“When you choose to let go, you discover more about who you are and what you want out of life, and then you go for it!” ~ Chinonye J. Chidolue
Tyler Samuels has had his share of grief and heartbreak. He has loved and lost not only once, but twice in his life. After losing his second lover, Tyler decides he needs a new start and buys the Central Hotel in his hometown of Armidale. His family and friends are puzzled by his decision to come back to a place that holds so much heartache for him, but he tells them he's there to put some ghosts to rest and begin again. Tyler has sworn never to fall in love again, but finds that he's lonely. When he runs into Mac, the younger brother of a friend, his good intentions go out the window, at least temporarily.
Mac has had a crush on Tyler since he was a boy and is surprised how strong the attraction still is. Under the guise of helping Tyler settle back in, he introduces him to friends Tyler hasn't met before and helps reacquaint him with people he knows like Mac's parents. Mac's parents surprise Tyler when they welcome him with open arms. Tyler thought there would be more negativity thrown his way because of how he was treated before he left. However, a lot of time has passed and people's attitudes and opinions are more open now than they were fifteen years ago.
Tyler is grateful to Mac for making him feel welcome, but tells him that he wants the sex, but doesn't want a relationship. Mac is disappointed and a bit hurt, but being the decent man he is, Mac tries to honor Tyler's request. They decide they will be friends with benefits, but Mac's idea of friendship and Tyler's are not the same. Mac doesn't normally do casual sex but that's all that Tyler seems to want. Because of his physical attraction, Mac ends up in bed with Tyler, but instead of bringing them closer, it seems to put even more distance between them. Even if they aren't in a committed relationship, Mac still expects to be treated with respect. Mac's feelings get hurt when Tyler brushes him off, treating him like the hired help instead of even acknowledging their friendship. Tyler later apologizes, but continues to swing back and forth between wanting to be with Mac and pushing him away. Mac is confused and hurt. He wants a relationship with Tyler and he doesn't know what to do. When Tyler tells Mac that he can't even handle any kind of relationship, Mac has had it. He gives up on trying to read Tyler's mind and tries his best not to associate with him at all.
This story is well written and it was good to see some of the characters from the first book in the series, but it didn't grab me like the first one did. I absolutely loved Mac and couldn't help but feel indignant about the way Tyler treated him. I know Tyler had his reasons, that he'd been hurt before, but it still seemed to be part of his basic personality; when things get tough, he runs. I never understood why Tyler would leave his home, career, and life to go back to a place that already held so many bad memories, in the guise of starting over. I didn't dislike Tyler, I understood that he didn't want to be hurt again, but it seemed to me that he was deliberately putting himself in a place to be hurt and, in this case, to hurt others. Instead of embracing what was obviously a third chance, in his case, regardless of what he said, he was holding on to the pain and anger, sabotaging any chance he had of a happy future and ensuring that Mac wouldn't have one either. I wanted to smack him upside the head and show him how selfish he was being. Perhaps if I knew more about Tyler and his relationship with his partner in Sydney, I would have had more sympathy for him. In any case, one of the main purposes of a book is to make you feel, and this story did exactly that. If you like stories about handsome Aussie men, letting go of the past, embracing the future, and finding yourself, then you may enjoy this book. Thanks, Nic, for the interesting, thought-provoking story.