Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: You’re the only real thing in my life.
Cory Easton is a tattoo artist at Raw Ink and has just gotten out of a relationship that lost him his boyfriend but gained him a dog. Openly gay and still coping with a past tragedy, he finds his eye turned by a gorgeous reclusive tatted skateboarder who haunts the park where he walks his dog, Chopper. When Chopper decides one day to make a break for it, it’s Cory’s crush who comes to the rescue.
Jude York keeps to himself for very good reasons. When he helps Cory catch his dog, a tentative friendship begins to form. But Jude is a complex mystery and the rumors swirling around him has Cory on edge as he notices Jude’s ties to the local motorcycle club. As Cory and Jude spend more time together and their attraction grows by leaps and bounds, Cory begins to wonder if he can handle what Jude’s secrets may reveal. Because Cory has already been devastated once and Jude could very well be the one that finally destroys him.
There You Stand by Christina Lee is #5 in her Between Breaths series but can easily read as a stand alone. A debut M/M romance hits all the right feelz buttons as Lee pens a bittersweet romance between two people who are carrying some serious emotional and physical pain. A slow steady start filled with sexual tension and tentative chemistry allows more than ample time for our boys to meet, grow a viable realistic friendship, and eventually gain the courage to take their relationship to a new level. Intriguing subplots and interesting secondary characters takes the story beyond a simple romance; adding some delicious drama and suspense.
Lee does a fabulous job of balancing the romance with the mystery surrounding Jude. Strong writing and a steady pace allows us to follow along with no confusion. She doesn’t rush the protagonist’s relationship, allowing it to grow in a realistic manner as she slowly reveals the background information needed to understand where both men are at in their lives and the reasons they are hesitant to completely open up.
”We were both hiding…”
A lush and steamy sexual relationship gives us open scenes with a firm emotional base. I enjoyed that Lee doesn’t rush this aspect and use the bed as an instant solvent for Cory and Jude’s issues. There are strong external factors that complicate this relationship that demand resolution before anyone can move forward. Lee draws this particular storyline out thoroughly, giving it the seriousness it demands.
“Goddamn it, why do I have to play guessing games with you?”
“Because I don’t want your life to be in danger…simply from associating with me.”
“It’s too late, I’m already involved.”
A dynamic secondary cast brings in people from previous installments while introducing new faces. I love the camaraderie that Cory enjoys with his fellow employees. Lee gives Cory a full bodied social life that plays out well against the solitary nature of Jude’s. The inclusion of the MC is slightly predictable in the setting they are used but their characterization and actions ring true and gives clues to possible future storylines. Another M/M? We can always hope. :)
The conflict resolves easily and off-screen. I would have enjoyed more interaction with the villain . As it was, all information concerning him is second-hand so the gravity of Jude’s past and current situation didn’t flesh out as dramatically as I think Lee intended. Regardless There You Stand is an engaging story that will appeal to lovers of romance across the board. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.