What he hadn’t counted on were the two amazing men who would change his life. After entering college, he meets Tate, his fun-loving, wealthy roommate. While years later, with Tate now just a memory, Wes, a handsome, rugged ex-marine who runs his own security firm enters his life.
Both men force him to see his value, despite his size and insecurities.
From the moment that the story opened with Grif and his boyfriend Wes meeting for a dinner at a swank restaurant, I knew this was not going to be a run of the mill love story. It snared me from the start and while Grif is into humiliation which isn’t my thing, I simply had to pick the book up again and again after pausing long enough to grab a cup of fortifying tea.
Make no mistake about it, Wes has a bit of a sadist in him while Grif loves to be humiliated during mutually agreed upon scenes. It’s a dynamic that works for them both and actually cements their bond deeper as they both feel urges to depart from their more typical love life.
Tonlet starts us off by throwing the reader into the deep end and then giving us a set of flashbacks as to how the two men came to meet and enter into their current relationship dynamic. We also get to meet a much younger Grif who discovers that the dream life he’d envisioned for high school was not going to be as he and his family discover Wes has a physical anomaly.
His relationship with best friend and college roommate Tate is as gay for you as it gets behind closed doors, and it is also heartbreaking in all the ways it could not be. Despite their rigidly set personal parameters, it was liberating for both young men though and extremely sensual, allowing both men to explore sides of themselves they’d never expected to discover, and not just sexually.
His relationship with Wes is also revealed to be not quite what one at first thinks, as their first meeting and early relationship shows. Wes is a deeply passionate man who greatly respects Grif and truly adores all of him, but deep inside he has the urge to indulge in a dark kink. Luckily, it coincides with Grif’s desire, and the two have a system worked out. If neither consents, it’s business as usual. Indeed, most of the discomfort I initially felt was not due to the expression of their particular kink, but the very intimate way the two men are depicted as well as my personal surprise at just how H.O.T. their “chocolate” scenes were..
Never before have I encountered a character who breathed from the page so vividly with his inner psyche so exposed, so that I wasn’t merely observing the scene with him, but it almost felt like I was participating. Yeah, I had a lot of fortifying tea. I did have to be careful to not spit it out though as quite often I’d sit down and sip my beverage only to be read some banter between the two men that made me want to giggle.
It’s as real as relationships get. With mutual respect, deep affection, heavy on mutual trust, and a genuine sense of joy. None of the characters are reduced to archetypes, the dominant Wes can be submissive as well in his own way, while Grif definitely has his dominant side. When the sexual roles are reversed, it made for a smoking read that nearly overheated my Kindle battery.
If this is book one, I can’t wait to see how Tonlet challenges me with book 2. Bring it on.