With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.
Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp. When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.
Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming me.
This is book three in a series, and while technically it can be read on it’s own, it is definitely much better read – in order – as part of the series.
We met Elijah in book 2. He was the son of the crazed religious zealots who was a rent boy, homeless on the streets of the city for awhile, and then Aaron’s roommate. His folks got crazy when they found out he’d only “faked” being converted back from being gay and was, in fact, still gay – and attempted to shoot him! Baz, who we’ve also met before, got in the way of the bullet and sustained an injury but survived to add another scar to his repertoire.
Baz is the poor rich boy whose parents are the “Illinois equivalent to the Kennedy’s”. He was bashed as a teenager and is now crippled sometimes with chronic pain and eye difficulties.
Baz and Elijah had actually met before all the shooting when Baz had rescued Elijah from a trick gone bad and sent Elijah back to the evil parents.
Ok – now here we are today at Walter and Kelly’s wedding (woot!). Elijah is depressed. Baz is depressed. Elijah has a super crush on Baz and Baz is always “worried” about Elijah’s well-being.
They hook up. (Mild form of saying they have super-hot-monkey-sex in Baz’s new Tesla!) From there on the two are mostly on again/ off again lovers then boyfriends.
But… there’s a lot of drama. Elijah has so much guilt surrounding his “Poor Elijah” fund that he takes on a sucky food service job to allay the guilt (though he doesn’t need the cash.)
Baz is feeling unsettled because all his friends are “growing up” without him and graduating and now he needs to decide what he wants to do with his life.
Plus the media is in a frenzy because Baz’s mother and uncle are making moves in the political arena that put Baz and his life in the spotlight.
Elijah’s still in the news from being the victim of his crazed parents but he’s also now dating Baz and that isn’t good for the campaign – what with his background and such.
And… there’s Lewis/Lejla the almost trans friend Elijah makes while doing dishes.
So… lots of stuff and a little bit of the music scene too.
Eventually, they get it all sorted (of course they do!) and find their own version of the Disney Princess Happy Ending – and we get to see Laurie and Ed again! (Woo Hoo!)
Wow – I get it now. Even in summarizing this story I have to include many, many, many words!
This is a long story – 355 pages as compared to the 270 of book 2, but not as many as the 379 of book 1. There is a lot – a lot– of detail and a lot of drama.
But… there are a lot – a lot – of feels, too.
I really love Heidi Cullinan’s characters. They are rich, flawed – very flawed sometimes – real, emotive, charismatic, sometimes cantankerous yet charming, and very well developed. Even if you hadn’t read about them before, you know by the end of the book that you have a solid sense of each of these MCs as well as their cadre of friends.
She also has a way of taking these guys through some really awful stuff and making it seem manageable in a way that is realistic. No quick fixes or band-aids, but hard work and sacrifice. (For the most part – see the end for what I mean.)
In this book, we also have some seriously HOT sex, too. These boys can be DIRTY and it shows! But – somehow – it’s also very loving and revealing and tender at the same time.
I absolutely adored Lewis/Lejla and I hope s/he might be featured more in future works. Her story was so honest and heart-felt and really high-lighted some of the difficulties in actually becoming trans that get sort of swept away with the whole emotional process.
Of course it was so great to see our friends Walter and Kelly, Aaron and Giles again – moving on with life and being cute with each other. And the extra-special I about smiled my face off – Laurie and Ed from Dance With Me! Squeeee! I love that book and I LOVE those guys! I was stoked when Ed kinda put the eye on Baz but then said he had enough man waiting on him at home! Whoo-ee. Love those two!
I had just a few issues with this book.
First – the length. I really and truly felt it could have been shortened without losing any of the specialness. It felt – at times – like we were accounting for every minute of every day and every emotion either boy felt. A lot of the “agonizing in my head” stuff both Elijah and Baz did really could have been summarized because by the end I kind of felt bashed on the head with it. And I’m not sure that I needed to know every feature of the Tesla to appreciate that it was fancy and expensive. And I didn’t need to know every decoration on every table at the wedding. And I didn’t need to know about every movie made by Miyazaki.
Second- the ending. I’m going to sound hypocritical here but stay with me a moment when I say that the ending was too rushed. We spent agonizingly long pages outlining Baz’s pain and lack of direction and tons of time hearing Elijah’s self-deprecating and clearly depressed inner workings and in the span of only a handful of pages those two major problems are seemingly solved by bumping into the right guy at the right time and agreeing to eat more healthy and limit the cigarettes and alcohol.
Of course I’m being glib, but it felt that way. Especially Elijah’s part of the equation. I just didn’t buy that he would full scale decide he had everything to live for, reject drugs as a method of self-medicating, and embrace this new, organic, yoga-filled life when he’d been the poster child for self-destruction not 20 pages ago.
I think, realistically, long-term, intense therapy, AND some significant life-style changes over a long period might grant him some relief…
I mean, I really appreciated the sensitivity that Heidi shows around chronic pain (both with Ed and Laurie and now Baz and Elijah) and how a person’s definition of “sexual intercourse” can be different based on fulfilling different needs. So, maybe a bit more attention to the importance of in-depth psychotherapy for someone whose parents SHOT at you is warranted.
However – by large margins my complaints are pretty minimal in the face of how much I did appreciate where this book goes and the overall feeling of happiness that we end up with for these two very, very lost boys.
I highly recommend it to fans of the series and for those who might want to read it on it’s own I say Go For It! It’s really good, Heidi is a phenomenal writer and despite being a bit wordy, the ride is absolutely worth the time it takes.
4.5 of 5 stars
This copy was generously provided by the Publisher through NetGalley