Title: Beyond the Surface
Series: The Breakfast Club #1
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: M/M Romance
Release: August 17, 2015
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.
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 f*cking 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 f*cking 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 f*cking 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 sh*t 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'm a huge second chance romance fan, and I'm also a pretty big M/M fan thanks to the emotional stories the genre produces. Having both in the same story? Yes, please. And just for a teeny, tiny bit more emotional impact...let's add in some leftover 9/11 emotional remnants for one of our lead characters. Oh, while you're at it let's not forget some homophobic characters to really stir up the pot. That's a lot of emotion in one story, which for me results in a pretty fantastic read.
LOVE the characters. Julian has the perfect mix of confidence, loyalty, and devotion, not to mention his perseverance and dedication to his career. Nick is our emotion guy. Very much closeted and brimming with a ton of issues stemming from the events of 9/11 (not to mention the whole in-the-closet thing), you can't help but be sympathetic to his character while silently cheering him on to admit who he really is-not just to everyone around him but also to himself. When the two of them find each other again after going separate ways in high school, everything just starts clicking--but there's still the burden of Nick's deeply-seated issues hanging over them for the two of them to overcome.
From this comes the drama of the story, but the two of them together just spark such passion (in and out of the bedroom) that as a reader I could clearly see that between the two of them, there's nothing they can't overcome if they do it together. There's tension, plenty of drama, and the journey of two people who are so clearly soul mates coming back to each other...along with all the turmoil that comes along with that. It will draw you in and not let you go until the very last page.
There's plenty of amazing secondary characters as well. I adored Marcus and Zane, Julian's close friends and former roommates. Marcus was a real trip with his exceedingly outgoing personality, and Zane seemed so quiet and sensitive-just the opposite of Marcus. They're at two ends of the spectrum, and Julian falls right in between the two of them. The fact that Beyond the Surface is book #1 in The Breakfast Club series, and the three of them meet regularly for breakfast tells me that I'm going to have some more wonderful stories and these great characters to look forward to, and I can't wait to see where the author takes these characters.
Nick and Julian are a perfect match, like interlocking pieces of a puzzle-they actually make each other better, with both expanding the other's horizons and together as a couple they are just...complete. Both of them grow as characters in this story, and watching the changes in the two of them felt quite satisfying. The chemistry between them is off the charts, which results in some quite intense, passionate intimate scenes.
Beyond the Surface was a 4.5-star read for me, and I have to say that Felice Stevens is quickly becoming a favorite for me in the M/M romance genre! Recommended for 18+ due to adult language and M/M adult sexual scenes.
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.