A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: I loved the highs and lows Stuart and Benny experienced as they withdrew from comfortable, if unfulfilling, relationships into an uncertain but much more gratifying one.
Blurb: When Benny and Stuart first meet on the bus, it seems like they have nothing in common. Stuart is an up-and-coming ad agency rep. Benny drives a bus Stuart takes when he’s too drunk to get behind the wheel. Benny’s a doting father to a little girl who’s his whole world. Stuart’s not sure he ever wants kids.
Despite their differences, their shared circumstances bind them together. Benny and Stuart are both expecting unplanned children with women they don’t love. They’ve both spent too much time hiding from their true selves. And now that they’re being forced to face who they are, they can’t deny the attraction growing between them—an attraction that quickly deepens into something more.
Both men know the timing is wrong, and the path to any sort of future together is fraught with fear, pain, and some very difficult questions: How can they leave their pregnant spouses with integrity? How can Benny carry on an affair that might cost him his daughter, the brightest spot in his life? Can Stuart really turn his back on the comfort of the society life he’s been living with his girlfriend? But ultimately, only one question really counts: How can they go back to the lives they lived before when they’ve seen just how good love can be?
Just in case you didn’t pick it up from the blurb, I’ll warn you right now that there is cheating in this book. If cheating is a trigger for you, you may not want to read it. I don’t mind cheating in books. It’s a work of fiction and I can take a step back and enjoy the story for what it is. My problem is that I sometimes have a hard time liking and connecting with the characters doing the cheating. That’s exactly what I had to overcome with Benny and Stuart.
Benny and Stuart were both being incredibly selfish. Benny had a pregnant wife and a six year old daughter but he didn’t let that stop him from doing what he wanted. I hated that he knew the impact his actions would have, and he still chose to do them. Not that his wife was any better, she was a vindictive shrew so I had a hard time having much sympathy for her. The only person I actually liked was their 6 year old daughter. Stuart wasn’t quite so bad for me. His relationship wasn’t exactly permanent. Neither he nor his girlfriend expected to stay together long-term and the baby came as an unexpected surprise that neither of them had ever wanted. They were just trying to make the best of a bad situation.
This wasn’t a fun, light read. Two families were slowly being destroyed as Benny and Stuart came to terms with themselves. As time went on, the guys did start to grow on me. I still thought their choices were horrible, but I could understand why they felt they had no other choice. Benny especially started to make sense to me, he had been repressing his desire for men and denying himself all his life. His marriage was a disaster and he was miserable. Separating from his wife was inevitable but he certainly didn’t make the process any less painful for anyone.
I’ve just spent 3 paragraphs complaining about the characters and their life choices, you’re probably wondering why I gave the book 4 stars :). I did that because I grew to like all the characters. I really appreciated that this felt like a realistic version of how a family would break apart under these circumstances. The process going from affair, to both separating from their significant other, to finally getting their HEA took over a year. It wouldn’t have worked for me if it had been a quick and easy process, I liked that it was messy and painful.
Another thing I loved about this book was that a full range of emotions were constantly in play. In one scene, Benny could be talking with Stuart and they would be happy, excited, and in love. That could be immediately followed by a confronted by his wife and all Benny’s happiness would be replaced by anger and resentment. The highs and lows felt genuine to me. As much as I enjoyed this book, the highlight of it all was the romance that slowly developed between Benny and Stuart. From their very first meeting, they had an instant connection that they couldn’t deny. Even when I was angry with them for having an affair, it still felt right and I wanted them to be together. I really liked this one.