Rating: 4.5 stars
Dylan was frantic as he raced to the hospital after getting a call saying his twin brother had been admitted. Dylan and Darren has relocated to Central Texas primarily because of Darren’s attending college at UT and Dylan going to culinary school. Now with Darren about to graduate and Dylan working as a chef, he had wondered about their future but never entertained the possibility of Dar being hurt. And somehow he just knew it was all his fault. Whenever something happened to Darren, it was because somehow, someway Dylan had screwed something up. The person, Mike Aurietta, who called him told Dylan that his brother had been attacked in Webber Park, a place notorious for gay hookups and Dylan felt sick inside. Darren should never have been there. It was Dylan who cruised there occasionally looking for some action but that didn’t make him gay. Did it? Because Dylan went out with girls, lots of them, it didn’t mean anything did it if the sex was more powerful with guys? And now his brother lay in a hospital bed, the result of a gay bashing and Dylan just knew who the beating had been intended for. It was meant for him and Darren got the whipping that should have been his.
Mike Aurietta had been taking an unplanned shortcut through Webber Park when he ran into the guys viciously attacking a man on the ground. He did what he could to stop the attackers and called for help when they finally ran away. Mike ended up going with the unconscious victim to the hospital and stayed to help any way he could. Mike found the emergency numbers in the victim’s wallet, placed the calls he needed to and waited in the man’s hospital room when they wheeled him into surgery. What he was not prepared for was to see the victim’s twin race into the room, demanding answers and the names of the people who attacked his brother. Even in a rage, something about Dylan attracted Mike as no other man had done recently. He explained what happened, his part in getting Darren to the hospital and before he realizes it, his good deed has turned into something quite complicated.
Dylan needs Mike’s help even though he hates to admit it. And when his brother Aaron and his partner Joey arrive to take Darren home to recuperate, then it’s not just Mike’s help he needs, but his friendship and the relationship that is growing slowly between them. But Mike is closeted because it is not possible to be gay and retain his job as a trainer for the college football team. Being out is just not going to happen because he not only needs his job but it is his only way to stay close to the sport and team he loves. And Dylan? Well, Dylan is just confused and angry that he is starting to feel something more than friendship for Mike because that might mean he really is gay. And what would that do to his dreams of a family and kids? As Dylan and Mike track down Darren’s attackers, the identity of one shakes Mike to the core. It will wreck his carefully built closet and the new relationship with Dylan he has come to treasure, perhaps even more than his job. And Dylan too must decide if he is ready to relinquish his childhood dream and admit that he is gay if he wants a possible future with Mike.
But My Boyfriend Is, KA Mitchell’s fourth story in the Florida series, follows two of my favorite books, one of which happens to be Collision Course, a must read for a majority of m/m romance fans. And those are some tough steps to follow but I believe Mitchell has certainly achieved her goal in giving us a great new addition to a series I treasure. The central characters of But My Boyfriend Is are twins Dylan and Darren Williams, half brothers to paramedic Aaron Chase and his partner Joey Miller (two of my favorite characters) who we met in Collision Course. All the brothers and their sisters came from a background of abuse, abandonment, and the foster care system that hurt more than helped. Their father is still in prison for manslaughter. And that has left a legacy on each member of the family in differing ways. In Aaron and Dylan, it has made them quick to anger, rage and pain hiding behind prickly, combative personalities that act as shields even from other members of their family. While most people see Aaron and Dylan as jerks, Joey saw beneath the “asshole” personas they wore to the hurting, vulnerable people underneath. But Dylan has always had his brother, his “mirror” image and they have shared everything, almost.
KA Mitchell’s characterizations are just wonderful, so good in fact that she has done too exemplary a job in establishing both Aaron’s and Dylan’s jerk attitudes. Because for some that is all that they see, Aaron and Dylan’s obnoxious behavior. But she also clearly establishes the reason for their behavior and that the hurt and pains inflicted on them in childhood, first by their mother and then by the system, has continued to be the engine that drives their actions and mannerisms. These are not cardboard characters but carefully crafted personas. And that makes them not only believable but people we can empathize with. I actually fell in love with the prickly Dylan, so like Aaron when we first met him, for obvious reasons. He is so confused about everything going on in his life at the moment. Darren is graduating and has not mentioned his plans to attend graduate school, obviously without his brother for the first time. And that has traumatized Dylan. He has never been without his brother close to him and feels lost at just the thought of Darren far away. And his sexual attraction to men is growing however much Dylan doesn’t want to admit it. The author gives us a terrific portrait of a young man heavy into denial when his world starts to shake apart.
Mike Aurietta is another complex closeted young man. Definitely gay, he hides his sexuality because he understands the reality of being an out gay man in Texas would mean the end of his job and his association with UT football team, or any football team. But his denial has cost him emotionally too, and we understand the consequences of his actions even as he does. Aaron and Joey are here as well, doing what they do so well. Supporting each other even as Aaron’s fear manifests itself in yelling, and angry commands and Joey acts as the glue to hold him and the others together. What is surprising is Darren and his attitude towards his brother. Totally unexpected so I was unprepared for Darren and his behavior. But as I said, their backstory has left heavy footprints over all of them and in Darren it manifests itself in a far different manner than it does in Aaron or Dylan. I thought KA Mitchell really gave the boys extra layers I was unprepared for here in this story.
But this is really Dylan and Mike’s story. One of coming out and perhaps even growing up, letting go of old childhood dreams while establishing new ones for adulthood. My only quibble is that I wanted much more of Mike and Dylan and the rest of the family. I want to know what happens to Darren as he recovers and goes to graduate school. And of course, I always want more of Joey and Aaron, the heart of the Florida series. I had a hard time with the rating for this book, swinging back and forth between 4.5 and 5 stars. I am still not sure it doesn’t deserve more. I guess I will be rereading it again to figure it out. If you have ever had a friend act like a jerk but continued to love them because you understood where they were coming from, this book is for you. If you have the ability to look beyond the superficial actions and responses, to see the truth that lies underneath, this book is for you. And if you love stories of people reaching their potential as human beings, coming out and going forward this book is for you. But don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself. I think you will be happy you did.
Here is the Florida series in the order they were written and should be read. Some are free stories that can be found at KA Mitchell’s website:
Diving In Deep (my least favorite but introduces Joey Miller)
Collision Course #2 (all time favorite read) Aaron Chase and Joey Miller
Collision Course Christmas #2.1 free story
Collision Course Valentine #2.2 free story
No Souvenirs #3 Dr. Jae Sun Kim and Shane McCormick (love them) deleted scene here
No News Is Good News #3.5 takes place right before But My Boyfriend Is – free story This explains Aaron’s mood when he gets to the hospital. A must read to fully understand his mental state.
But My Boyfriend Is #4 Dylan Williams and Mike Aurietta
Angela Waters is the cover artist. Just beautiful. Book available from Samhain, Amazon, and All Romance.