2.5 stars, maybe closer to 3 for the good writing.
I admit I didn’t remember really anything from the previous book a couple years ago. I just knew I’d given it (Breaking Faith) 5 stars, which is rare for me so I must have really really loved the first book. So I dove into this hoping I’d be able to follow along without knowing much about the established couple. This worked ok but I really think readers should go back and re-read the first book before tackling this one. The biggest problem I had was that the main couple didn’t work for me, at all. Whereas I had a vague feeling of the couple once being so madly in love and right for each other, I struggled with the sequel thinking they would be better off apart. The boys feel immature, silly, and totally unsuited for each other. I also struggled because the book lacked a real focus. Instead it meanders along showing various events in their lives without a defined purpose or result. I like this author’s writing so that kept me engaged but towards the end I just wanted to be over with it.
The basic plot picks up after Tommy has been released from jail. While reading Passing Shadows, more details from the first book came back to me so I remembered that Tommy had killed his drunk, abusive father and eventually went to jail in the first book. Now Tommy has been released and finally gets to return to Brett, his patient boyfriend who sacrificed his college fund and dreams of being a doctor to support Tommy through his trial and incarceration. The two young men are trying to find a way to adjust to the new changes of Tommy’s pseudo freedom and what their life will be like now.
First off Tommy and Brett are clearly very much in love. I don’t doubt they love each other and want to make it work with each other. There are numerous scenes where the two are making love, usually if they’re together they’re having sex but that’s to be expected. Unfortunately there’s not much else to their relationship. Both men come across as immature and unable to actually communicate in any effective way. They literally never have a conversation. Brett will try to broach a topic in a halting, incomplete sentence while Tommy answers with a non-answer and Brett lets it go. This cycle is repeated constantly while the internal monologue of the boys say it doesn’t matter because all that matters is they’re together. So they don’t have to actually talk about their plans and figure out a future together.
This is part of my bigger issue with Tommy. Tommy in this book is definitely multi-faceted and nuanced but he’s so flawed that I couldn’t come around to rooting for him. He comes across as selfish and bitter, perhaps with good reason, but also unyielding. Brett does 100% of the compromising and is the only real reason the two stay together. Tommy can’t and won’t bend on anything. Brett has to be the one to let arguments and problems just “go” and then when he’s too understanding, Tommy can’t stand that either. I kept thinking of Tommy as an immature, unintelligent guy that has no capacity for self-awareness or compromise. That he’s willing to be with Brett because he loves him but as long as Brett makes it possible and Tommy doesn’t really have to sacrifice for them to be together.
Part of this is that the two boys don’t have a single conversation. They haltingly say a few unfinished sentences then give up and have sex. I had no confidence that this was actually a relationship capable of lasting despite their obvious love for each other. I couldn’t help but think one day Brett would get sick of giving up everything all the time for Tommy and getting very little in return – sex aside – and would leave to find someone who would actually be a partner.
Aside from the issues with the main couple, the rest of the cast is forgettable. Tommy’s various brothers and sisters all mixed together for me and I didn’t get a good feel for any of them. I never really understood what Tommy and his mother’s issues were or how Brett seemed to fit in extremely well at the beginning of book but gradually fell out of favor for unknown reasons. Additionally the book seemed to really go nowhere. It shows Tommy struggling to find a new place in the world and his life but then the place he finds forces Brett to change his life once again. Then I guess the two finally live happily ever after? I don’t know. I didn’t get that feeling from the couple or that the book was working up to this pseudo happy ending; more so that the narrative just stopped somewhat awkwardly.
As much as I wanted to love this book and I did appreciate the lush writing style with deep-seated emotion in almost everything, I found the book dragging for me towards the end. The last 100 pages or so I just wanted to get to the end as I didn’t really see what the various scenes actually added to the story. I liked the powwow scenes and felt they added to show the man Tommy was becoming but other than that short glimpse through Brett’s eyes, I didn’t feel most of this was necessary. It actually makes me kind of sad because I adored the first book and wanted a happy, and final, ending. I’m honestly not sure I’d recommend this to fans.