Friday, August 15, 2014

That You Are Here - Reviewed by Trix

That You Are Here by Meredith Allard

On the outside, handsome, successful attorney Andrew Whittaker has everything in life. On the inside, he has everything too, only he doesn't know it. He hides the love of his life, Mark Bryce, from his family and everyone else where he lives in Portland, Oregon. Soon the weight of the secret becomes too much for Andrew. After wrestling with himself and his place in the world, he must decide how he's going to live-with or without Mark.

Trix’s Review: 3.75 stars
Disclaimer: I received an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

I haven't felt so outraged at a character's treatment of his love interest since Jesse dragged Adam's heart around in Erica Pike's A LIFE WITHOUT YOU. Mark is the perfect boyfriend, kind and attentive. Not only does he make Andrew's lunch, he brings it to him at work when he forgets it. Have I mentioned that he's a Paris-trained baker famous for his chocolate raspberry tarts? (Mmm, chocolate raspberry tarts...sorry, lost my train of thought there.) Total strangers see what a treasure this guy is, and anyone (male or female) would date him in a heartbeat. Yet Andrew, his live-in lawyer boyfriend, repeatedly denies their relationship in public and even to his own family. While this seems a little far-fetched in supposedly tolerant Portland, Allard does establish plausible reasons why Andrew would behave this way. Andrew's ultra-conservative father has made his beliefs known, as have his bigoted law-firm bosses. While Andrew is overworked and preoccupied, that doesn't excuse his cold behavior to Mark. I found the story difficult to read sometimes because of this. Luckily, most of the other side characters are very sympathetic, which makes the second half flow more smoothly. While I was a little disappointed that external events drive Andrew's change of heart more than any realization he comes to on his own, they lead to a satisfying ending.

This is an atypical m/m story in certain ways. The physical intimacy is limited to a couple of kisses. The Portland setting is nearly a character in itself, with Allard opening most chapters with descriptions of the city and its neighborhoods. (These are interesting, but can get pretty verbose.) She experiments with different styles, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to address the reader. The climactic confrontation between Mark and Andrew is presented as a play within the book, delivered as stage directions. I found these switches rather jarring, but I did admire Allard's willingness to try something different. I'd give 3.5 stars for the first half and 4 stars for the second, so I'll average them out to 3.75.

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