Series: Heroes #2
Author: Nic Starr
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Bree Archer
Length: 200 pages
Release Date: August 12, 2015
Blurb: Young mechanic Andrew Campbell’s life couldn’t be better. He is about to restore a Ford Mustang with his dad before heading off on the ultimate cross-country road trip with his best friend, Tanner McKenzie.
But tragedy strikes, and Andrew’s life is shattered. Worried his family will be torn apart if he doesn’t step in, Andrew makes a tough choice between following his heart and doing what he needs to do to protect his little brother.
When Andrew pushes Tanner away, Tanner heads off on the planned trip alone. Once Tanner leaves town, his life takes a different path and it’s ten years before he returns. Now a firefighter, he’s never forgotten his first love, and no one has ever taken Andrew’s place in his heart. He’s determined to see if Andrew feels the same way. He just hopes Andrew’s excited to see him, hopes that he’s available—and finally out—after all this time.
They might not have been ready to deal with emerging feelings years ago, but now might be the time for their second chance at love.
“Are you going to eat that?” Tanner indicated the remaining slice on the plate in the middle of the table. “Because if you don’t take it in the next ten seconds, it’s mine.”
“Hey, hands off,” Andrew said as he snatched the piece of pizza and placed it on the empty plate in front of him.
Tanner held his hands up, palms facing Andrew, in mock surrender. “All right. It’s all yours. I wouldn’t want to come between you and your pizza.” Andrew warmed at the familiarity of the words. They’d been coming here on Thursday nights for years and the routine never changed. Tanner always gave Andrew more than his fair share of the pizza, and Andrew took it, but not without a bit of lighthearted banter.
“You know, you could do with a bit of fattening up,” Andrew said, taking in his friend’s lean frame.
Tanner just raised his eyebrows and kept on eating. It was another routine with them—Andrew’s friendly teasing about Tanner’s looks—but in reality, Tanner’s frame had started to fill out over the last year, something Andrew had begun to notice. He’d also noticed other people looking and assumed Tanner wouldn’t have any trouble attracting a guy, if that’s what he was looking for. Although Andrew knew Tanner’s preferences, he was relieved Tanner didn’t share any other details.
Andrew gave Tanner a once-over as he filled his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. At six feet, Tanner had the body of a swimmer, tall and lean with sleek muscles. Andrew thought he moved like a swimmer too. He was smooth and graceful, and purposeful in his movements. Even now, as he brought the pizza to his mouth, he did so with slender hands and delicate fingers—fingers Andrew found himself staring at while Tanner sucked the grease from them. Tanner pulled the last digit from his mouth with a soft popping sound and smacked his lips. “Yum.” He looked at Andrew. “What?”
Andrew tore his gaze away from Tanner’s shining lips, cleared his throat, and turned the conversation to the trip they’d been discussing before the meal arrived.
“Dad brought home some more brochures last night. I think he’s more excited about the trip than we are.”
“Nah. Not possible.” Tanner grinned. “I can hardly wait. Beginning of summer and we’re outta here, man. Six months. I’m counting the days. Six months till freedom. Bring it on.”
Tanner’s enthusiasm was as infectious as always, and Andrew couldn’t help but smile at him. The background music in the restaurant switched over from a slow track to some Italian mambo track, the upbeat tempo matching his mood. Andrew stacked the plates on the table and moved them to the side, making room for the folder he placed in front of Tanner. He then took the map tucked into the back cover, unfolded it, and spread it across the red-and-white tablecloth.
“Dad got another brochure on the Grand Canyon, but we’ve already covered that.” He used his finger to point to Arizona. It was going to be the destination for an overnight hike that would test their skills. They were used to hiking around Halls Ridge but not to the extremes of temperature and lack of water in the canyon. “We haven’t really spoken about Florida yet.” As he spoke, Andrew took a glossy foldout from his pocket and flattened it to the table. “See here—”
“Hold up, Drew.” Tanner reached across and stilled Andrew’s hand as it hovered over the map. “I have a wild idea. Radical, yes? But how ’bout we don’t plan everything to the nth degree and just play it by ear.”
Tanner’s hand was surprisingly soft where he held Andrew’s hand. Andrew expected roughened skin from Tanner’s work as a mechanic. He blushed as he became aware of Tanner waiting for him. “Huh?”
“You know. Just arrive and go with the flow. Stop when something’s interesting, and move on when it’s not.”
Andrew dragged his thoughts back to the conversation as Tanner released his hand. “But how will we know how long we should plan for? Or what we need to take? What if we’d be best to book something in advance or we miss it? I’d hate to get all the way home and realize we should have stopped somewhere.”
“Don’t you ever want to take a chance? Throw caution to the wind?” Tanner tilted his head and looked at him, but Andrew knew he’d never feel relaxed or comfortable without some sort of road map and plan.
Tanner laughed. “It’s okay, Drew, we can have a plan. I’m lucky I’ve got you to do all the preparation and make sure this trip is everything we want it to be. But maybe, just maybe, I’m not saying you have to, but just think about relaxing a bit? We don’t have a deadline and can take as long as we like to see the country.”
