My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s been a while since I sunk into an Amy Lane kick but I threw myself in over the holiday break. I started with Beneath the Stain (review coming!) and decided to continue the angstfest with BtC. While in some ways I loved BtS, I felt as though this one was more Lane-light. It was funny, easy, and quirky in all the heart-warming (and predictable) ways but I honestly kept getting dragged out of the story due to slight problems. They weren’t enough to kill the entire feel good vibe of the story but I always firmly remembered that I was reading a story of fiction and being manipulated by a person’s intentions. I don’t mind that – I read a lot and know this is true – but I don’t like to be cognizant of it while I’m reading; if that makes any sense to readers.
Dawson is your typical loveable klutz that would probably manage to trip and shave his head, castrate his best friend, and shove a dildo up his boyfriend’s ass all with the same awkward maneuver. He’s cute though and funny and has a really good heart. His best friend Benji wins the award for most awesome best friend/brother ever in a book. He’s perfect, straight, and touchy feely. He’s fine cuddling with Dawson and doesn’t care that Dawson once had a crush on him because they’re brothers and never to be parted. Benji picks up the most adorable soul mate from the start girlfriend that not only accepts the friendship but becomes part of it. Add to that the emo, goth chick in need of friends that fits right in and you basically have a dream team of imaginary people that are the wittiest, funniest, goofiest, and most caring group you could create in fiction. It’s way over the top on the angelic scale but hey – who’s complaining? I certainly laughed out loud at the witty comments and actions and enjoyed the hell out of the foursome, even as I knew it was too perfect I enjoyed it anyway.
Enter Jared, the broken and lonely elite ballet dancer that Dawson brings into the friends and family fold. Here is where the story has the most problems. The main plot is about Dawson and Jared as a couple as they struggle with Jared’s issues. Mainly that Jared is traveling the world as a primary dancer but has been abused and taken advantage of all his life and has no real idea what family means. So Dawson and crew have to teach him. I struggled the most with this aspect of the story because it just felt so manipulated and unbelievable. Dawson is a 20 y/o virgin. Now I’m not knocking that at all because his reasons make sense and are very logical and emotionally mature. But that’s just it – Dawson comes across with the maturity of a very sophisticated and seasoned 40 y/o. He instantly identifies and analyzes Jared’s weaknesses and always knows the perfect response to every problem. Six months into a long distance relationship, where the two men have seen each other 2 or 3 times for a couple of days, Dawson wants power of medical attorney over Jared? Frankly I wouldn’t give that kind of power to some young kid I was in love with that I saw twice for sex. Dawson’s response and keen analysis of the situations and Jared’s motivations were so far beyond the actual life experience and intelligence Dawson could have that I got annoyed. It was clearly the author showing these insights through Dawson’s perspective but he was simply too young and inexperienced to know such things.
Because of this I never really felt connected to Jared and Dawson as a couple. I could appreciate them as individuals but honestly their relationship really seemed doomed. The end threw in a little obvious and foreshadowed manipulation to create a happy ending but I couldn’t help think that nothing in this story was realistic in any way. Not that it has to be of course but whenever I read contemporary romance stories I can’t help but want to relate them to reality in some way. A better reality perhaps, but not an alternate universe nonetheless. From the perfect group of friends and understanding parents to the easy ending and HEA, I never forgot this was a dream of happiness and perfection projected for entertainment. Thus I never really felt invested in the story. I enjoyed it but at the end I realized I could forget about it just as easily.
One other note – I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Hugh Bradley. I think he did a great job and has a great narration voice. Anyone that listens to audiobooks knows the narrator needs an easy, pleasing voice without being too distinctive. You should listen to the words the narrator is saying and not the narrator themselves. I did realize how much sex was in the book as I remember thinking the narrator must be sick of those 3 sex scenes back to back with no real purpose in furthering the plot. Other than that I thought this was a fine book and typical Lane in many ways. Not her best but then again not every book will be epic. This was pleasurable and easy to recommend for those readers that don’t mind utopia in almost all aspects.