From the BLURB:
It’s not the breaking up that kills you, it’s the aftermath.
Ever since his long time lover decided he’d seen the “heterosexual light”, Matt’s life has been in a nosedive. Six months of too many missed shifts at the hospital, too much booze, too many men. Matt knows he’s on the verge of losing everything, but he’s finding it hard to care.
Then Matt meets Aaron. He’s gorgeous, intelligent, and apparently not interested in being picked up. Still, even after seeing Matt at his worst, he doesn’t turn away. Aaron’s kindness and respect have Matt almost believing he’s worth it – and that there could be life after Joe. But his new-found happiness is threatened when Matt begins to suspect Aaron is hiding something, or someone….
Matt has lost his childhood sweetheart, best friend, partner and true love. Joe and Matt grew up together, and had been in a committed relationship for six years when Joe walked out. Not only did he walk out, but Joe revealed that for two years he had been carrying on a relationship with a woman and that they now planned to get married and have children.
Understandably, six months later Matt is still crushed and reeling.
We meet Matt at that six-month mark. He has boozed and fucked his way through the grief, losing sight of his medical training and losing himself to creeping addiction.
Right when Matt is at his worst he meets Aaron. Aaron is an oil-rig worker, a little too old for the gay club scene, but rough and handsome and intriguing. Matt wants Aaron to be just another one-night-stand and temporary cure to his loneliness, but Aaron has bigger plans.
I am always up for a good M/M romance, and ‘Life After Joe’ seemed to have the angst and tension I so love in my romance books... but Harper Fox didn’t deliver.
‘Life After Joe’ is often a frustrating read because Fox insists on writing so much in summary. Pages and pages without dialogue become almost unbearable, especially when scenes that would have made for great dramatic tension are coldly recounted.
Early on in the novel Matt is visited by Joe’s wife, Marnie. Marnie and Joe want Matt to move out of the apartment he and Joe shared, because they need the money from the sale. This scene would have been great to read – but there’s no dialogue and no action, just a cold lifeless narrative as Matt recounts the awkward conversation.
I don’t know if Fox was using the summary as a literary device – trying to illustrate Matt’s detachment from life? But it was just frustrating to read. Don’t get me wrong, Fox has a wonderful voice and some of her writing is poignant and heartfelt;
My eyes closed. When he leaned back on the sofa, I went with him, turning my face to his shoulder.But the dialogue is so lacking that by the end of the book I didn’t feel like I knew Matt or Aaron, or had spent any time with them. I felt very detached from them as characters, purely because I hadn’t read any of their conversational nuances or rhetoric.
Another trouble with breakups – the instant loss of the dozens of daily touches, the background tapestry of comfort, given and received. You can screw your way through half a city’s population and never get that back. I had been starving for it without knowing. I pressed myself to him, feeling his embrace close round me, hard and strong, so tight my ribs popped.
This is a novel about the aftermath of a break-up. Matt is not a pretty picture, but Joe’s betrayal is sour enough that you completely empathize with him and understand why he is so depressed. I had no problem with the somewhat bleak bent of the novel, especially because Aaron’s presence shifts the plot to a romantic interlude. But I wish Fox had spent more time on the Matt/Joe/Marnie triangle. We only get one quick scene with Joe (and in it he acts like a caricature) and only one summary-scene with Marnie. I felt like the angst of the novel could have been hit home a little more by including a few extra scenes with Joe and Marnie.
I really wanted to like this M/M, but I didn’t. A severe lack of dialogue disconnected me from the main characters, and when the novel is all about betrayal and break-up I wanted more tension and angst.