Author ~ Kelly Jensen
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 6th January 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.
Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.
Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.
I really enjoyed this contemporary romance. It is not a really easy, fluffy read. It is gritty and mired in reality. The protagonists in this book really appealed to me. Jake first finds Max beaten up on his doorstep. He thinks he’s stumbled upon a drunk, homeless person but is shocked to discover this young man has been attacked and beaten to a pulp. Jake is hesitant to help at first as he’s currently on parole and doesn’t want to get his hands dirty in any way shape or form. He’s really trying to keep his nose clean and the reasons for this become apparent further into the story. He enlists his sister’s help as she’s a nurse and together they get him to the hospital. Max comes round in the hospital and immediately wants to leave. He’s very worried about his two jobs and the fact he can’t afford the healthcare. This is where we learn Max is a very proud guy. He is reluctant to accept any help but finds he has to in order to go home. Jake offers to watch him as Max has a concussion and they are neighbours in the same building. As the first part of the story unfurls we learn a bit more about Max, he doesn’t want his father called from the hospital, he lives alone in a very small, sparsely furnished apartment and is fiercely independent. It seems like he’s been previously bullied. Jake says to Max that his sister thought Max hadn’t fought his attackers. Max replies with “They finish up quicker when you let them get on with it.” My heart just broke for him at this point. Max gave me all the feels in this book.
Consequently, we learn Jake has some involvement related to the attack and this threatens to derail the very tenuous friendship and budding romance that is starting up between them. I loved the slow burn aspect of the romance, it seemed very realistic and I loved the descriptions of the emotions and feelings each of them had. I was rooting for them as a couple. We also learn the reason Jake had been to prison and his background and how this all relates to the attack. Jake has a very supportive network around him, his family play a big part in the story and this is in direct comparison to Max and his family background.
When Max suffers a further setback, it rocks the tentative relationship that they have managed to establish. Jake is full of regret and feels really guilty for his somewhat tenuous link to what happens to Max and struggles with his anger issues. They do manage to overcome all of their issues, which greatly pleased me. It is with the help of Jake’s family and their acceptance of Max that they manage to regain some firmer footing back in their relationship. The issues that are addressed throughout are never solved instantly, it takes a while for them to resolve which adds to the authenticity and realism of the story. I really enjoyed seeing the friendship and romantic relationship develop between Jake and Max. If you’re looking for a slightly harder hitting, realistic, contemporary romance, I whole heartedly recommend this one. I loved it!