A Lucy Review: Who We Used to Be (Do-Over #1) by Dara J. Nelson

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RATING: 2.5 stars out of 5

Ten years is a long time to live with a broken heart

Ten years ago Zeke Malloy had everything:
A happy childhood, a shot at a state championship wrestling title, a best friend, a boyfriend (albeit a secret one but that was okay because, once they graduated, that would change).
He had love, happiness……a heart.
All of that changed in the blink of an eye.
One moment he was deliriously happy, looking forward to a future with Digger Brandt, building a life, a home, a forever, with him.
And then it was gone, disappearing like the tears that flowed down Zeke’s cheeks as he watched from the back of the church as Digger married Lisa – with his father sitting proudly in the front pew. Those tears were still flowing when he walked out of that church and went directly to the nearest recruiting office. Because he didn’t just lose the love of his life that day, he lost his hopes, his dreams, he lost…..himself.
For the next ten years he was a machine – the best Marine, the best friend, but like a machine, he did it all without a beating heart.
His was dead…..or was it?
Was ten years too long?
Was a broken heart too much?
Zeke didn’t know. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to know.
From the moment Digger walked up behind him and said Hello in that smooth, sexy voice that used to light him up six ways from Sunday, Zeke was screwed
The only thing he really knew now……..was that he was about to find out .

Second chance stories are my thing so I was excited for this one.  Zeke and Digger were in love ten years ago, everything was going great and then one day Digger just ghosted Zeke, the next thing being an invitation to 19-year-old Digger’s wedding to Lisa.  Lisa, a woman Digger had claimed to barely know.  Zeke was a secret guest at that wedding, walked out and joined the military.  Good things did come out of that because he got himself some amazing, loyal and supportive friends who remained with him all through.  They know the story of Digger the Douche. 

There is a lot of emphasis in the beginning of how dead inside Zeke is because of Digger’s betrayal.  The anger, the hurt is so powerful when the book starts, even more than when Zeke finds current boyfriend getting laid in their bed.  He is sort of “whatever” about it, because his heart is frozen.  Enter the return of Digger.

So far, so good.  I loved the interaction with Zeke’s crew in particular.  My issue is I felt as if I had been tossed into a story with the middle missing.  We get the anger and angst in the beginning.  “He was tired of trying to love anyone…other than him.  Tired of pretending that his heart wasn’t forever broken. Most of all, he was tired of being angry.”  Digger was a massive coward and unbelievably cruel (you can’t even tell Zeke to his face, you stick an invitation to your WEDDING under the doormat and run?) and ruined Zeke.

Except now that he’s back, he acts like it really wasn’t so bad. I say this because there is so little apology and even less groveling that I actually went back and reread parts because I was sure somehow I missed it.  There is one little mention of daddy dearest threatening to withhold college money if Digger didn’t do what daddy wanted (marry Lisa) and that’s it.  “….gone was the college money, unless he gave in to daddy’s demands…”  Then he tries to justify but saying that he couldn’t ask Zeke to be his secret.  “It would’ve killed the light on the inside that made him so f**king beautiful.”   As if being treated as disposable was better?  Not worthy of a note or a phone call?

So that all was horrible  – we get the story through flashbacks mostly – but then Digger is now out and for some weird reason Zeke and his crew all now live in the same town as Digger and Lisa.  We get a very, very short moment of Zeke having some self respect and then bam! Everything is forgiven and we move on.  Just a no for me. I needed way more justification as to why you would do this to someone you supposedly love, why Zeke would lay down and be a doormat without even an explanation of why.  I needed to know why Digger still, ten years later, works for daddy at a homophobic charity and remains under daddy’s control.  He just seems so selfish, even his reasons for returning to Zeke.  “Because I’m broken too. And fixing him is the only way to fix me.”

The book spends a lot of time setting up the next books in the series, Dallas and Bulldog will be up next, followed by Linc.  The partners for both are clear in this book.   There is also an odd flashback of a conversation that just happened hours before. Instead of showing us the interaction, we are told it in a flashback.  Another oddity is Zeke, who has been burned badly, meeting Slade in a coffee shop, offering him a place to stay and then giving him a key, garage door opener and alarm codes.  Same day!  Doesn’t know the man!

I struggled to finish the book because I was so frustrated by the erasure of ten years of pain. “Look, you didn’t just break his heart, Digger, you broke him. When I first met him, the pain in him, god, it was wrapped around him like a damn bullet-proof blanket.”  It’s why I felt the whole middle was missing.

There is also the random reappearance of Zeke’s cheating ex, who shows up after cheating and ruining Zeke’s house, and there was really no reason for it, so took yet more time away from the main plot. 

The only thing I remotely liked about Digger was his worry about “And then the anxiety creeped in.  The thoughts of: I haven’t showered or douched. What if he doesn’t like it? Oh god, what if I fart?”  Random of me, I know, but he at least was concerned about Zeke here. 

I was just disappointed in this story because the potential was there and it could have been something amazing. 

Cover art, showing Zeke and Digger embracing with their younger selves wrestling, fit the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 291 pages
Published June 15th 2019 by Dare Press
ASINB07S874XX2
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDo-Over #