Author: S.A. McAuley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond – cover photo Sanae Matsuzaki / Lafugue Logos
Rating: 3.75 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 10/02/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance
Can you have a second chance at a first love?
Nick Paine is just starting to return to normal after he told his wife he’s gay and asked for a divorce. Despite a daughter he loves dearly and a job he believes in, part of him is stuck in the past. He’s never forgotten the first love he let fade away fourteen years ago.
Adam “Izz” Azzi has settled into a happy rhythm. His daughter is healthy, he’s found a mosque that accepts him, and his work as a modern artist is gaining international attention. While his past is fraught with mistakes and what-ifs, his life now is good, and he doesn’t want to upset any of the balance he’s worked so hard to achieve.
When Nick and Izz are reunited by luck and fate, their attraction is just as undeniable, but what was left unsaid haunts them. They have hope for a future together, but wishing may not be enough.
During the first pages of this book, I felt good. The characters were introduced in every day ways, highlighting the kind of people they are, their diversity immediately on display. I felt like I was settling in for a cozy read. That was mostly the case. I had been invited in to story time, not just to it.
Friendship is an important part of this story. Just as quickly as I’d fell into the lives of these characters, the different relationships and types of friendships showed themselves to be the backbones of the entire thing. This is deftly coupled with the family dynamics, both existing and those newly created as all of these characters make their way through the challenges they’re faced with in this book. Many different familial relationships are portrayed and they felt real and worthy of being included.
I found myself looking forward to reading this each time I could get back to it. As I learned more about Adam and Nick, I wondered what’s next? What are they going to do? What are they doing right now?
This has an interesting mix of tones, feeling like a fairytale love holding hands with the unavoidable need to deal with the past and the pain that comes with that. Fate is warring with itself in the forms of Adam and Nick and the relationship that might or might not come to be.
McAuley takes her time with the telling of this story, revealing details and their emotional impact in realistic ways. This approach helped me make connections to the characters. Sometimes I’d lose that connection, though, due to sentences and passages feeling over-extended, overdone. When I feel like I have to take a mental breath while reading, that indicates a point where restraint would have been a beneficial tool. Some dialogue-heavy scenes also felt overly long for this same reason.
This leads me into the uneven pacing during some build-ups and conflicts. A lot of time is spent on issues, past mistakes, hurt feelings between Nick and Adam, and most of this feels right, it works. However, some of the resolutions feel rushed and were not worth the price of the suffering. In other words, I was robbed, and so were the characters.
The supporting characters are a lovely lot: Adam’s mom, Nick’s mom, both Adam and Nick’s daughters, Charlie the agent and friend of Adam’s, Daniel the boutique owner and friend of Nick’s, and Roban, who might have some of the best lines and nicknames of the bunch. They’re all well drawn, with a few instances when their personalities seem to blur into one another. A few times while reading, Charlie sounded more like Daniel than Charlie. Even so, they’re all entertaining and important to the story, especially Miriam and Katie.
We get some humor, especially when some of the guys are hanging out, having fun. Daniel and Charlie in particular enjoy some fine scene-stealing moments. Daniel’s story is begging to be told, in my opinion. How he came to be the person he is, his strengths, and there are so many questions just waiting to be answered in a Daniel type way. These exchanges often made me feel like I was watching a movie, it was that easy to picture and hear everything going on.
I’ve enjoyed every story by S.A. McAuley that I’ve read, including this one, it just needed to get out of its own way here and there. This reading experience was a mixed bag, with more that worked than did not: great characters that occasionally became overwhelmed by their own dialogue, diversity the cast of characters that sometimes wandered into everything is puppies and roses perfect-landia, and wonderfully deep emotion that came and went too fast, almost like the author found it difficult to stay there and examine it.
I’ll leave you with this, as it’s a good example of a lot of the things I mentioned, including the complex emotions:
He cried because he needed to hear Miri call him Daddy. He cried because he couldn’t imagine Katie celebrating her birthday alone next year. And he cried because despite how painful this all was, he’d almost let this man go, and right now there was nowhere else he would’ve wanted to be.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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