“We can. Take as long as we like, that is. But the money’s going to run out sometime. I know we’ve both put away a bit, but it’ll only go so far.”
“And then we’ll be on even more of an adventure.” Tanner’s eyes gleamed as he winked at Andrew. “Just imagine, we can camp by the roadside and get laboring jobs. We can pick fruit, sow grain, shovel horseshit.” He threw his head back in laughter, his full belly laugh giving Andrew no option but to join in.
“Idiot,” Andrew said as he tossed a sugar packet from the container on the table at Tanner.
Although he knew Tanner was only joking, the idea of being stranded in the unknown without any money gave Andrew the chills.
Tanner eventually stopped laughing and sat back upright in his seat before taking a long swallow of his Coke and pulling the Florida brochure toward him.
“Okay. Show me where you suggest we visit. I assume we need to decide so Josh can put it in the book?”
Andrew nodded. “Yeah. I said he could do it on the weekend, once we’d discussed it.”
“Cool. He’s a great kid. I love what he’s done with the book already.”
Andrew watched Tanner flip through a few pages that were a mix of neat handwritten notes and immaculate cutouts from the various brochures—places to visit, things to see, costs, durations for each destination, what to pack, and all manner of other information. Information Andrew had painstakingly researched and written into the book, but Tanner didn’t need to know that. He didn’t need to know the countless hours Andrew spent on that notebook, on their dream. Andrew had taken note of every place Tanner had mentioned when they discussed the trip and made sure he’d included activities he knew Tanner would enjoy. The notebook had become a labor of love.
And soon the already full itinerary expanded yet again as they discussed alligators, beaches, theme parks, and fishing.
Everything was fine in Andrews’s life….. he had his best friend Tanner, he lived at home with his dad and brother, and he was busy planning his dream road trip he was taking with Tanner. He was so excited, and was aware of new feelings he had inside when he was close to Tanner, and hoped he could find out exactly what they meant. Suddenly everything changes, and Andrews life is completely turned upside down, by a tragedy no-one was expecting. Then he had to make the hardest decision of his life, one which he believed would protect his little brother, and he sacrificed his happiness to do so.
As I read this part of the story, I could see both sides, as this book has been written from both Andrew’s and Tanner’s point of view. You could feel the grief and sorrow pouring from Andrew as he was making the decisions, and I have to say I just wanted to reach in and hug him. From whispers he had heard, he did the only thing he thought open to him at the time, and that was to push Tanner away and try and build a new life for himself and his little brother. Tanner was devastated by Andrews’s rejection, and rather than try and talk to him he embarked on the road trip alone.
Then we fast forward ten years, and Tanner returns to the town. Although he has been away, he has never forgotten Andrew (who he affectionately calls Drew), and wants to see if there is any chance that they could finally be together. Things are strained between the two at their first meeting, and it is clear to Tanner that he must speak to Drew alone to try and clear the air. Both seem to have resentment inside them, but when they finally sit and talk calmly together, you can then see the whole picture and so can they, and neither can hold their resentment for long.
Tanner and Drew seem to talk more this time, and I think that was a big part of their downfall ten years earlier. Tanner shows Drew the case he took with him on the trip of a lifetime, and tells Drew that it was fun to go to all of the places, but it wasn’t his dream trip as he wasn’t there with him. Tanner tells Drew that it is time for them to make new dreams together and see where it all goes….. but at the same time, Tanner is also devastated to learn that Drew has still not told anybody he is gay, not even his brother Josh.
You realise that Drew is not ashamed of who and what he is, but although his brother is gay himself, he is terrified that admitting he too is gay would mean he would then lose his brother, and that he cannot bear the thought of. As Tanner and Drew grow closer together, Drew realises that he must tell his brother the truth, and you can feel the tension coming off the page as he gathers up the courage to speak to him….. only to find that Josh already knew, and then Drew is embarrassed when Josh reveals how he found out!! Drew is so relieved to find he will not lose his brother, and this in turn seems to relax Drew even more in his relationship with Tanner.
I absolutely loved the Andrews Story, it was filled with emotion, and from the way the Nic Starr wrote this you could feel this emotion, and see how both Tanner and Drew were feeling. At some points reading the book, I was willing them to take a chance on each other, but I could also fully understand why Andrew took the route that he did ten years earlier….. then the trouble is, you then make things harder for yourself when you want people to see you for who you are properly, and not what you have been portraying.
I really did enjoy this book, and from the way it finishes I believe that there will hopefully be another book in the series, so we can see what happens in the future to Drew and Tanner, plus Charlie and Josh.
Dreamspinner Press (Paperback)
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
Always a reader, the lure of m/m romance was strong and she devoured hundreds of wonderful m/m romance books before eventually realising she had some stories of her own that needed to be told!
When not writing or reading, she loves to spend time with her family-an understanding husband and two beautiful daughters-and is often found indulging in her love of cooking and planning her dream home in the country.
You can find Nic on Facebook, Twitter and her blog. She'd love it if you stopped by to say hi.
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