all the freaking feels!!!

RATING: ★★★★★
TITLE: without you
AUTHOR: marley valentine
RELEASE DATE: march 11, 2020
SETTING: montana/seattle
GENRE: m/m contemporary romance, brother’s best friend (with a twist), enemies to lovers(ish)

This was so much more than what I first thought it was going to be.
Well, you may be asking me: What was I expecting? I knew what I was getting into with this one… But, did I really know?
I mean… Did I, really?
Um, nope. I am just barely hanging on at the moment.
This was a hella heavy take on the best friend’s brother romance trope. I mean, GIRL!!!!????
This was everything and more!!! Please understand that my inability to articulate my thoughts and feelings are a HUGE compliment to this book and nothing else!

Okay, my stuttering, spluttering antics aside, let’s get into the real review: my REAL thoughts and feelings on the matter at hand.
What I assumed going into this book: A gay for you situation that deals with some seriously intimate issues, since I was aware that the love was between a straight man and the best friend/boyfriend of his younger brother. I will say that I went into this book knowing this, but I was surprised at how many dimensions this book had. When you consider the farfetched conundrum that this would take place in, you could imagine the real life complications that would arise in this situation. Many a romance novel would just gloss over these kinds of complications… these realistic complications, that, if this were a real life situation, would ABSOLUTELY arise… But I was so pleasantly surprised that this book took these real issues and made them oh so believable!

Deacon’s brother, Rhett, passed away from an ongoing cancer that he had been plagued with for years. Through Deacon’s entire childhood, he felt he had to compete with the enigma that was Julian: his brother’s best friend, turned lover. Now I have read many a story about just that: the best friend/boy next door that in later years, became more than just a friendship. That has been done and done again. This IS NOT that story! This is the outside looking in of that trope.

Deacon’s brother is dead, and his mother doesn’t nurture the relationship she could have with her one living son, leaving poor Deacon to suffer in silence, which he bravely does. His poor, broken father doesn’t come to his rescue because they are a family that simply doesn’t know how to cope with the youngest child ripped from them so painfully. So, when Deacon comes back to his hometown a year after Rhett’s death, he is bombarded with Julian being all up in his space. His mother dotes on the man, when she should be showing happiness at having her one living son under her roof.

With these circumstances, you can see why the rift is there and has always been there between Deacon and Julian (or better yet, Deacon and the rest of the family). This was a truly painful family ordeal to be involved in as a reader.

But, when Deacon and Julian reunite and find that there is a spark, which isn’t attraction at first, but simply a connection between two individuals mourning over the same soul, they decide to put their differences behind them and try to just be friends. A friendship born from jealously and pain, but a friendship none the less. Soon, that friendship morphs into something stronger than both Deacon and Julian, as neither can clearly pinpoint why they just NEED to be around the other.

As the attraction blossoms, the real issues arise. The pain from moving on for Julian, and the pain from falling for the person his brother loved for Deacon. The relationship is so organic and real between these two men and believe me, they absolutely fight it. But in the end, they both can recognize that, while these are foreign feelings, feelings that should be forbidden, they have them none-the-less and it is beautifully freeing to be finally feeling something; ANYTHING at all.

This story is beautiful, organic, intense and insanely painful at the same time. The thing that I took most strongly from this book was how it was supposed to be hard. It was supposed to be difficult and painful because death and loss always is. But the love that can be reborn from those ashes is incredibly strong and beautiful. Deacon deserved to feel like he was enough to his parents. And Julian deserved to move on from a love that he felt so powerfully because it was all he was permitted to have in his life.

I love these boys and the journey that they have gone through. This was truly more than the typical gay for you or first time gay story. It felt like so so so much more than that. I am so thankful to have read this.

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