Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Angus has been with the same guy for ten years. When his boyfriend breaks up with him the night of his thirtieth birthday party and announces his engagement to a twenty-two-year-old less than ten hours later, Angus is… a mess. To put it lightly. He spends days in bed, drinks himself into a stupor every night, and ends up losing his job and his apartment. His best and oldest friend, Reece, decides it’s time for an intervention. And a change of scenery.
Reece and Angus take off on a buddy trip across the US. They don’t have much of a plan; they just start driving. It takes Angus a couple of days to do much more than grunt when Reece talks to him, but slowly he opens up. They drive, talk, heal, shout, drink a bit too much sometimes, dance, meet new friends… and somewhere between Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, they fall in love.
Which was the last thing in the world Angus expected.
Open Road by M.J. O’Shea just hit all my buttons in a contemporary romance. It had the right amount of realistic angst, terrific changes in location, a deep friendship that felt as real as an old school picture you keep on your wall, and a romance that slowly unfolds over the course of a journey. One both geographical and emotional.
Of course it starts off with a romance that ends horribly with one half of the couple shattered and humiliated. Our MC had already been feeling inadequate in almost every way in his relationship but Angus becomes depressed and unable to cope when his long term boyfriend leaves him for a younger version of himself. I felt myself falling completely into understanding and love with Angus here. He is so believable as he reels from the humiliation he feels, the shame that he didn’t realize he had been cheated on, all the thoughts going through his head that leave him unable to function. O’Shea puts us aside him, whether its laying next to him on the bed or crumpled on the floor, and makes us believe in this shattered man.
Our hopes (and his) will lie in his best friend. That would be Reese, someone his old boyfriend despised and tried to cut out of his life to no avail. These two have loved each other for most of their lives, have known each others families, they fit together like puzzle pieces, except that Reese is straight of course. Reese is another wonderful character here. Layered, warm. I could see Reese clearly in my mind just within a few pages of O’Shea’s descriptions. I knew exactly who Reese was. and what he meant to Angus.
But the real adventure for them and us starts on the road. Circumstances which I won’t reveal compel Angus and Reese to head out on the road. From city to city, where slowly Angus recovers and they discover that the love they have always felt for each other is something not just deep friendship but something more. Its tenderhearted, authentic and moving. And Angus’ recovery is not a smooth or easy one. It can’t be with all he has emotionally gone through. I appreciated that especially and it made where this couple ended up all the more meaningful.
Highlights of the road trip? It has to be New Orleans. I almost wanted them to stay there. It was magical, sexy and hot. The ambiance that is New Orleans oozed off the page as did the love the author clearly has for the city and its people. It left its spell on the couple and on me with this story. I remember other locations, true, but none like I do their time in New Orleans.
The only thing that kept me from giving this a 5 star review was the last couple of pages. I don’t know…something about the ending felt a little too abrupt for a book and romance that took its time realistically getting to its final destination. Perhaps I felt I didn’t need it, I was so happy with the story that came before. Even now I’m not sure why the epilogue doesn’t sit quite right with me. I know others won’t feel that way, just my opinion. But all the rest of the story? Glorious. From rock bottom to recovery to love, this is a couple and novel I absolutely recommend. Open Road by M.J. O’Shea is a terrific contemporary romance. Grab it up and get started today.
Cover art by L.C. Chase is nice and has elements from the story.