Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
How do you save a drowning man when that drowning man is you?
Jake Moore’s world fits too tightly around him. Every penny he makes as a welder goes to care for his dying father, an abusive, controlling man who’s the only family Jake has left. Because of a promise to his dead mother, Jake resists his desire for other men, but it leaves him consumed by darkness.
It takes all of Dallas Yates’s imagination to see the possibilities in the fatigued Art Deco building on the WeHo’s outskirts, but what seals the deal is a shy smile from the handsome metal worker across the street. Their friendship deepens while Dallas peels back the hardened layers strangling Jake’s soul. It’s easy to love the artistic, sweet man hidden behind Jake’s shattered exterior, but Dallas knows Jake needs to first learn to love himself.
When Jake’s world crumbles, he reaches for Dallas, the man he’s learned to lean on. It’s only a matter of time before he’s left to drift in a life he never wanted to lead and while he wants more, Jake’s past haunts him, making him doubt he’s worth the love Dallas is so desperate to give him.
I say this every time, but it bears repeating—Rhys Ford is the most aesthetically engaging author I’ve ever read. She creates visually vivid imagery through the words and phrases, metaphors, and similes she chooses to paint the scenes, the actions, and the characters. This story is no exception, and the visuals she creates to paint the life Jake has been surviving in are bleak, yet en pointe.
Here’s one tiny example of the author’s ability to create a mental picture with a few strokes on the keyboard: “He stepped carefully forward, having already landed on his ass when he’d put a foot down on a pile of National Geographic magazines and they shot out like a pile of angry playing cards avenging their mad queen.” Just genius, IMHO.
Jake is the son of an unbearably nasty, unforgiving, abusive man who gleefully admits to Jake that he killed Jake’s mother in a fit of anger. Unfortunately, it happened on the night Jake finally decided to give in to his theoretical belief that he was gay and had sex with a man. To add insult to injury, however, the sex itself was abusive and bordered on rape as the man took advantage of Jake’s naiveté.
When Dallas Yates arrives to inspect the building he’s recently purchased in West Hollywood, the only good thing he can see as he looks around is the tall, sexy welder in the building across the street. Little does he know that man, Jake Moore, is about to become the center of his universe. And little does Jake know, when he catches the eye of the man staring at him from across the street, that this man will become his lifeline as he navigates his way out of the depths of despair in which he’s been existing.
A powerful story of recovery from an abusive childhood and young adulthood, the author paints a disturbing picture of a young man so codependent on his abusive father that he refuses to let the man die alone and works extra hours to pay for his nursing care and later transfer to hospice care. Despite the fact that he’d like to kill him himself, Jake continues to suffer verbal abuse each time he sees his father, creating an internal battle between simply taking his own life or sticking it out until the old man is gone. Fortunately, circumstances change for the better for him simply by meeting and getting to know Dallas and his BFF, Celeste.
I highly enjoyed this story. Hmm, I’m not sure “enjoy” is the best word to use here since much of the beginning is so dark. But nevertheless, it engaged me immediately, and my need to watch Jake’s and Dallas’s relationship grow, along with my curiosity over a murder mystery subplot, propelled me through a crazy twenty-four hours of reading while trying to meet life’s more urgent tasks, including sleep.
Why isn’t it a full 5 hearts? Well, to be honest, Dallas was almost too perfect, their romance too good to be true, and Jake’s recovery a bit too smooth and soon. Generally, I can imagine my favorite characters actually having the romance pictured in their story. In this case, it’s quite a stretch. I find it difficult to believe that Jake’s core strength and inner beauty could survive so well through lifelong abuse and neglect that he’d not only be able to seek out mental health assistance, but also make such amazing progress within months of finding his life partner, who just happens to be a perfectly gorgeous and well-adjusted man endowed with the patience of a saint, a heart (and pockets) of gold, and a set of completely loving and accepting parents. So I kicked the total star grade down a notch to 4.5.
If you enjoy your main characters lugging around a ton of angsty life trauma, this one is for you. Secondary characters were very important to the story and not the least bit superficial. Honestly? I’d read anything Rhys Ford wrote and enjoy it—if for nothing more than the simple pleasure of visualizing the pictures she creates with words. But I loved this one. I loved the MCs, both beautiful-inside-and-out Dallas, and cuddle-worthy Jake. Highly recommend to like-minded others.