LOVE ME LIKE A ROCK is the first novella in a sexy, sweet, and heartwarming New Adult duology, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, about best friends with benefits who do not end up together. In both books, Austin and Vinnie mature and become self-aware. They realize their needs, their failures in their stagnant relationship, and how to make their new relationships work.
Austin wants to be more than being best friends and f***buddies with Vinnie, who only has sex with Austin to relieve stress. Frustrated with their sporadic sex and a relationships going nowhere, Austin finds himself drawn to a nude model, Sean, who confesses to having been attracted to Austin from the moment he saw him.
Sean gives Austin everything Austin is missing in his relationship with Vinnie. Someone who pays him attention, makes him feel wanted, and wants to be with him. Someone Austin can trust to be there for him. It’s obvious that Sean and Austin are meant to be together and that Austin has to let go of his unrequited feelings for Vinnie.
So, it’s the journey that makes this book worth reading. Sean and Austin don’t get it right all at once, but it’s fun to watch them fall in love and navigate their feelings.
The sequel to Love Me Like a Rock, HARD CANDY, told from Vinnie’s perspective, is a little more angsty, complicated, and a world more of hurt. After drinking one night, Vinnie wakes up in another person’s bed to discover that he’d had a sexual encounter with a femme black dancer named Bryan.
Vinnie’s relationship with Bryan changes him, because Bryan is direct about what he wants and refuses to let Vinnie treat him with less than he deserves. Since Bryan is “visibly” gay, he has been bullied and beaten up, and his family devalues him. Meanwhile, Vinnie struggles with his anxieties about failing to live up to his conservative Korean parents’ expectations and being with a man his parents won’t like.
I liked how Bryan’s personality opened up Vinnie’s personality, helped Vinnie to relax, and relieved some of the pressure Vinnie felt to be successful; how Bryan’s special way of calling Vinnie by his real name, Vincent, made Vinnie feel like a person. I liked how Vinnie learned to communicate with Bryan and made Bryan a priority in his life; how Vinnie surprised me, and Bryan, with his sweetness, protectiveness, and desire to make Bryan happy, in and out of bed.
The title HARD CANDY describes the contrast between Bryan’s public persona and his sensitive soul. This novella portrays the violence and prejudice femme gay men experience, and there were moments that brought tears to my eyes. Though a few plot lines seemed unresolved, particularly Vinnie’s relationship with his parents, the ending was a new beginning in Vinnie’s and Bryan’s relationship. I loved how Vinnie found a way to be the hero in Bryan’s life.
*ARCs received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.