I love a good angst ridden hero –and I’m a sucker for a gentle giant. This book has both folded into one messed up and misunderstood man. Llewellyn had his entire life planned out after graduation. He was going away to school with his boyfriend, where he could study architecture and find happiness and success. But a terrible betrayal landed him in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and just like that, his dreams died. Now eight years later, he is trying to start over, but his record hangs over him like a storm cloud. He is rejected at every turn and finally has to move away for a fresh start.
Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t outrun. Not only did his time in prison color how others see him, it has broken something inside Llew. He doesn’t think he can ever find a real relationship again. And he’s sad and miserable almost all the time. He is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then he meets Shane, a construction company owner willing to give him a chance to prove himself, both with a job and a relationship. The story follows Llew as he tries to rebuild his life and his ability to love.
First, I must say that the events that land Llew in jail are just horrible. It’s tough reading. So is the bit of the story that follows him to jail. The book makes some rather significant time jumps and skims over much of what happens in prison, so I couldn’t really settle in, until about a third of the way into the book, once Llew is settled in his new town and starting over. I expected him to be a tortured hero, but what I didn’t expect was that our hero would be scared all the time. Everything he does, everywhere he goes, he is waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under him. He is scared of people knowing his history. He is scared of being rejected. He is scared he won’t be able to be with a man again. He is scared he will want to be too rough. He’s scared of getting too angry and going back to jail. I get it; he’s been through hell and he didn’t deserve it, but it was sad and miserable, and it felt like it took forever before the guy could catch a break.
When a bit of happiness does come his way, though, it almost seems too easy. (Yes, I know I wanted him to catch a break, but hear me out.) His first piece of good luck comes with a woman who invites him to live with her because he carried her groceries and he seems like a good man. Then, there is Shane who is crazy for him out of the gate and doesn’t even want to know why he was in jail, either before hiring him or before striking up a relationship. I just can’t believe that. I wanted people to give him a chance, but in a more realistic way. And then there are Llew’s problems with performance that literally disappear in a moment with Shane. Problems he has had for 8 years. Poof. Really?
The book has some good things going for it. Llew is a very sympathetic character and it’s hard not to root for his happy ending. I felt like I got a good picture of him and I liked the juxtaposition of his big, hard body with his soft, broken insides. I was intrigued by secondary characters Ace and Big Waldo. And I was glad to see Llew’s life finally come together. Honestly, the best part for me was the way everything came together in the end.
But overall, there were just too many points that had me shaking my head or rolling my eyes. Like Llew’s ability to design skyscrapers with no secondary education. Like the prison doctor just knowing he wasn’t guilty. Like him finding a job and an apartment on his first day in town and people willing to defend him based on a feeling or a look in his eyes. Or like the turbo speed in which the relationship with Shane developed.
Eh. It was ok. I didn’t love it, but the ending satisfied.
*ARC provided by author for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
Defined by Deceit
by AE Via
Release Date: March 26, 2015