Friday, April 8, 2022

Emma Alcott - After the Crash

Rule #1 Straight military men will always be straight, no matter how much you wish otherwise
Rule #2 Being a billionaire won’t change that (probably)
Rule #3 The whole thing between you when you were in high school? It was only fantasy
Rule #4 One-sided fantasy
Rule #5 God, how great would it be if it was a two-sided fantasy?
Rule #6 Okay, getting off track
Rule #7 Hiring your hot high school crush is totally okay
Rule #8 If you don’t let your feelings get in the way, everything will be fine.
Marshall Lloyd is about to be very not fine. Not only is his high school crush back in his life, but he’s matured into a gruff, brooding, drop-dead-gorgeous specimen of a man that makes Marshall’s wet dreams seem about as exciting as drying paint. The only problem: Fox Fraser, the individual in question, is straight. Super straight.
The kind of straight that would make a ruler jealous.
But if what Marshall sees when he looks in Fox’s eyes is to be believed, he’s broken, too. There are scars inside of him that no one notices. No one but Marshall. It’s not wrong to want to help him, is it? To hire him to take care of things around the house so he can get back on his feet? It’s just work. Work that leads to lingering looks. To prolonged touches. To… mmph. It’s better not to think about it. Marshall’s fantasies aren’t real. A guy like Fox would never pin him to a wall and do things to him like that.
Maybe. Probably.

Comment: Another book I can't remember why I added to my TBR. Having finished, I can assume it was because the protagonists have this opposites attract vibe and I tend to like romances with this premise.

In this book we meet two very different people, Marshall Lloyd and Frederick "Fox" Fraser as they are both teenagers and Marshall is, sadly, one of the bullied guys at school. Fox isn't the most popular but he clearly belongs to that group and one day he finds a way to help Marshal, tired of seeing how others make fun of him.
Years later, Marshall is now a millionaire at Sillicon Valley and having achieved all he could, he decides to go back home, to be closer to his mother, and as a way to tell himself he no longer is at the mercy of those who affected his life for so long. Fox has been in the air force but a terrible crash affected his ability to cope and he suffers from PTSD. His family doesn't seem to be able to deal with it and as he is thrown off by his mother, Marshall finds him having a panic attack and decides to give him a job at the house he is renovating. 
Fox has never thought of himself as anything besides straight and Marshall has always been clearly gay. Is there any chance for these two?

I've seen some reviews where readers commented on how well this story begins and how quiet and unassuming the story line seems to be, one of those calm and low on conflict plots where the most important thing is how the relationship between the protagonists develops. I had to agree and until half way through, this did seem to be going towards a cute and slow burn type of story.

Fox has issues from what happened to him, he obviously needed time to process, he needed to do therapy and his family felt he wasn't improving quickly enough. I felt his personality certainly suited the kind of issues he faced and he often sounded worried he would not be able to get better. Marshall was a good help and the physical job he got him made him be able to spend time in his own head, focusing on several things and it was obvious this would help him.

Marshall I would describe as a nerd, someone who didn't have an easy life at school but he went on to become someone most of us only dream of, independent, more confident, wealthy... but he still kept his calm nature and a sense of helping others, such as he does for Fox. He is a dork most of the time and I liked him, he didn't read as childish to me as some readers have said, and I could see his quiet personality would be a good counterpoint to Fox's more determined one - well, at least before PTSD.

The guys were spending time together but more often doing their own thing, which means it did sound the romance would be a really slow burn kind of thing. We also had the presence of Sam, a teenager with several issues regarding his home life and sexual orientation, which I saw as an external way for the protagonists to deal with what happened in their past, since none of it is truly addressed. The prologue, where we meet them, ended up being just a way for us to know them and understand the dynamics at hand, for the content we saw there didn't had any other role as the plot moved along while they were adults.

All seemed to go well and, almost out of nowhere, from what we had seen until then, and from the very slow evolution of the relationship between them, Marshall and Fox get intimate. I won't repeat what some readers have said, but yes, I would agree it was a completely wrong way to advance their romance because the dynamics between them were so...unexpected from what had happened so far... I immediately thought the same person could not have written this and the beginning, so out of sync it felt.

I just could not get past the way they had sex, it was so unrealistic... of course this colored what came after and it felt like the rest of the story lost its slow, yes, but steady development and poignancy. Marshall and Fox kept on being their selves but Fox changed too quickly from a man in doubt of himself, scared to think about why he is dealing with PTSD to become an determined and alpha lover. Don't forget he had never been with men so how this is done by the author felt very, very unreal.

I think the allure of this development was too much for the author and the rest of the plot wasn't planned very well either. There are segments, plot points which lead nowhere, as soon as they show up, they are put aide and I suppose this is a way to inform how the main characters seem to be going towards a life in common, so certain things need to be put aside to cement this idea, as if any personal obstacles or possible choices had to be put out of the way to make it more believable they wanted to be a couple. Fine, I say, but the execution was very superficial and too obvious.

All in all, a good half way, another not so good, this is average to me but now I'm scared to try another book by the author...perhaps in a not so soon future.
Grade: 6/10

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