Shane Wallace has made a decent life for himself in Last Chance. He built his own home on his mom’s property to take care of her, owns an automotive repair shop, and when he wants to get laid, Portland isn’t too far away. Not too shabby for the boy who spent his childhood getting bullied and feeling alone. Shane’s content to leave his past behind him...until one of his childhood tormentors comes back to town.
Maxwell Sullivan never planned to step foot in Last Chance again. Here, he was Maxwell, a teen who suffered in silence while everyone thought he had the perfect life. Now, he’s “Van,” the erotic artist and photographer. He’s only here to help his mom tie up some loose ends after his father’s death and to apologize to Shane. After that, he’s heading back to LA for good.
Shane never thought he’d have anything in common with Maxwell, but there’s a depth to Van that surprises him. Van knows what it feels like to be alone. He sees Shane in ways no one else does. There’s a shared connection neither can deny. Somehow, despite their rocky history, they get each other.
It’s not long before the two are so drawn to each other that they tumble into bed—sometimes with Van’s camera involved. Their chemistry in and out of the bedroom is undeniable. Except nothing is ever black and white. Shane can’t leave his mom and Van’s life is in LA. With two different lives pulling them in opposite directions, their picture-perfect ending might not be in the cards.
As an adult, Shane has a good life but it's taken a lot of work to get there. He has a successful business, passing acquaintance with the bullies of his childhood, a few friends, his own home, his art, and his mother who loves him. But, underneath the surface is a lonely man who has spent most of his life alone and caring for his mother who struggles with mental health issues. He can't consider a relationship because his whole life revolves around his mom and his business and he never begrudges her that time because they're family and family takes care of each other. But Shane has some commonalities with his mom, and they're not positive. He keeps his life and his mother's issues secretive and takes on all responsibility for her with no outside help. And Shane is stuck. He's finally happy in his hometown, but he knows that it's his only option, because he can't leave his mother. All that changes when a bully from his childhood returns.
Van grew up the privileged son of a couple with money, who ran the town. He appeared to have it all and spent his school days bullying and tormenting Shane, who was smaller and weaker. But, as soon as he could escape the town and his family, he ran and didn't come back. Now that his father is dead, his mother wants him back home. Only, the perfect family that was portrayed to the town never existed and Van's life was miserable, full of mental and physical abuse by his father and ignored by his mother. Van has no interest in being back in town, and he hates the person that he was at that time. He lives a happy life on his own terms. Once he left, he accepted that he was gay and he lives it to its fullest. He worked hard and graduated art school. He's a painter and a photographer of erotic art. But, since he's back in town, he decides it's time to apologize to Shane. Shane has no interest in Van's apology and plans to not see him again. But, as Shane knows, life doesn't work that way.
I loved Shane and Van. At first, they appeared to be opposites, but in truth, they were very much alike. And both of them had hard childhoods, in very different ways. A very large part of this story was Annie, Shane's mom. Regardless of the amount of time she appeared in the story, I always felt like she was one of the main characters because everything Shane did, he gave consideration to what was best for him mom. And Annie completely broke my heart. I cried twice during my reading, and each time it involved Annie because she loved Shane as much as a mother could, but her issues just wouldn't let her be free. And her issues just didn't allow Shane the freedom he needed, either. I was so proud of her throughout this story.
The relationship between Shane and Van is bumpy, but the more time they spend together allows them to get to know each other as adults. And once their walls come down a little, there is no denying the chemistry and attraction to each other. And that chemistry, and actions from it, are like a five alarm fire. I don't even have the words to tell you how steamy these two men are together, but I think Riley has created a new level on the scale of smoking, freaking, hot!
And, I was so excited when I got to the end of the book to see that there would be another book after this one about Caleb, whose story has me so intrigued! I know it may be a little surprising, but I highly recommend this beautiful, heart-warming story of forgiveness, love and healing.
*Copy provided by the author for my reading pleasure in hopes of an unbiased opinion, a review was not a requirement.*