One Real Thing by Anah Crow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One Real Thing is an easy story to read and engaging for the most part. There is a friends turned lovers theme with repressed angst and longing that will play on those lovely romance heart strings of readers. The writing skillfully keeps the characters moving towards each other but once the couple gets together, the story could have ended there. The next 50 pages or so just reiterate how in love the two men are with no real appreciable changes. Nothing much is added to the relationship or the couple, though I was happy to finally get some sexual tension and sex happening. An interesting story but the ending lets it down.
The story shows how long time friends who always had a crush on each other break down individually and need the other person there to help them back. First is Holly’s turn to hit rock bottom as his drug and alcohol habit lead him in a downward spiral that could end tragically. Nick takes control and drags Holly back to New York, hiding him away while he recovers from years of abusing himself. Holly eventually recovers and finds a good job with an adorable and entertaining couple. Now it’s Nick’s turn to hit bottom as his marriage and career end, leaving Holly to pick up the pieces.
The basic plot in and of itself is well crafted. There is a nice symmetry to the men that shows they need each other and lean on each other in similar and different ways. Holly’s breakdown is very engaging. His emotions and fear come across as does his deep longing for Nick. There are a few minor issues that came up while reading this – such as the relatively easy detox and recovery, Nick’s obtuse behavior, Caroline’s over the top bitchiness – but these are minor and easily ignored in favor of the interesting story and compelling characters. Holly is really the star with his vulnerable emotions and desperate grasp for stability in some way.
Unfortunately when it’s Nick’s turn to break down the story takes a shift. There is a D/s component that is added in somewhat oddly with Holly being incredibly submissive and subservient. I didn’t mind the twist to Holly’s personality but it didn’t always feel natural. The whirlwind of chaos that supposedly made up Holly for so many years completely and utterly transforms into a quiet submissive happy to kneel at Nick’s feet in front of his friends. It’s not a bad change but doesn’t make much sense in the context provided. Holly feels inconsistent and manipulated.
Likewise Nick also feels inconsistent. I couldn’t get a good grasp on his character and motives. There is some vague family history that supposedly propelled Nick towards the marriage and career he chose but it doesn’t add much to Nick’s character since it’s so vague. I also couldn’t understand why Nick and Holly never got together in college. At first I thought it was because Nick was straight but later references refute this so I was left wondering why it took so long for the two to admit their feelings. Once Nick and Holly do get together, they immediately fall in love – which makes sense given their history – and the story spends the last part showing sex, Holly as a submissive, and showing how their life will be together. This is nice since the two don’t have sex until the last 1/3rd of the story but not really compelling or necessary to the story.
The writing is very good with the narrative in third person. Sometimes the pronouns would get confused and I couldn’t quite figure out whose point of view was being told. Not head hopping really but a muddled viewpoint that’s not clear. Other than that, the story moves along pretty quickly up to the end and the characters are engaging and interesting. It’s a nice story and I particularly liked Holly for most of the book. Unfortunately the last part brings the book down and takes away from the better written, more interesting beginning. Either way I think this will be of interest to romance fans and a good story to recommend.
One thought on “Review: One Real Thing”
For some reason this one is not calling my name despite good reviews I’ve read of it. Not sure what it is but I’m starting to wonder if I don’t have a thing for friends to lovers stories. Hmmm.