Author ~ Nyrae Dawn
Published ~ 27th October 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
Tobias Jackson grew up in Coburn, a town where the queer population equaled exactly one: him. Add that to the fact that his dream guy was his best friend's jerky older brother Levi Baxter, and it made hooking up virtually impossible.
Now home from college for winter break, Toby is a different person. He left Coburn for San Francisco, where he wasn't the lone gay guy and the only black kid in town. And yeah, he took advantage of what the city had to offer.
Apparently Toby isn’t the only one who’s changed. Levi’s not acting like the self-centered guy with all the answers that Toby remembers from growing up. Oh and Levi’s realized he's bisexual, which makes things a lot more interesting…
Heading back to college, Toby doesn’t expect to meet up with Levi again, despite him being in med school not far away. A surprise visit from Levi blows that assumption out of the water. As they spend more time together Toby sees Levi as more than just the fantasy. He’s complicated, unsure…he’s real. But if Toby can’t get out of the past and find the words he keeps locked inside himself, he’ll lose his chance at Levi for good
Before this, I didn’t know Nyrae Dawn. A completely new author to me. But it turns out I have read (and adored) quite a few of her books...just not under this particular author moniker! Imagine my surprise when I found out that Nyrae is actually Riley Hart, one of my top go to contemporary m/m romance authors, writing Young Adult and New Adult fiction under a different pen name!
Was that why I requested this NA novel? To be honest, yes. It was probably the biggest factor in my wanting to pick this up because generally I'm not really drawn to anything nowadays with NA or YA in its blurb. But the fact this was also 'Riley' intrigued me, and when I read the excerpt—which really grabbed me—that was it. Deal sealed!
I loved everything about this book. Loved the emotionally conflicted Tobias and cocky, golden boy Levi, who on the surface appears to have it all...but does he? Loved the tug of war style relationship and palpable sexual tension that exploded into some heart thumping on page chemistry. Loved the dynamics that had them pulled to each other like magnets, only to push away when the personal demons they both harbour, creep in to upset the balance... and loved the poignancy and pathos of the background stories that presented the hurdles they had to overcome.
Beautifully written, with the natural progression of the story perfectly paced; emotions run high but never into the realms of eye rolling, kitchen sink drama or over the top angst. In a sense this is actually a gentle, slightly slow burn character lead contemporary romance, that because of its sub genre NA tag, isn't overloaded with copious amounts of explicit sex, yet still manages to ooze a sexiness, heat and sensuality that had my toes curling and my tummy flipping!
These two characters might be a bit of a conundrum but never once did I ever doubt the 'fit' they made together, and the love scenes were all the more delicious because of the emotional foreplay leading from an attraction neither can escape.
On paper, there are lots of reasons why their relationship shouldn't work. Both of them have deep seated emotional issues with their fathers and Chris—Levi's jealous younger sibling and Tobias's BFF—and over the course of the story, the inner fears stemming from those personal conflicts encroach upon their romance; slowly brewing until everything reaches boiling point and finally spills over into an emotionally charged climax that touched me to the point of heartfelt tears, and everyone else involved from the excellent supporting cast, facing up to their own flaws.
The title itself becomes clearer the further you get into the book and realise just how much Tobias battles to openly express his feelings to anyone within his limited circle; whether it's forging an easy friendship with new friends he’s met through college or fully letting in the people who already love him despite his emotional reticence. All due to a distant relationship with an apathetic father who has never been the same since Tobias’s mother abruptly upped and left them when he was a young boy. At times painful to watch, their indifferent father/son relationship appears to be insurmountable but things aren’t always what they seem and Nyrae plays that aspect of the story brilliantly.
The only person who really commands that side of him is his closest ally Chris, so keeping his relationship with Levi hidden from his friend, who can't get past the blinkered green eyed monster that sees his brother as the enemy, is killing him. He feels like it’s betraying the one person who has always stood his corner!
Levi appears to be the favoured son but again appearances can be deceptive. His life isn't all sunshine and roses, as he’s unable to break away from the ingrained expectations of others, to be the person he wants to be and do the things he wants to do. Tobias is an unexpected cog in his wheel but he soon begins to welcome the touch of chaos his brothers young, gorgeous friend brings to his life. The question is though, will Tobias embrace their blossoming love and let the real Levi in?
"I want more than your body. I want your heart and I need your words...I can't be in this alone."
There isn't one negative that I can bring to mind about this book. I read it in one sitting, leaving me totally satisfied but a little bit sad because it had finally ended. I think that speaks for itself. So I'm very happy to recommend Tobias and Levi's story and I'll definitely be checking out more from this alter ego of Riley Hart. Nyrae Dawn has gained a new fan and checking out her m/m backlist, there's some more shinies to discover. Just lovely!
Meet Nyrae Dawn
Writing has always been Nyrae Dawn’s passion. Even when she was too busy chasing kids or working, writing stories was never far from her mind.
She feels a special pull to characters in their teens. There’s something so fresh and fun about the age that she adores exploring. Her husband says it’s because she doesn’t want to grow up. She doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing. Luckily for her, he doesn’t either.
Nyrae gravitates toward character-driven stories. Whether reading or writing, she loves emotional journeys. It’s icing on the cake when she really feels something, but is able to laugh, too. She’s also a proud romantic at heart who has a soft spot for flawed characters. She loves people who aren’t perfect, who make mistakes but also have a big heart.
Nyrae resides in sunny Southern California with her husband (who still makes her swoon) and her two awesome kids.
When she’s not with her family, you can be pretty sure you’ll find her with a book in her hand or her laptop and an open document in front of her.
She writes for Entangled Publishing, Grand Central Publishing and is self-published.
Nyrae is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.