I discovered A.M. Johnson and her books earlier this year at the Talkbooks Author Event. It was our first time back at a book signing since before Covid and she was actually the first table we stopped at. She was delightful to chat with and her books looked and sounded really good so as soon as I stepped away from her table I added them to my TBR list. I downloaded this book from KU shortly after that but hadn’t had the chance to read it until now. For Pride month this year, I am trying to read/review books either with LGBTQ+ characters or by LGBTQ+ authors (or both!) so I figured now was a great time to dive in!
I really enjoyed this story! It was an angsty and emotional second chance love story between two men who met and fell in love in college but then circumstances separated them for nine years. Wilder was openly gay while Jax was very much in the closet but they found something special with each other. Jax found a place where he could feel safe and be himself when he was with Wilder. But when Jax returns home during winter break, set to tell his parents about his sexuality and about Wilder, tragedy strikes and he never returns. Not knowing what happened, Wilder is left heartbroken and full of questions that it takes over nine years to get answers to. When Jax unexpectedly returns to Wilder’s life, will he be willing to give him another chance or is the risk of history repeating itself too much for Wilder to handle?
The way that Jax reaches out and starts conversing with Wilder again was really fun (even if you could see the poor outcome from a mile away haha). Wilder’s heart was broken and he’s spent the last nine years wondering what happened and just wanting closure but I would argue that those nine years were much harder for Jax. Living in a small southern town with a highly religious and conservative upbringing, he had to bury a critical part of himself out of fear of losing everything. My heart really hurt for him especially considering that there are many people in this country who are in the exact same situation. It just makes me so sad that some people can be so close-minded and hateful about these things. That just made Jax’s journey of fully accepting himself and realizing that there isn’t anything wrong with him that much more impactful, though. I loved seeing him and Wild reconnect. Love was never their issue, even in their years apart, the love never faded but there was a lot of work to be done to rebuild the trust that had been broken. I loved how everything played out, though, and the epilogue was really special.
This story had a lot of great secondary characters. My favorite was Ethan. In fact, there was a period of time where I actually sort of shipped him and Jax! Ultimately, it was clear that Jax and Wild belonged together, but I loved Ethan. This is why I was excited to see he was one of the leads in the second book in this series. I’ll definitely be diving into that one very soon!