Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: May 7, 2018
Received From: NetGalley
Ethan Domani had planned the perfect graduation trip before tragedy put his life on hold. Smothered by survivor’s guilt and his close-knit family, he makes a break for the open road. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, but he’s got the whole summer to figure out who he misses more: his boyfriend, or the person he thought he was. It’s just him and his memories . . . until he almost runs over a hitchhiker.
Nick Hamilton made some mistakes after his younger brother died. His violent ex-boyfriend was the most dangerous, and the one that got him shipped off to Camp Cornerstone’s pray-the-gay-away boot camp. His eighteenth birthday brings escape, and a close call with an idiot in a station wagon. Stranger danger aside, Nick’s homeless, broke, and alone. A ride with Ethan is the best option he’s got.
The creepy corners of roadside America have nothing on the darkness haunting Ethan and Nick. Every interstate brings them closer to uncharted emotional territory. When Nick’s past shows up in their rearview mirror, the detour might take them off the map altogether.
SEXUALITY: homosexual, bisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, biromantic
TROPES: hurt/comfort, vacation romance, summer romance, 5 stages of grief
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, coming of age, interracial romance, Peruvian character, Latinx character, POC character, biracial character
WARNINGS: survivor’s guilt, dubious consent / rape mention, emotional abuse, mass shooting, domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, mental illness (PTSD, anxiety, panic attack), power imbalance, stalking, institutionalization, conversion therapy, ableism, homophobia, internalized abuse/gaslighting, past abusive relationship, suicide mention, statutory rape mention, anti-ace phrasing, cissexism/anti-trans phrasing, slurs, gendered slurs, cancer
Ethan’s grin softened to something else, some smile Nick knew was just for him. He lifted his head to meet Ethan’s lips, and their kiss tasted like the ocean, and the edge of the world, and all the miles they were going to travel together.
This book is…A Lot. It’s so much to take in, which is why it took me three and a half weeks to read. As the blurb, and my list of warnings, indicates, the main characters are both dealing with some really intense situations throughout the novel. Ethan is still grieving the loss of his best friend and boyfriend, while Nick is just escaped from a conversion therapy boot camp program and dodging his abusive ex-boyfriend, who begins stalking him. The journey they go on together is a beautiful but intense one as they become friends and confidants, as well as lovers, and learn to trust and be happy despite their situations. This book is a story of grief and fear and loneliness, realizing that it’s okay to move on because moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, and learning to reach for hope and happiness again.
I really enjoyed how the authors wrote the individual struggles of both characters, and how they showed the progression of the friendship and relationship over the weeks/months they travel together. They did a great job of showing how sometimes it takes a stranger to make you open up and feel comfortable talking, and how that stranger can turn into a close friend. I loved the way Ethan and Nick supported each other, with their honesty, jokes, and even giving each other the out to lie when something for them was too difficult to talk about.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the humor. While it’s absolutely an intense read, the two main characters were able to find happiness and amusement together where they otherwise had been unable. There were several times where I laughed out loud along with the characters.
One thing that bothered me, however, was that there’s a couple moments where the “pale skin against darker skin” thing is brought up. I’m not sure if the Peruvian representation is ownvoices to either author, but it still was something that gave me pause.
Overall, though, this book was a great read and I recommend it. Just take heed of all the trigger warnings, because some of them are fairly explicit, especially as regards the abusive relationship and gaslighting.
Reesa Herberth grew up in Hawaii, tried Arizona for a few years, and eventually settled in the D.C. area, where they have trees and rain.
She’s held a variety of crazy writer jobs, including book and video store manager for a defunct chain of music shops, office goddess for an artisan ice cream maker, cheese-cup scrubber at an organic goat dairy, high school secretary, and dye-stained proprietress of a small yarn and fiber business.
When not writing, she can usually be found reading, gardening, cooking, or spinning yarns of another sort entirely. She often resents her need for sleep.
With Michelle Moore, she is the author of the Ylendrian Empire books, including The Balance of Silence, the award-winning space opera caper, The Slipstream Con, and Peripheral People, a sci fi thriller with psychics and squishy feelings, to be released in August 2013.
Michelle Moore has a well-documented obsession with travel, television, frappaccinos and flamingos. These, however, come in a distant second to her love of writing. Most evenings she can be found huddled over her laptop at the local Starbucks, dividing her time between actually writing and pretending to be a barista. While Michelle would like to claim child prodigy status, the truth is that she’s only been scribbling words on paper since she was six. However, she’s moved beyond those initial Dick and Jane story knock-offs to the Ylendrian Universe, a much more rewarding and enjoyable choice of subject matter.
You can email her at MichelleMooreWrites@gmail.com.