Mark Jennings is at a crossroads. His finance job in the Atlanta nonprofit scene stresses him out, his mother is dying, and his relationship with Brian Jacobs has crashed and burned. He needs a distraction, some way to relax, and a massage seems like just the thing. He never expected his massage therapist, Antonio Roberto, to become his best friend.
Despite their differences—Antonio is a divorced single father—the two men forge a firm friendship that weathers Mark’s reconciliation with Brian and Antonio’s questionable taste in women. Over the years, Antonio remains constant in his support, though others in Mark’s life come and go through a revolving door.
When a young boy runs away from the group home where he works, Mark finds another door opening. Through it all he holds on to the things his loved ones taught him—about family, about friends and lovers, about life and death. Most importantly, he realizes that sometimes the greatest gift of all is a second chance.
Reviewed By: J9
In a Nutshell: Excellent MM friends-to-lovers romance that spans years and includes amazing secondary characters.
The Set Up: Mark met Antonio when the stress of his life made him seek a massage therapist. Mark never thought Antonio would become his best friend. Though the men are opposites, they support each other through Antonio’s custody issues with his son and Mark losing his partner and loving his big family. But sometimes life brings you love in unexpected ways!
Why I Read this Book: This book has an excellent rating on Goodreads so figured it was well worth a try.
What I Liked: Ooo…this book! I’m not sure where to start but to say it’s a very unique romance. It isn’t the straight (hehe) set up that you’d think from the synopsis. This is the story of two men’s friendship and how it slowly morphs into a romantic relationship. I love both Mark and Antonio because they have a complicated friendship but they’re always there for each other, no matter what. They honestly depend on each other for their emotional equilibrium like when Mark’s mother is dying or Antonio is worried about money. They have a very emotionally intimate relationship long before it turns sexually intimate and this was very well written.
My favorite thing about this novel though is how many years it spans. The book spans more than a decade of time as Mark and Antonio begin their friendship and cover Antonio raising his son, Mark helping a runaway teenager, the men’s job changes and romance issues with other partners. This is an earnest story about how life happens and what it means when characters react to these changes. I couldn’t believe readers get more than just Antonio and Mark becoming a couple! We get that and then another three or four years with how they make a relationship work even when it’s messy and complicated and nearly not possible. I loved this uniquely told romance with is emotional ending that ties up a great story beautifully.
What I Also Liked: The secondary characters were very good here too. Mark’s family is Southern with all that entails and I love that we get to see them all grow or not, as the case may be. All are great characters: Mark’s father the gentle, loving patriarch, the runaway teenager who Mark helps, Antonio’s sassy-mouthed son, Mark’s partner, Brian, who grew up in foster care, Mark’s red-neck brother who makes homophobic slams and Mark’s loving sister, Patty. This novel has a plethora of strong characters that readers will come to care about as I did.
What I Didn’t Like: I think traditional romance readers may take umbrage that for half the book Mark is partnered with someone who isn’t Antonio and is quite happy. They have just as many sex scenes, perhaps more, than Mark and Antonio. Normally this may bother me too but it totally worked because of the stellar storytelling and how holistic the relationship between Mark and Antonio is, not just as a romance but as best friends.
IMO: Read this unique book with stellar characters and a strong romance unfolding over time.