Title: Beyond the Surface (The Breakfast Club #1)
Author Name: Felice Stevens
Publication Date & Length: August 17, 2015 – 78,000 Words
On 9/11, firefighter Nick Fletcher’s world changed forever. He’s unable to rid himself of survivor’s guilt, made worse by the secret he hides from his family and co-workers. Nick’s life is centered around helping burn victims, until he is reunited with the man he’d once loved but pushed away. Now he has a second chance at a love he thought lost forever.
For fashion designer Julian Cornell, appearances mean everything. His love affairs are strictly casual, and the only thing he cares about is making his clothing line a success. A chance encounter with the man he loved long ago has Julian thinking for the first time in years there may be more to life than being seen at the best parties and what designer labels to wear.
When Julian’s world takes an unexpected turn, it’s Nick who helps him regain perspective on what matters most in life. Julian, in turn, helps Nick accept who he is and understand he isn’t responsible for tragedies he couldn’t prevent. Lost love found can be even sweeter the second time around and after all the years apart, both men learn to look beyond the surface to find the men they are inside.
Felice Stevens is back with a new cast of beautiful, damaged men. A firefighter injured in the 9/11 attacks and a troubled fashion designer are initially an odd pairing, but Nick and Julian’s story is beautiful.
As always, Stevens manages to wrench emotions from her readers. The story is a saccharine, angst-riddled tear jerker and I loved every moment of it. Her men are too good to be true, but who doesn’t love a firefighter who spends his off-duty hours in a paediatric ward for teen burn victims? Julian isn’t very noble at the start, but by the end of the story, he is ready for sainthood.
This is the fourth book I’ve read by Stevens and I’m starting to notice a few common elements. In this one, she adds drama and angst with a violent, homophobic colleague of Nick’s and a nasty rival fashion designer. As always, there is redemption for even the most vile of characters, several cute (and valiant) teenagers and moving moments with Nick’s family. I really enjoy Stevens’ writing, but elements of this story will be very familiar to readers of the Hell and Back series.
This is a wonderful emotional ride. Highly recommended.
Fair warning this book talks about 9/11 and may cause triggers. That day will forever leave a mark on all of us especially those there that day. Nick was there, he was injured and he is still dealing with his emotions and healing plus he is also hiding a secret. A secret he has hidden since he was a teenager. Julian lives and breathes fashion. Nick and Julian were friends as teenagers, well more than friends. Nick pushed Julian away and has regretted that ever since. He never thought he would see him again much less have another chance. Julian has never forgotten Nick. A chance meeting changes everything. Julian’s career might be over and Nick is still in the closet. These two are still as hot as ever for each other. This story was touching in so many ways. Not just what Nick went through, how he deals with coming out and how Julian focuses on a new path. It was a touching story. I laughed, I cried, got mad and cheered them on. It was as if this was a true story it was just that believable. I will be adding this to my re-read pile.
Julian was in the kitchen, sitting on one of the stools by the counter. He had a glass in front of him filled with what Nick presumed was vodka, having spied the Grey Goose bottle.
“Would you like a drink? I have beer, wine…anything you’d like.”
Nick shook his head, regret piercing his heart as he watched the hope drain from Julian’s eyes.
“I don’t think so. I’m going to head home. I want you to know how much I appreciate what you did for Jamal tonight.”
Julian stood abruptly, kicking the stool away from his feet.
“Don’t treat me like I’m some fucking stranger, Nicky. You owe me. It’s been eighteen years; you think I’m going to let you walk out on me again like you did before? After what just happened between us? After you fell apart? No fucking way. I’m not that same person and neither are you, obviously.”
Taken aback by Julian’s anger, Nick remained mute.
“What the hell is going on with you? One minute you’re tongue fucking me into the next century and the next you’re freaking out. I know I’m a damn good kisser, but this isn’t about us, is it? It has nothing to do with our past and everything to do with you and the shit that’s floating around in your head.”
Julian stepped closer to him and Nick, who normally couldn’t stand people near him, was rooted to the floor, unable to move.
“Talk to me, Nicky. Tell me what happened to you.”
He was so tired of holding himself together, feeling like at any moment he’d shatter into a million tiny pieces, leaving nothing behind but a pile of dust.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The words poured out of him, flowing unchecked this time. “It should’ve been me. We all went to the Towers to save them. It was my day off, but I went anyway. I heard and couldn’t stay home; I had a duty to help, you know? But I lived and they all died. Why, Julian? Why did I live and they didn’t?”
“Oh, Nick.” Julian held him close. “I don’t have the answers for you. No one does. But I’m going to be completely selfish and say I’m so thankful you did make it and we’re here together after all these years.”
Unflinching green eyes gazed back at him. Clever, beautiful eyes that Nick could never stop dreaming of. Eyes that at one time had held the promise of forever, until Nick ruined everything with his cowardice and shame. Unable to maintain Julian’s scrutiny, Nick broke away and ran to the elevator, his chest heaving, eyes stinging with tears.
“Let me out. I need to leave here. NOW.”
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.