This book seemed like something I would enjoy. I went into this with high expectations. Age gap, accidental romance, introvert versus killer, I mean what is there not to love about this? Yet I didn’t leave this story fulfilled. This was written well enough for me to binge read. Honestly I got a good 70+ percent into this before bowing out at about 1 AM. But I kept getting more annoyed with it as I dug deeper and it became more about convincing myself that what was going to happen wasn’t going to happen and that some of the plot issues were not indeed issues than actually enjoying a book I could’ve finished in one day.
Firstly this book gets a hard recommendation. Like extra stupid-hard. More on that at the end of this review. But, again, you should read this book even though I’m not going to give it the best review. Next for anyone who has triggers there is cutting mentioned in detail and I don’t think there was a trigger warning. I don’t have any triggers but it’s something to consider before delving into this story.
Galen, is this Gay as in Gabriel or Gal as in gallon? Don’t know and I said both in my video review. Either way, I love this name. I got him. His anxiety triggered me because I have anxiety issues and the fact I was annoyed or bothered by some of his choices thus having my own anxiety from it was an easy way to get me on board with how he responded to his own trauma. It was easy to connect with him right down to the cutting, and get inside his head and enjoy the journey of him getting better.
Chast is fun as well. A hired killer who doesn’t sweat the job he has. He kills people and gets paid to do it then goes home to feed his cat. I’m here for this. What I like about him is how he learns to accept things about himself through his interactions with Galen. Even to the point of coming out to him and himself.
These were the only two things that kept me going. Beyond that, not so much.
First there’s the big secret of the book. It’s not big enough for a number of reasons to cause a breakup. During the entire book whenever Galen has a problem he calls Chast. Chast almost always comes to his rescue. Chast listens to his problems. Reveals so much about himself in return and they both bond through Chast’s past trauma and Galen’s present troubles. It even got to the point that Galen finally stands up to his bullies, mind you he loses the fight but progress is progress.
Before revealing the secret there’s the other issue I had. His grandparents appear to be very elitist and don’t like him because he’s Asian. Sigh. But, his dad married an Asian and had a child with her, before she died obviously, so what is with all the sibling rivalry with Galen’s uncle? If he was bold enough to marry someone his parents would hate if he cared so much about their opinion why didn’t he just give up Galen when mom was out of the picture? Surely he loved her or at the very least was using her to piss off his parents yet the one encounter with them I get the impression from both Galen and his father that his entire existence revolves around seeking their approval and besting his brother. If that is the case, why did he marry someone like Galen’s mother in the first place and as I said, keep him. All those actions speak to a man trying to pave his own way outside his parent’s and brother’s shadow so it seemed odd.
It didn’t end there. He legit has a room locked with things that are probably all about Galen’s mother. I strongly doubt he threw them all away. So does Galen. If nothing up there is important why is it locked? Why is it an argument every time Galen wants to go in? Why is talking about his mother off limits considering she took her own life and, well, answers are a thing a son would want to know. Who are her parents and her family and why can’t Galen just ask them? Truthfully I am hoping this was addressed but I read almost all of this book and can’t recall it happening. Something about the way he’s handling her grief when Galen, purely based on looks, reminds him of her every day doesn’t match up. If he wants nothing to do with her the room should be empty and void of anything interesting and also not locked up. It all just felt like something else I was forcing myself to read the book to get answers to for some big plot twist. I got less and less invested in it as the book continued on. Especially considering this room only seemed to pop up close to when Galen finally stands up for himself so if it’s that crucial to the plot why isn’t it showing up more often. And Galen can totally break into the room if he wanted to. He has a best friend crazy enough to help him with that so why not.
All of this torturing his son psychologically to be the best at everything to upstage his brother and please his parents seemed off purely based on the fact that Galen exists and he himself is everything his parents don’t like so how did that happen if he really cared so much about keeping up appearances?
Chast had his issues too. The big secret I’m going to mention now which was held out on for longer than it should have been because, like I said, it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction for someone suffering from grief and not at all the type of thing to warrant a breakup. He got in an accident with his wife, 20 years ago and she died because she had forgotten to put on her seat belt. This was a nice touch because Galen thinks it’s weird he always makes him buckle up. I on the other hand thought it was weird Galen thought this was weird because, yeah. Buckle up. But, it came from a deeper place.
The secret is that Galen was born within thirty minutes of her passing. Which isn’t revealed for a bit later. He keeps looking at the dates like it can’t be possible. He even tries to keep Galen at a distance both before and after it’s revealed to readers. It seemed odd every time. Especially when he himself says he knows that Galen is not his wife. So if he is clear on this point what is the issues. They share a bed together. They kiss. They give each other orgasms as the book progresses. So for someone on the fence about this coincidence he’s slowly, like I said above, embracing the fact that he’s into men and women and none of this would’ve happened without Galen, or if he hadn’t come across Galen’s file when that fated phone call from him occurred.
