I don't know what happened. Am I getting too prickly, too nit-picky? I'm really not sure. I liked the first book in the series and fell in love with the second. So I was looking forward to this one and the beginning intrigued me. I liked Nate, and although Alex wasn't my most favorite character in the previous books, I still wanted to know more about him.
But this story didn't work for me. Whereas I usually like Lane Hayes writing, because it really makes me FEEL, I couldn't warm up to it here. It was just too jumpy, for lack of a better word. There was one phrase, then the next, and the next one, and I had to read them repeatedly sometimes. It's not that I didn't understand what the author wanted me to understand. Most of the time I'm pretty sure I got it. But I still had way too many "Wait, What? Where did that come from?"- moments. Answers to questions combined with things I didn't even have on my radar threw me often. And I just couldn't get into the story, because everything felt so disconnected somehow. I also wasn't able to relate all the snippets to each other because then we were already on to the next snippet and I lost my train of thought because of another "Wait, what?!" - moment.
Maybe that's part of the reason why I also couldn't really connect with Nate? Because I actually liked this guy. A workaholic, a shy recluse with a lot of baggage and a healthy dose of guilt? Count me in. But here? It was just not happening. I know denial is a powerful thing, but when the character is so much in denial I can't even read about his denial, I kinda loose interest in what he actually is denying because I'm not even sure that he really is denying something. Confusing? Hell, yes! Annoying? I guess so. What really bugged me though was that I felt even more disconnected after each and every one of those moments. Because I wanted to like the story, damnit. What made it worse was the whole "out of character" - thing. I thought Nate was supposed to act out of character because Alex threw him for a loop again and again. Which is fine. I like MCs aren't really themselves because they feel too rattled. But in order to FEEL that myself, I need more than just the reoccurring assurance that "he isn't himself lately". I need to see at least some of his "real" character to understand how and why he is so much out of said character. And I couldn't see that with Nate. Because he acted out of character all. The. Time. I didn't get the impression that he was a recluse. Or shy. And sometimes I didn't even get the guilt and the hurt, because I couldn't see it. Even when he talked about his parents, I couldn't really feel it. Because The conversation had the wrong pace, the dialogue was just off and what he said and did while "confessing" was one thing, whereas the consequences - and the sex - afterwards just felt plain wrong to me. "We don't want to talk about heavy stuff anymore. Fuck? Yeah, sure." Didn't work for me at all.
That leads me to Alex. And I can honestly say: I didn't even like Alex. Mostly because I didn't understand him. At all. I don't mind having a temper or a little emotional vomiting and exploding here and there. I even like it and appreciate it in a story. But with Alex? No. Maybe because I didn't have his POV and missed out on some things going on in his head. But as it was, he felt so damn inconsistent. I can't describe it better. How you go from flirting to exuberance to downright hostililty in two minutes flat is a mystery in itself. But hey, whatever floats your boat. My problem was, I didn't understand his tantrums most of the time. His reasoning for his actions made no sense! At the club, at home, on the street. Explain it again, Charlie. I couldn't follow your tain of thoughts the first time, or three. And all that crap about him needing a boyfriend in order to successfully out himself to his father? Didn't like that part at all. It felt inconsistent, too. And I didn't understand Alex - again. In a way, it all felt so... unfinished? His character, his thoughts, his actions, the writing itself. I can't explain it better than that.
And don't get me started on the grand finale. Now that threw me and broke the story for me. It probably didn't help that I suspected about the baby almost from the get-go. I was surprised that the baby was actually born, had a name and a funeral. But other than that? This was the only plausible reason for Julie to act the way she did. So I was pretty sure I knew what happened the year before. I wasn't even surprised by Alex' father. But Alex? I wanted to slap him. Hard. With a chair. Because yes, it was a shitty way to find out about Nate's past. And it was a crappy thing for his father to use something like that in a fight with his son. But really, what part of Alex was actually hurt the most, other than his ego and his pride and his desire to one-up his father? He was in the process of lying to his dad, throws a tantrum about being lyed to, and after everything is said and done, he walks away from Nate? Just like that? Because he needs space?! And you want to tell me his heart was hurting the most? Your partner tells you about the darkest time in his life, tells you he loves you, and you leave him behind without so much as a backward glance? Where is the support of your so-called partner? Where is the love, the compassion, the empathy? I mean, I didn't really connect to Nate; and even though that part of the story should have been a tear-jerker for me, it wasn't, because I really didn't FEEL Nate's grief and hurt and loss. But that was ME. As a reader. Because I had issues with the writing. Alex is his boyfriend, for Christ's sake! I expected way more than that from him. The way he acted was nothing more than an asshole thing to do. It broke the story for me. IMHO Alex should have been the one crawling back on his knees, asking for understanding and forgiveness, not the other way around. And Nate having to assure him that he'd always be there, no matter what, felt like a joke to me after Alex' reaction to Nate's confession.
So, I had quite some issues with this book. I wanted to love it so much, but in the end I was more angry and confused than anything else. So I can't even round it up to three stars. It just didn't work for me.