What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Professionally, Dr. Alec Johnson has almost reached his goals. As this year’s recipient of a humanitarian award with his ex, Dr. Tyler Hall, Alec’s work with the homeless is about to be recognized. Unfortunately, his personal life sucks because now he has to attend several events alongside Tyler—with his ex’s new boyfriend in tow. In an attempt to lift his mood and break out of his rut, Alec purchases a motorcycle he has no idea how to start.
Dylan Booth doesn’t have time for Dr. Clueless and his fickle 1964 Harley, but the cocky mechanic can’t say no to the request for help. Having spent his teen years on the streets, and losing his best friend to HIV, Dylan decides teaching the do-gooder how to ride is the least he can do. But watching Alec flounder in his ex’s company throws Dylan into protector mode, and the confirmed hetero introduces himself as Alec’s new boyfriend.
The ex suspects Dylan is lying.
Alec claims Dylan’s plan is insane.
And Dylan’s not sure he can fake being gay.
But he’s a master bullshitter, and the phony PDA soon turns ultra-hot. Alec can’t afford to get attached, and Dylan’s learned everyone eventually leaves. Unfortunately, playing the backup boyfriend is starting to feel way too real…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I’m not sure I can join in with the raving about how wonderful this book is. I did like it and found it, overall, solidly entertaining. But the numerous editing issues bothered me and I would have liked more exposition of Dylan’s journey of self-discovery, particularly later in the book.
Alec is a doctor, working in a free clinic in San Francisco with Tyler. Up until recently they had been partners in life as well as in business. Tyler left very suddenly and Alec is heartbroken. When Tyler turns up with a new boyfriend less than two months after moving out of Alec’s house, it rubs salt into the wound. To cheer himself up and give himself a much-needed confidence boost, he buys a motorcycle. It’s a vintage Harley and, while he did a lot of internet research before going out to look, it was also very much an impulse buy. His good friend Noah knows a guy who can help with vintage bikes and thus Alec meets Dylan.
Where Alec is educated and erudite, Dylan is the self-made man. He lived for three or so years on the streets as a teen, made a very good friend in Rick and eventually got his GED and opened his own vintage bike repair shop. Rick and Noah were a couple and both Dylan and Noah were devastated when Rick died of AIDS.
In some ways the book has a bit of an ensemble cast. There are snippets of Noah and Tyler and even of Logan (the new boyfriend). It wasn’t all about Alec and Dylan.
Dylan’s relationship with Rick was never sexual. They were closer than brothers though and when he died, something broke in Dylan. He has never had a relationship of the romantic kind ever. He likes one night stands. He’s up front about what he wants but he doesn’t like public displays of affection or anything that might smell of a relationship. Also, he’s straight.
Dylan, bothered by how Alec is obviously upset by Tyler and the new boyfriend and how cocky he perceives Tyler to be, opens his big mouth and says that he and Alec are dating and they end up at a cocktail party together. When Dylan gives Alec a kiss to calm him down and make it look good for their audience, he is surprised by how not gross it is. In fact, he really, really likes it. It isn’t exactly a “gay for you” story. By the end, Dylan identifes as bisexual but he’s not much into labels at all. The big barrier to their relationship is that Dylan doesn’t do relationships. My impression was that he didn’t like the PDA not because it might make people think he was gay – he really doesn’t care what people think of him. But rather, because he was uncomfortable with the trappings of relationships.
That was essentially the conflict between them. Alec fell hard and fast for Dylan but believes Dylan just thinks of them as “friends with benefits”. The truth is more complicated. Dylan has strong feelings for Alec but he won’t admit them to himself let alone anyone else and he avoids any kind of deep thinking wherever possible.
I did appreciate that by the end of the book, I was more inclined to think better of Tyler than in the beginning. The snippets of him gave enough context to his and Alec’s relationship so that I realised he wasn’t a total dirtbag.
Alec’s complicated relationship with his mother was a little lost on me. She basically has Aspberger’s (very smart, no idea about social cues) so they were never an affectionate family. But she took the time to go to every rally and demonstration about Prop 8 and DOMA. However, it was really why Alec had difficulty in telling her that he and Tyler would not be getting back together that had me a little confused. If there were cues earlier in the story, I missed them.
I liked Dylan and Alec and I liked them together. I liked that Dylan didn’t have a problem with his sexuality – it really wasn’t the “straight” label he was hung up about. It was being a “boyfriend”. He does come a long way in the course of the story but there were some jumps which felt a bit sudden and I would have liked to have understood them better from Dylan’s POV.
What else? The editing of the book was ordinary. There were numerous examples where the wrong word was used – you’re instead of your, conscious instead of conscience, chaffed instead of chafed and there was a huge continuity error in the middle of the book. Dylan was wearing only a towel, stuff happens, Noah says it’s best they take a break and, “without looking back, Dylan headed out of Alec’s house”. At no point in this scene did he get dressed. So, apparently, Dylan went home without his wallet and keys or his clothes and gave everyone an interesting show on his bike on the way home!
This sort of thing throws me out of a story. A good editor ought to have caught them.
I do plan on reading the next book – I did like Noah even though was a bit pushy. He has a very complicated backstory that I’d like to know more about and after the heartbreak of seeing his beloved partner die of AIDS, I would like to see him get a HEA. I hope the editing is better in future books because the stories deserve better.
If not for the editing errors, it would have been a B read for me. Enjoyable, solidly entertaining and well worth my time. As it was, I’m going with a B-.