Letting Go by MJ O’Shea
Blurb: Drew McAuliffe has lived in the small town of Rock Bay most of his adult life. He’d like to be happy, but not at the cost of having his private life under his nosy neighbors’ microscope, so he keeps his bisexuality under wraps.
After a messy breakup that caused him to pack up and move to Astoria, on the Oregon coast, Mason Anderson decides to avoid drama of the romantic kind. All he wants is to start over—alone.
But Drew and Mason were meant to meet. The long looks and awkward half hellos chance offered were never going to be enough. But when they do finally come together on the worst night possible, misconceptions and problems from their pasts get in the way. Until Mason learns to trust again—and until Drew learns to let go of who he thinks he is—a real connection is nothing but a pipe dream.
Review: I began this story having just read the first installment of the Rock Bay series, Coming Home, so I knew right where the characters were and who was who. While I sometimes can appreciate a second take of a scene I’ve already read through a different character’s eyes, I don’t often like to reread the same thing unless I choose to reread an old favorite to revisit beloved characters.
This was not that visit.
The first third of the book was a rehash of the previous story, which would make this one an excellent stand-alone book. If you haven’t read Coming Home, you don’t need to in order to understand Letting Go. Although I do recommend the first title of the series, know that if you do read it first, this one may bore you until just before the halfway point.
Mason is a totally endearing character, someone I could see myself being friends with. He’s sweet, has vitality, a desire to help others, and he’s good at his nursing job. He’s fiercely independent and aware that his smaller stature gives him that damsel in distress air that others tend to want to protect.
Don’t, though, or you’ll anger him. He can do it himself, thank you very much.
Drew is a fantastically nice guy, but has been spineless his entire life. In high school, he hung around the jock bullies, hiding his attraction to Tallis Carrington, the group’s enigmatic leader (and feature character of the first Rock Bay book) and not rocking the boat. Drew wasn’t big on the bullying, but he didn’t stop it either. After college, he returned home to open an accounting firm, relying on his connections to former high school jock Brock Peterson—typical homophobic bully turned alcoholic who considers high school his glory days—for clients to get his business off the ground. His father is well connected and intolerant, and his mother has been the kind to go along to get along Drew’s whole life.
It’s no surprise Drew’s miserable, following Brock around not out of loyalty or friendship, but a sense of obligation to get the alcoholic safely home (or to his own couch). He can’t risk pissing off his meal ticket. However, seeing his old friend Tallis return to the area and reinvent himself with boyfriend Lex Barry, Drew realizes he’s tired of being status quo. It’s not like he can ignore the spark he felt the moment he locked eyes with Mason.
So Drew takes the leap, coming out about his bisexuality, and doing his best to sweep Mason off his feet despite a rocky beginning. Their relationship is beautiful, slow to start and a true courtship. They’d be fine except for those who think they have a claim to their lives (Mason’s ex and Drew’s father) keep turning up to control them.
The pacing of this story was decent (once the first book rehash was done), the conflict believable and the characterization solid. I liked that Drew grew up a little, relying less on outside acceptance of him to value himself. And while the pivotal conflict between the main characters was too easily resolved in my opinion, the residual conflict between Drew and his parents wasn’t, and that struck me as honest. I don’t know if Drew’s parents would ever get over the shock of finding out their son was interested in a relationship with a man and the worry that somehow their reputation would be damaged. It made me completely dislike his father, though my respect for his mother rose marginally when she spoke up with her opinion. She didn’t redeem completely to me, though, but I can understand the position she was in to only take her opinion so far. It’s not the way I would handle a similar situation regarding one of my own kids, but walk a mile, right?
Overall, the story is full of likable characters (particularly Amy, and I wish there were some Amys in my area, but that would mean I’d have to actually meet them), tender moments, some tension, and enough conflict to be a decent read. B List all the way.