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When they say be careful what you wish for, do you pay attention? Neither did Oliver Tunstead. Oliver wishes for nothing more than to get his mind off his crappy bartending job, pile of debt big enough to swallow him whole, and playboy ex-boyfriend/boss who refuses to back off. Too bad distractions, like the hot little convertible he has his eye on, cost megabucks. And Oliver is flat broke. Renting the spare bedroom in his rundown beachfront cottage is his only option to pick up the cash he needs—a risky proposition, as Oliver is the polar opposite of a people-person. When he responds to a bizarre ad in the Waterfront Gazette seeking summer housing, he gets more than he bargained for. But Oliver can cope… After all, how much harm can a single quirky tenant do to his tightly guarded life in three short months? Where Oliver is a loner by design, urban cowboy Bodie is a loner by necessity. A family dispute long ago dropkicked him onto the path of a lifelong wanderer. This changes when Bodie moves into the tiny beachfront cottage and starts working the door at Oliver’s bar. Despite Oliver and Bodie’s nearly paralyzing instinct to avoid commitment, they fall into a wary romance. And to their surprise, life as a couple is sweetly satisfying; that is, until their jealous boss devises a cruel plan to destroy the tentative bond they’ve built. True to form, Bodie hits the road, leaving Oliver to lick his wounds alone. Can these wounded souls defy their urge to flee and fight for love?
“He wants to date you. Am I right?”
“Date me?” Bodie replies. “I’d say he wants something else.”
I nod. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
“I mean, just tell him you’re not gay. That pretty much closes the door to what Jack’s interested in.”
“But I am gay.”
I hate myself for gasping, but I do because this complicates things. For Bodie, with regard to Jack. And for me, because I’m starting to feel things for him I shouldn’t. “Uh…did you tell Jack that you’re gay?”
“He asked. I answered.” Direct, as always.
“You don’t owe him your private information.”
Again, he shrugs. “I don’t hide who I am.”
“Well, maybe you should have.” Jack won’t leave him alone now. He’ll interpret Bodie’s lack of interest as some kind of warped challenge.
And then Bodie does the strangest, most unexpected thing. He reaches out, hesitates with his arm midair, and takes my hand. He’s shaking. “I need this job, Ollie.”
“Fucking Jack Wheeler,” I mutter. “He’s such an asshole to put you in this position. I’ll talk to him.”
“I fight my own battles.” His words are clipped.
“I believe you. But please, let me try to help.”
He ignores my plea. “You used to be Jack’s guy, huh?” Bodie’s eyes narrow.
“Did he tell you that?”
“Yep.” He nods. “Do you still want to be his?”
“Not if he was the last man on earth.” I’m surprised at how certain I am about this.
Bodie’s half grin appears and his eyes pop wide. “Good.”
“Why’s that good?”
“Got my reasons.” He continues to smile.
“Care to share them with your housemate?” I squeeze his hand, flirting. I’m scared of his reply as much as I’m desperate for it.
“Here’s my answer.” Bodie pulls his hand from my grasp and places it gently on the side of my face. And he leans in for a kiss. Soft, but not tentative. Just a brush of his lips to mine and, when he pulls back, it’s only by a few inches. I feel his breath on my lips, so sweet and light. Patient too. As if considering whether we fit together.
I nod and he moves even closer. More unified breathing, and the most emotional intimacy I’ve shared with another man—and we’re fully dressed on a beach, not naked in bed. I press my lips to his, but he pulls back.
“Let me do it,” he whispers against my parted lips, and I understand that this kiss is his ballgame, not mine.
Another feathery kiss to my lips and then another. Fingertips brush my cheek, the side of my neck, my chest on top of my thin T-shirt, drawing out goosebumps up and down my arms and along my spine.
I struggle to control my breathing, as a realization hits me: This weathered cowboy isn’t tough and cool, through and through. Bodie’s just a man, like me. With his share of hopes and fears and needs. A man who requires protection, as much as he is a protector.
4 out of 5 (very good)
Born For Leaving is the story of two men, both loners by choice and circumstance, getting together as roommates by sheer coincidence. What follows is an angsty, heartbreaking story that will tear your heart out!
Oliver is the one with the house he is desperate to keep. So desperate, in fact, he keeps on working at a place where, although he gets on well enough with his co-workers, is dangerous for his physical, mental, and emotional well-being. His boss is his ex which is always fun but Oliver also has to deal with volatile drunkards too. Along comes Bodie. He is the one constantly on the move, sleeping on the ground next to his bike is not uncommon for him. Oliver and Bodie spark from the beginning but both of them have pasts that need to be worked past before they can move forward.
I thought this was exceedingly well-written, with characters I didn't like to start with who grew on me (Oliver's mum), those I disliked from the get-go (Jack), and those I loved (Bodie and Oliver). Now, let me just say this. Although I loved Oliver, he also really annoyed me. I just can't get my head around WHY he would stay in such a toxic workplace for so long, even if his dream job hadn't happened. Anyway, it all happened as was meant to be, so they say, so I guess I just have to deal!
This book does deal with hard subjects like attempted rape and child abuse. If these are triggers for you, be warned.
I found this book to be highly emotional and a brilliant read. I can't wait to see what comes next in the New England State of Mind series. Absolutely recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Like Jude Munro, her fictional characters in her gay romance novels are drawn to the beach. They’ve sunbathed on the sands of many alluring East Coast beaches, along with the fantastical beaches in Jude’s books. They’ll answer questions like “Who do you think you are, the sun god?” (which they often resemble) if they can hear you over "Boys of Summer" cranking on their headphones. To most of Jude’s men, no shoes and no shirt is really not a problem. But even on the sunniest of beach days, the guys in Jude’s books do have problems… as in, serious relationship issues. Many of which seem insurmountable. And each character must earn his day at the beach. (Yes, there is always a HEA).