My issue with this is you could see where it was going. After a while it got to the point where I was forcing myself to believe it wouldn’t happen, just like I convinced myself Galen would just break into this mystery room. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to not be lost on the coincidence of his wife’s death and Galen’s birth. It’s also acceptable for some part of him to wish that he could be a reincarnation of her. He did ditch this idea but the biggest thing that is perfectly fine about this is that there is nothing wrong with believing fate brought them together and that the universe had decided a void in his life needed to be filled and Galen was that person.
The way the book hung this over readers like it wasn’t an okay emotion to have, using it to have Chast make hasty decisions while on the other hand being there for Galen every time he called was supposed to feel like he was fighting with the emotions of believing this could be his dead wife but Chast had already admitted he didn’t think this. It would’ve been easier to buy into if he was struggling with how the relationship was forcing him out of his comfort zone, finding out who he was, and bringing up memories of the love of his life that he didn’t want to deal with. Instead, it read like he thought the only reason he liked him was because of the dates. However, because of his own thoughts, and the way their relationship grew there was little evidence to support that was the only reason he liked him. And again even he himself admitted this.
Also the way the relationship was expressed I didn’t get high school sweetheart vibes. I honestly thought they had been married for years. Not months but as he is only 20 years older than Galen, 39 or 40, this means he had to be 19/20 when she died. How long were they married? How long were they together? Maybe I’m just a skeptic but the way he described her gave long term love vibes and not serious romance novel insta-love vibes, which thankfully this book was not. I can definitely see him traumatised enough for the seatbelt thing, but the impression I got of their love connection is the type I feel when talking about relationships that have lasted for years. But that’s probably just me being a skeptic, still not being able to get on board with that also made it hard to get on board with why the dates were such a big deal when all of it felt perfectly reasonable to me.
So when Galen finally finds out, he storms out of the apartment. At least I think he does. I decided at this point I couldn’t keep reading. After Chast revealed so much deep information with him and learned some things about himself, after they both bonded over their own separate traumas, with all the times Galen had a bad day and called Chast and he was always there for him, with all their training to help him stand up for himself leading to that actually happening, and even with it allowing him to be a better friend to his best friend, the list is endless of the number of things Chast did that helped him and how he, in turn, helped Chast, but he just gets mad and says you’re only interested in me because you think I’m your dead wife, which isn’t even true, and ends their situation. This felt so wrong and ungrateful and devalued everything Chast had done for him. He himself is struggling with anxiety, depression, a loveless father-son relationship and a mother who took her own life. After Chast is there for him through the entire book Galen, of all people, should understand why Chast was struggling with their relationship, which by this point he had clearly come around to embracing. This was his chance to offer the same love and support Chast had given him and it was used as a device, predictable device, to drum up tension that their relationship already had and have a big blowout.
I saw this coming a mile away. And considering who the characters are, how they were developed and how they had grown with each other I never considered this issue to be a problem just another barrier for them both to break through together on top of all the previous ones. It just felt so wrong how it was handled and I was almost angry with myself for spending almost three-quarters of a book telling myself this was not going to happen.
So why hard recommendation. As far as romances go and slow burns for that matter, this one fits the bill. The tension is what readers would want. When is Chast going to tell him about his wife? Will all the training help Galen with his insecurities? Why is Chast pulling away from Galen again? Aww there’s hope cause he keeps coming to Galen’s aid when he calls? What’s up with Galen’s dad and his mom that was so horrible he won’t talk about her? Will they get back together? (I’m secretly hoping it was Galen who apologises but that’s almost never how these stories go). And, most importantly, the big reveal is something romance readers live for. I mean they will eat this up. So this book is a hard yes for readers of romance.
The reason this wasn’t an I didn’t like it but it still gets four or five stars read for me is that with the issues I had this date situation was the main one. It was the glue holding together the tension that would ultimately lead to the big dramatic scene which I didn’t even have the emotional energy to read. And it was the one thing that seemed real, relatable, and understandable to the fact that I couldn’t see either character, especially Galen, not understanding it for what it was and how it related to how Chast’s behaviour seemed off sometimes. Again Galen most of all with his condition should’ve been sympathetic to the psychological implications that this one thing could cause and how it directly related to things he had learned about Chast. If it was something else that I could not agree with but still get on board with it would’ve been an easy four or five stars. Like I said there’s a lot going on in this book but the progression of the relationship was solid and I enjoyed that. I honestly started off thinking I’m not liking some plot choices but it’s probably still a solid 4 or 5 stars but the more I dug into it the more I realised in this case, unfortunately, those choices weren’t the type I could gloss over and make it make sense in my brain.
All that to say this story missed the mark for me but is this a no on recommendation? Not this time. As far as I can see this story should be a hit. If you read this review and any of this type of drama and tension is why you read romance, you will love it. That’s my stance here. I may not have been able to write an ‘I didn’t like it but’ review this time around, but that doesn’t change the fact I think fans of the genre will absolutely love it.