Marie Sexton is one of my favorite writers. She was one of the first m/m authors I discovered and is a huge part of why I love the genre so much. Every time I talk about her I say this but I really think that if you are new to m/m you should start by reading her book Promises.
I admit that when I first heard about this book I was a bit skeptical because based on the cover and the blurb it seemed like it would be a bit of a drunken sex-fest on the beach. I mean, the book was about a bartender and a massage therapist living in Miami, so what was I supposed to think? Of course I was wrong and I should be ashamed because I have read all of her books and she doesn’t write anything superficial. Not only this book wasn’t superficial but I think it was one of the deepest and darkest books she has written. It deals with a lot of serious issues but in a way that leaves you feeling positive instead of depressed.
Our leading guys are Levi and Jaime. Levi is a wild boy; he works as a bartender in one of Miami’s hottest gay clubs and literally has sex with a different guy every night. He comes from a loving Mormon family that doesn’t accept his lifestyle and his homosexuality but loves him and cares deeply about him. Lately he has been suffering from back pains and his brother-in-law who happens to be a doctor tells him that he should see a massage therapist. The closest therapist he finds is Jaime. Levi feels an immediate attraction to him but when he tries to seduce him Jaime not only rejects him but seems really afraid of him. Jaime is a recluse, he lives afraid of the world and when you find the reason why your heart will break. Levi decides to become Jaime’s friend because he realizes that he likes him a lot, and I mean as a person, obviously there is a huge sexual attraction between the two, but at first is all about the friendship and the companionship. The whole book deals with the development of their relationship.
I think Jaime and Levi were two of the most likeable and lovable characters I have read in a while. They were as different from each other as day and night, but they were both endearing. Jaime was the most scarred of the two of them and the most vulnerable. I don’t normally like characters that are so full of incapacitating issues but in this case I was just desperately wanting for him to get his HEA. Levi, on the other hand, seemed quite shallow at first but he was the opposite. Throughout the book he experiences some ups and downs and it takes him some time to grow, but I think he was the perfect example of a character with a good heart that does the wrong things and is on a path to self-destruction. I think Levi and Jaime were perfect for each other and most important they deserved each other.
The romance aspect of the book is also a bit of a journey and this means that it doesn’t come early on the book, you have to wait and suffer first, and I say suffer because there is a lot of sexual tension which was driving me insane. I think that was the idea, to make the reader experience some of the frustration the characters were going through, but I think it was a little too much, at one point I was ready to yell at them to just do it already.
The secondary character of the book is Levi’s family. As I mentioned before they are Mormon. I really didn’t know anything about this religion except for all of the stereotypes. I think the way Sexton portrays the religion was much more realistic and sincere, maybe this is because she has personal knowledge since part of her extended family is Mormon, but I really liked the way they were described. I think she made them justice but kept them real. They loved Levi but didn’t understand him. They were also worried about him not because he was gay but because he was living a dangerous life and I think any family would be worried about that regardless of their beliefs. The family also had a journey to make and I liked that by the end of the book they still were against homosexuality, they get to a sort of compromise with Levi, but they stayed true to their religion. I really liked that, because I hate stories were by the end everyone completely accepts and understand each other and they celebrate and it ends up looking like an United Nations love fest, life is not like that!. I think you can love and live with someone even if you don’t understand or accept some of the choices they make.
There is a lot of graphic sex in the book, it wasn’t anything over the top, this is not an erotic romance by any means -or at least it isn’t to me- but there are some descriptions of violence and abuse that not everyone will like. So be warned about it because as I said this book deals with a lot of serious issues and it isn’t a light read. It isn’t melodramatic but it has some parts that are very sad and I cried a lot while reading it.
The book wasn’t perfect but I loved it, it had a great combination of angst and lightness, I cried a lot but I also laughed, Jaime had a great sense of humor that balanced his not so light side. I’m giving this book a 5 because by the end of the book I was sad to be saying goodbye to these two incredible characters and to this amazing book.
Review by Brie
Levi Binder is a Miami bartender who cares about only two things: sex and surfing. Ostracized by his Mormon family for his homosexuality, Levi is determined to live his life his own way, but everything changes when he meets massage therapist Jaime Marshall.
Jaime is used to being alone. Haunted by the horrors of his past, his only friend is his faithful dog, Dolly. He has no idea how to handle somebody as gorgeous and vibrant as Levi.
Complete opposites on the surface, Levi and Jaime both long for something that they can only find together. Through love and the therapeutic power of touch, they'll find a way to heal each other, and they'll learn to live as sinners in a family of saints.
Amber Quill Press, LLC. May 21, 2011.