Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Aaron McCoy is a social worker who gives too much to his job. In an attempt to keep other kids safe from what he went through as a child, he works himself nearly sick. “Aaron knew all too well how it felt to be ignored by your case worker.” He is always ahead of schedule with his paperwork and answers the call to help at any time. It gets to the point where his boss, Pam, forces him to take a vacation before he burns out completely. Mandatory time off and no checking emails. It just might kill him.
Luckily, he has his best friend, Tyler, to be there with an idea. Aaron has received an invitation to his little brother Zach’s wedding. The brother he hasn’t seen in fifteen years. The brother who was “…young and cute and well-behaved for his foster parents…” and ended up being adopted by Chrissy, “I wish I could take you too” and doesn’t that make not one bit of difference to a hurting 13-year-old losing his family. My heart hurt for him, especially since the reason his brother was so good was because Aaron took care of him when their mom didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t. He’d have to see Chrissy too. “To my brother’s wedding? To the house of the woman who decided she didn’t want to take me but who had no problem taking my little brother?” But Tyler is persuasive – a road trip! The fact that Aaron has secretly longed for Tyler might make the trip uncomfortable, but Aaron can handle it.
Tyler is lovely. He is silly, enthusiastic and totally on Aaron’s side. He brings a garbage bag filled with snacks for a fairly short road trip, has dumb car games all ready for them to play until Aaron threatens him if he looks away from the road to see another license plate, and he’s just there for Aaron. He also has stalked Zach online in order to know more about Aaron. “I’d never make you share something you don’t want to. But you can’t blame me for lookin’ for clues wherever I could find them.”
I have to admit even though Zach wanted Aaron to stay at Chrissy’s, I think it would have been kinder for him to stay at a hotel and have a place to escape. It’s so uncomfortable for him, especially when Chrissy talks of how well she cared for Zach and Zach is talking of what a great mom she is. Things that Aaron didn’t have. Add in that one of Zach’s groomsmen, Owen, is a nasty homophobic jerk. I couldn’t understand if Zach was such a good person he could allow someone like that around him, let alone allow the things he said to Aaron and Tyler. “What, fairies can’t hear now?” was one of the tamer things. Yes, Zach did the “knock it off” thing to Owen, but that didn’t stop it and I was furious at them both. It was lucky that the bride-to-be, Becky, wasn’t going to take that. Zach and his “He didn’t mean anything by it” did not fly with her. There is also a giant surprise that Zach didn’t mention to Aaron that again made me want to smack him. Obviously, I wasn’t a big Zach fan.
Tyler is there for all of it. “Weren’t you listenin’? You put everybody else first. I’m the only one’ll put you first.” Thank Pete Aaron has someone like that in his corner. They are such great friends and I was pulling for them to be more. “We’re still family.” And that was the family that Aaron needed. We get to see the slow transformation and it was a great thing. Aaron makes progress as well, facing some things from his past and showing his strength. “So I’m glad to hear you say it, but I think it’s probably more important for you to apologize than for me to be apologized to.”
Much as I loved Tyler and Aaron and Becky, the winning character here is Becky’s grandmother. I can only say that I want to grow up to be here. She reminded me so much of my favorite female character ever, Nana from Until You. I give a huge thank you to Cari Z for putting that firecracker in there. “The only attraction they garnered was from Grandma, where she was dancing with a trapped-looking Owen on the dance floor. “You get you some, honey!” She’s not in there a lot but the time she is there count.
This is not only a friends to lovers story but it’s a story of healing from the things that might have broken you and moving forward. It was sweet and lovely.
Cover art by Alexandria Corza shows Aaron set against a background of the road and trees. It is simple but fit the story.
ebook, 194 pages
Expected publication: October 16th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press