Why I read it: Love KA Mitchell's books - love the Florida series. Pre-ordered and bumped to the top of the reading list as soon as it became available.
What it's about: For those who've read the earlier books in the series, Dylan Williams, Aaron Chase's brother (Collision Course). Dylan and his mirror twin Darryl are in Texas - Darryl is about to graduate from college and Dylan is a line cook at The Cheesecake Factory. Dylan is NOT GAY. Except, he sometimes trawls local gay hangout Webber Park and to get a blowjob. When Darryl cuts through the park one night, he is mistaken for Dylan and bashed.
Mike Aurietta witnesses the bashing, calls 911 and the ambulance and helps scare he bad guys off. He and Dylan meet in the hospital where Darryl is being treated.
Mike is a trainer at UT for the Longhorns. He's out to his friends and family but not at work, because he doesn't want the football players to worry about him checking them out or feeling them up when he's strapping a hamstring. And, this is Texas, where homophobia is strong.
Mike's gaydar pings with Dylan and there is instant attraction between the two. But Dylan is NOT GAY. Dylan feels pretty guilty for Darryl's circumstances and he's also struggling with Darryl pulling away from him - apart from one week in foster care early on, they've never been separated. As the family screw-up Dylan is pretty down on himself. He finds himself drawn to Mike, someone who doesn't share the family baggage. And having sex with Mike certainly relieves the tension. But Dylan is NOT GAY. Even though he likes buttsecks and blowjobs.
What worked for me (and what didn't): Actually, I didn't think Dylan was gay either. It seemed to me he was bi, perhaps with a gay leaning - Dylan had relationships with girls and seemed to enjoy sex with women - while Mike certainly turned his crank, it didn't seem beyond the realm that Dylan could have a meaningful and sexual relationship with a woman. Before he fell in love with Mike at least.
I gather from my tweetstream that Dylan is disliked by some readers. For me, it wasn't so much that I didn't like him, it was more that I didn't get to see enough of his transition. Even at the end, I'm not sure he comfortably identified as gay and I can't say I was super confident that he and Mike would work out in the long term - even though I wanted them too. The set up of showing how resistant to being gay-identified Dylan was worked so well, that I needed more in the last part of the book to show the turnaround and make me believe that it would stick.
There was some subtext in the book which I didn't quite get. Perhaps I need to be bashed over the head with something but I didn't understand (for example) Dylan to be asking Joey to come out to Aaron on his behalf - but that's apparently what happened. And there didn't seem to be anything which came from that - I didn't feel that Dylan was comfortable with his sexual identity at the end of the book either and one of the reasons for that was that he didn't really come out to his family himself - except for a private chat with Darryl, kind of.
Dylan did come to grips, somewhat, with "Operation: Amputation" - separating his life from Darryl's but I wondered if his reliance on Mike was a product of that rather than the catalyst for the relationship. Dylan did not like to be alone. I don't think that changed throughout the book. I wonder if Mike got a good deal. Mike was certainly worth it. He's a genuinely nice guy who was possibly more patient with Dylan than was deserved. I did feel that Mike's career change at the end was somewhat glossed over given his angst about it.
I've seen a few reviews and tweets to the effect that the book finished abruptly. They wanted another sex scene and/or more of Dylan and Mike happy together. And I agree 100% with that sentiment. (KA Mitchell writes hot sex so I'm always happy for there to be another sex scene!) The story seemed somewhat unfinished to me - I wasn't confident that Dylan could stand as an out and proud gay man. I wasn't even sure what he was doing with his own career at the end; whether he would maybe pursue his computer aided design in some way maybe. Dylan felt unfinished - he started off the book drifting and uncertain and unfortunately he didn't end up settled and confident. He was well on the way, but it wasn't quite done.
I did like Dylan. (I had less sympathy for Darryl actually. Darryl was keeping his own secrets too and I didn't quite get why he was so freaked out by his secret fear he might be gay too. He seemed pretty homophobic and I wondered by Aaron hadn't kicked his ass about it.) I mean, I was sympathetic to the fact that Darryl was horribly beaten and he did not deserve that. But blaming Dylan for it and not even calling on their birthday? Not so much.
I also had some sympathy for Dylan; being a black gay man in Texas doesn't sound easy. He has a
bit of a chip on his shoulder about being black too and wonders for a little while if Mike only has a case of "jungle fever" (a new-to-me term) but it doesn't take him long to realise that Mike is not like that.
And I loved Mike. He was steady and strong and just what Dylan needed. Dylan bounced around like a fly in a bottle and Mike was just... there. He grounded Dylan and helped him breathe.
There's also a bit of Joey and Aaron which is always fun - and Joey is at his talkative best - to the point where Dylan notes:
Joey kept right on. It was a miracle Aaron hadn't found a reason to get Joey's jaw wired shut.
Joey helps Dylan quite a bit, with his velvet steamroller charm, smoothing the way for Dylan and Darryl to reconnect and helping him avoid trouble with Aaron and giving Dylan boyfriend advice.
I could see, in the intimate scenes (which were hot hot hot) Dylan's sexual progression - fumbling, uncomfortable and embarrassed but horny at first, then gradually becoming more comfortable with his own body and Mike's and his own desire for Mike. But like I said above, I didn't feel the journey was quite complete by the end of the book.
What else? In the book Darryl has short hair (like on the cover) and Dylan has long hair done in cornrows. I wish the cover had shown a picture of Dylan instead.
My favourite in the series is still No Souvenirs. And now I need me a Dr. Kim fix. Stat.