I’ll never forget the first time I saw him–the wild shock of black hair, the beautiful blue eyes, the full lips with that perfected pout. Such a diva, even from the beginning. I was entranced, smitten, mesmerized. He had the face of an angel, and the voice of one, too–and almost from the start I began the pattern of losing Nicholas. I was good at that–I guess I never believed I really deserved him, what he would bring to us both. What we would experience, because of him. What we could be, because of him. What I could be because of the strength and belief he had in me.
Denial denial denial.
Damn, I was good at that. But I was going to have to get good at trust and acceptance, if I wanted to keep him. If, that is, if I could find him again. It was almost as if he’d never been.
But he had existed. I’d heard him, felt him, experienced him. I had his words in my heart to prove it. It would, I knew, just be a matter of time before I found him again, and then I would never, ever let him go.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. I knew this was considered a favorite of readers in the m/m genre and Jenre gave it a stunning review a while ago, but it still managed to surprise and delight me. This meaty story is full of angst, drama, pain, hardship, and it packs a heavy emotional punch. This is not a light read but it’s completely absorbing, engrossing, and interesting. This is definitely a story I’d read again and the length of the novel (500+ pages) may seem daunting but it’s the perfect length for the story, characterization, and final resolution. You really get to know the characters, all of them, and connect to their actions and fears. So don’t be daunted by the long story but dive in and you’ll be happy for it.
The blurb is actually an excerpt from the story and not a bad one to describe the essence of the book. We’re immediately introduced to Brandon, a young high school dropout desperately searching to make something of himself in the music world. What Brandon never counted on is that once he hears Nicholas sing, his search changes to Nicholas. Once they get together Brandon is consumed with protecting Nicholas, making him happy, and ensuring he’s taken care of – to Brandon’s own detriment. With two men so in love with each other, they almost destroy each other, their story is emotional, evocative, and fascinating.
The story is told in two parts, first from Brandon’s first person point of view then from Nicholas’ first person point of view. Despite the welcome addition of Nicholas’ thoughts in the later half of the story, everything revolves around Brandon – who revolves around Nicholas. From the moment they meet, the two are desperately in love. As they struggle to break out in the music world, a threat hangs over Brandon that forces him to endure years of suffering. The action is very character dependent and alternates between the present, with Brandon and Nicholas back together and determined to make things works, and the past, flashbacks detailing how Brandon and Nicholas met and eventually broke apart painfully.
I thought the mixture of styles works incredibly well. I know some readers aren’t fans of flashbacks but here they are essential to the story. Reading about Brandon and Nicholas’ past is interesting but painful. Every highlight in their relationship is quickly followed by a shadow, threat, or misunderstanding. Without having the respite of seeing the two happy, together, and committed, the unrelenting pain of their past would have overwhelmed the story and made it depressing. I’m a fan of angsty stories but there is a lot of angst and drama here. It’s nicely paced and spread out though so you’re never hit with too much at once and the mixture with present times helps keep the intensity level manageable.
One of the keys aspects to the story is Brandon’s suffering, caused by his own personality and actions. He spends over a decade giving in emotionally, physically, and finically to a blackmailer due to his own naivety. While this normally would have driven me crazy with a character, Brandon’s reasons, his suffering, deep isolation, and need for support – but never getting it – come across so authentically and so honestly that you can’t hate him for his actions. He’s not a weak character but he allows himself to be manipulated by everyone, Nicholas included. When his real personality is slowly shown in bits and pieces so that his family and friends can finally see the man they all thought they knew, I wish there had been more resolution. The friends and family feel badly but they constantly remind each other they couldn’t have known. Considering everything Brandon went through due to everyone choosing Nicholas over Brandon, it would have been nice if they apologized significantly more to Brandon.
The real star of the story is the characterizations. From Brandon’s wounded, deeply lonely personality to Nicholas energetic, attention loving contrast, the cast shines in their complexity. Brandon of course emerges as my favorite, even with his needless suffering, because he’s so complicated and isolated. His deep yearning for support, but rarely getting it, went so far that I didn’t always appreciate the supporting cast who rallied around Nicholas constantly. The worst offender of this is Brandon’s brother Jon who clearly adores Nicholas more than a straight man should and definitely more than his own beloved brother. So in this way Jon sometimes would irate me in scenes since he’s so biased and unintentionally hurtful. This is balanced however by the great female characters used well and the various relationships which are all complicated yet interesting.
The length of the story lets you really sink into these personalities and their life. Nicholas and Brandon love each other so much that they frequently hurt each other deeply. It’s never intentional and always painful but their opposite needs clash. Nicholas needs the adulation of crowds, the constant love and support of those around him, the energy and chaos of traveling, while Brandon simply needs Nicholas. It makes for a fascinating push and pull that may be dramatic, but well worth the time invested in reading. The great pace, crisp prose, and even intensity deliver a story that’s absorbing and easy to read while keeping the angst to a very manageable level. I easily recommend this as a must read.
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