Blurb: Xander Griffith was mesmerized by Julian the moment he laid eyes on him in a club; he’s gorgeous, brilliant, and unabashedly himself. But when he discovers Julian is his good friend’s, off-limits, baby brother, he promptly drops Julian off at his parents’ house with a promise to call. Unfortunately, his life took a left-hand turn that night, and Xander was unable to keep that promise. When they meet again months later, they can’t be in the same room without bickering like small children, and both men wonder whether the person they’d fallen for that night was an illusion.
Julian Moore is at loose ends after getting his Master’s: he can’t start his government cybersecurity job until he gets high-level clearance, his boyfriend and best friend are far away, and even his dojo closed down. All the sparkly, snarky white-hat hacker does these days is read M/M romance novels and hang out with his brothers’ friends. Of course, that means bumping into that over-privileged, condescending jerk, Xander, at every freaking turn; the man would be completely insufferable if it wasn’t for his sweet, hat-loving dog, Cassius.
When Xander discovers Julian is deeply depressed, his protective instincts kick in and he puts together a plan to help his friend’s brother fight his way through the murky gloom. The first step? Move the brat into his condo! It seems like the perfect solution: he certainly has plenty of room, it gets Julian out of his parents’ house, his boxer is head-over-paws in love with Julian, and someone has to keep their friend’s pug from destroying all of Xander’s left shoes.
From the moment Julian moves in, his and Xander’s lives fit seamlessly together and both men soon realize their initial attraction may have been stronger, and deeper, than they thought.
I struggled with rating this because there were some good things about it, but in the end I just didn’t like it. There were too many things that annoyed me or threw me out of the story to give it a higher rating.
First (and totally on me), I didn’t realize until I was about a third of the way through and struggling not to be totally confused that the book I thought was book one in this series was actually a short story written in the same world. Reading this before reading that first book left me at a huge disadvantage. While you can technically read this as a stand alone, there are so many references to things that happened in book one (more so than you’d expect since a large portion of this happens alongside the timeline for book one) that it left me lost and not really understanding some of who the different characters were and how they knew or were related to each other.
This had lots of elements that made it funny, but for me, it was so over the top and too much that it became ridiculous instead of quirky. Even when the situations got more serious, the characters were never able to pull off that level of necessary somberness. It became irritating after a while.
Besides feeling lost because I hadn’t read book one, I ended up seriously confused in several places because I just didn’t understand what was going on. It took nearly a full chapter to really understand a 2 line conversation between Xander and Trip about secretly dating, one that gave absolutely no real context, detail or background. I finally understood much later that THEY were supposed to suddenly be secretly dating each other, but I still never fully understood what the hell was going on or why because it just never made a whole lot of sense. Why the hell would Xander do that? There was no real genuine reason expressed other than Trip thought it was a good idea. The whole thing was really kind of stupid, but again, I felt that way because I didn’t get it. I had something similar happen at least 3 different times because there was just not enough information provided or what felt like essential portions of conversations were skipped entirely. Others weren’t to that extreme, but were enough to drag me out of the story over and over.
On a couple of different occasions, a character would speak to or react to another character’s thoughts, thoughts that had not been expressed in any fashion other than the understood fact that it was a thought, as though they’d had a conversation about it. One that annoyed the crap out of me was when Julian is thinking about the whole living situation with Xander as though they’d had this conversation about him moving in, a good paragraph or two before the subject of him moving in came up in an actual, spoken conversation. Throughout this whole book, I was forced to go back and reread sections over and over to try and figure out what I’d missed only to realize that I hadn’t missed anything. It kind of felt at times as though, in the editing process, a paragraph or two accidentally got deleted, but never added back. It felt like chunks were missing or moved around slightly out of order.
It may in part be because of these issues, but I never fully believed any of the characters. Definitely not emotionally. At one point Julian overhears Xander say something about him that, taken out of the context it was said in, as he heard it, should have been emotionally devastating to him, but it ended up being nothing more than a little twinge on his self confidence. The reaction, or lack thereof, to that situation nearly made me stop reading at that point because it was so weird and contradictory to who the Julian character was supposed to be.
Overall, this was a pretty chaotic and confusing read.