4 out of 5 flames
Nick and Hollister (Holly) were best friends through their college years despite their differences. Outgoing and flirtatious Holly’s attempts to get Nick’s undivided attention never ended with the result Holly secretly craved. Holly was deeply in love with Nick from the beginning and afraid he’d lose him forever if he revealed his feelings. And then Nick met Caroline, a snooty bitch who instantly saw Holly as a threat and drove a wedge between them. When they marry it is the beginning of a downward spiral for Holly who can’t seem to function without Nick nearby to save him from himself. A few years later Holly has learned to self-medicate with dangerous behavior, sex, booze and drugs resulting in the loss of a successful career and his recent lover. He’s about to hit rock bottom when Nick catches wind of his condition and swoops in to rescue his best friend despite the demands of Caroline. Nick never could keep his eyes off the mess that was Holly and this time around years of pent up feelings explode into a world of messiness that changes their relationship.
This was a very angsty character driven romance and those are typically my favorite kind of romances but I had an issue or two with this one that keeps it from venturing into 5 star territory. . I have unlimited tolerance for inner torment and too sweet to be believed characters like Holly but I’m so tired of the one dimensional stereotypical selfish wife/mother/father/sister character. I’m sure these folks exist in real life but do they have to pop up in so many frigging romances to create distance? Just because Nick tried to keep up appearances and didn’t want to face his attraction to Holly, doesn’t mean that Nick’s wife has to be the evil, self-centered bitch and the way she was dispatched right outta their lives ticked me off.
Phew, glad that’s out of the way. Despite my issues with Caroline, I thought this was a lovely little Dom/sub romance filled with longing looks, tender touches, sweet cuddling and eventually plenty of hot, loving sex and it did a fantastic job of getting into Holly’s head. I understood his pain, his desire to please Nick and ached with him but I am a sucker for these types, I admit it. Nick, on the other hand, felt to me like he got the shaft (ha, finally!) when it came to understanding how he ticked. He was nice enough and all and a bit of a hot mess himself but I emphasized more with Holly possibly because he was so innocent and easily wounded despite his wicked ways and gorgeous exterior. When Nick’s life unraveled there for a bit I felt bad but also a little manipulated at the same time (which comes around to stereotypical Caroline again).
However, Nick’s desire for Holly is never in question and is beautifully described:
“Where are we having lunch?”
Nick hadn’t really thought that far ahead. “The Westway,” he decided. “Over on Ninth. Should I meet you there?”
“Yeah, I’ll find it.” Holly was making quiet noises that were probably him wriggling out of his pajama pants without getting out of bed again. God, Nick really shouldn’t know what those noises were, and he wasn’t thinking about the visuals that went with them. And he shouldn’t know how Holly’s hair smelled when it was damp from sleep, how bitter it was when Holly was sick and how spicy and honeyed it was when Holly was well. Nick’s head hit the wall behind him, and he scrubbed a hand over his face, reeling his mind in from all the places it shouldn’t be going.”
Beautiful, no?
In the end, their relationship was a bit co-dependent, both of them are broken on some level and certain bits of the story do tip-toe straight into Unhealthytown but it worked for me and I couldn’t put the book down once I started it because I had to know Holly would end up ok.
One Real Thing can be purchased at Carina Press.