has a hard time believing in his own worth for something good – although he knows he only feels safe when he’s with Brendan.
Brendan’s fear relates to family and a mother who is quite religious, but open minded as she had Jake and Donner over for dinner, but he fears if they really knew him, he would also lose them. It has been a non issue up to now, but he knows a decision is coming now that Romy is in his life. Romy is mostly afraid of losing – again.
I loved the chemistry between the lead characters and how their story progressed, but I also really enjoyed how they interacted with the characters who were secondary for this story – especially Ezra, who has been a favorite character since book one since you know the persona he puts across to everyone is to hide the heart of gold behind it!
Great characters, great pacing, the background stories will break your heart but you admire them so much for how they have survived and made their own way. I know for each story I read, I want to climb into the books, this series especially, and just be the sister or mother these characters deserve to have, one who loves them unconditionally.
For my reviews, it is always about emotion, did I connect with the characters and their story in some way and be moved by the story? And yes, I certainly did – there were tears, outrage at some of Romy’s experiences that make him feel HE did something wrong or somehow deserved it, and just about cheering when they were finding their feet. The funny thing is, I am such a fan of Ezra, I was not sure this story would mean as much to me as it did, but Brendan and Romy got under my skin and all I could do was hope for their HEA because they both so deserved to have real love. And I have more favorite characters!
If you like drama with your romance, and love that is worked for, then I highly recommend this story (and pretty much anything by A.M. Arthur!). There are some memory sequences of Romy’s abusive relationship, which includes a rape scene, but it is not overly graphic. If people have read the series, they know this one is a bit grittier than the Cost of Repairs series, but is just as good!
There are some very hot scenes as well, but not overly explicit, especially this book and with what Romy is still recovering from.