Reviewed by Helyce
Gabe lives a double life. As Gabriel Henson, he works multiple jobs to support his remorseless, alcoholic mother. As Tony Ryder, he does internet porn for extra cash and regular safe sex without complications.
Yet when he encounters a scared young man freaking out in a nightclub, he’s compelled to reach out. Ever since then, the memory of that young man has haunted him.
Tristan Lavelle lives his life thirty minutes at a time. After a traumatic brain injury three years ago, he gets through his day recording his life in spiral notebooks and sticky note reminders.
A month after Tristan’s embarrassingly public meltdown, another chance meeting with Gabe sparks a warm, emotionally fulfilling email relationship. Both men crave more, but fear of the next step stands between them.
Until Tristan gets the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial that could improve his memory—if the side effects don’t kill him. But for Tristan, the possibility of a real life with Gabe is worth any risk…
It was the memory loss aspect that appealed to me when I decided to read this story. I mean, my memory is not at all what it used to be and I am constantly writing things down in an attempt to help myself remember; but alas, I still often forget. So, a brain injury that would completely obliterate your short term memory every 30 minutes or so is just something I cannot comprehend.
But this is Tristan’s reality. In an attack that he has no memory of except for what he’s been told, Tristan suffered a brain injury so severe that he has no short term memory. He remembers things in his life prior to the attack, but in his day to day life he is forced to carry around a notebook where he keeps copious notes that he reviews constantly to help him stay in the present. Because of this disability, he lives in an assisted living facility where he is the youngest resident among the many elderly residents living there. Except for his best friend Noel, who he’d known prior to the attack, anyone or anything that’s happened since that attack is forgotten.
I adored Tristan. I loved his resigned acceptance of something he could not change and his will to experience life in spite of it. It is this spirit of acceptance and maybe a little bit of sexual frustration that leads him to attempt a night out at a club on his own. When he freaks out in the middle of the club, it’s Gabe who comforts him until Noel can get there–though of course he won’t remember him.
Gabe’s chance meeting with Tristan lights something in him that he has not felt for a long time. Not really one for relationships, he’s content to experience sex within the confines of the protected scenes he does for Mean Green Boys Studios. He’s able to scratch that sexual itch without letting his heart get involved and he’s just fine with that. Until Tristan, that is. He can’t get the man out of his head, so he’s thrilled when he runs into Tristan again at the club.
I enjoyed this story. I think readers might have trouble with the fact that Gabe did porn and didn’t tell Tristan about it right away. The porn angle for me was pretty much inconsequential within the context of the story. Gabe did porn for the money. His mother was an alcoholic and had made a lot of bad choices. Gabe had become the responsible adult and was taking care of her in the best way he knew how for his age. He worked two jobs, including the porn gig, which allowed him to pay the mortgage on the house and pay off some of his mother’s debt. Of course, his mother didn’t know that’s how he was footing the bills. Added to that is the fact that Tristan wouldn’t remember being told about the porn and I could understand that Gabe would not relish having to explain over and over.
I have no basis for comparison, but I felt that the author built a believable story about a man who has memory issues. There is repetition in the beginning which was a great way of putting the reader into Tristan’s headspace. And this is where we see Tristan’s acceptance. For the most part, he just goes with the flow, keeping track of things via his notebooks. Even after he’s met Gabe and they’ve had an evening of dancing. I loved how Gabe says he’s going to email him and that Tristan should take a picture of them together so that he can look at it for reference when he gets the emails–to help piece things together.
With respect to the attack, I felt that I was missing part of the story as I read through. As this is book 2, and I did not read book 1, I’m guessing that it was explained if not experienced in greater detail in the first book which tells Noel and Shane’s story. The attack or “bashing” as Gabe refers to it, had been against both Noel and Tristan while they were in college. Tristan was more seriously injured though Noel apparently has scars all along his chest area. While I could put together what had happened to Tristan from this story, I think I would have felt a bit more invested if I had read book one.
The story takes an interesting turn when Tristan becomes a candidate for an experimental drug that may help him with his memory issues. There is not too much medical explanation for this part of the story and I took it for what it was and accepted that it might be possible that a certain kind of drug therapy might help with memory. It allowed Tristan and Gabe to experience more as a couple and made it so Tristan began to have a semblance of individuality and needed Noel less.
This is my first read by this author, and I like her voice. I do think I may have enjoyed just a bit more if I’d read book 1, so I plan to read it as I did enjoy Noel a lot and would like to see just how he and Shane got together.
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