Let Love Live (Love, Book 5) by Melissa Collins (Self-published July 5, 2014, 407 pages. Audiobook published by Tantor Audio, January, 27, 2015, 10 hrs and 12 minutes length. Narrated by Sean Crisden and Marc Bachmann.) An ebook copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
I picked Let Love Live by Melissa Collins to review during Reviewer’s choice week because I love a good angsty story. I had already purchased the audiobook though, so chose to review that version instead of the ebook.
Love is Love by Melissa Collins
Let Love Live is my sixth novel in my series, but it is my first gay romance. I tried to approach the novel much like I had my previous M/f novels. I mean, it’s the story of two people falling in love, after all. But, there is something extra passionate about two men falling for each other. There’s honesty and passion, and more openness than some M/f romance I’ve read. Dylan has had a traumatic past (for those who have read it, you know what I mean. And for those who haven’t, just be sure you have your tissues handy). He’s not in need of someone to heal him, to make him all better. What he needs is a reason to be happy again. He’s been surviving the last eight years of his life, but he has a good job and he loves his family. Deep down, he just knows there’s more out there, but he feels like he’s not worthy of it.
So as I created Conner, the character who brings Dylan back to life, I just wanted him to be like any other hero. He fights for Dylan, even when Dylan is a jerk. When the two finally come together, their connection is so intense. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in my first M/m romance because the overall theme is that love is for everyone – gay or straight, traumatic past or not.
Who would you become if you lost the only person who ever mattered?
For 26-year-old Dylan Hopkins, the answer is easy. He’s become no one. Memories of the happier times are all he has left, as he finds himself meandering numbly through his now dull life. Though he cares about his work and family dearly, he has yet to let himself find love again. Afraid of letting go of what he once had, Dylan chooses to keep his heart buried, where it belongs, having died a long time ago.
Conner Michelson is about to change everything Dylan knows. He’s every bit the bad boy persona – tatted up, ex-MMA fighter – but after an injury leaves him unable to fight, he has to rethink his goals. Having just opened his own gym, Conner can cross his first major life accomplishment off his very short list. Next up: find a man he can settle down with and build a family. Seems simple enough – a dream most people have – but when he meets Dylan, his carefree, easy-going life is thrown into a tailspin.
The narration: This was the first m/m romance I listened to with two narrators. I suppose I could understand the use of two narrators in an m/f romance but was confused by the choice to use more than one in this case. Yes, both characters deserve their own sound. However, when using a good narrator, they can and do usually create different pitches and/or accents for the characters and two separate narrators each creating two different voices for one story is overkill for me. I’ve listened to Marc Bachmann before and he’s a decent narrator with a pleasant voice but in this audio, Sean Crisden brought more life to the story; more emotion. I always enjoy books narrated by him. Even though the dual narration felt unnecessary to me, I still enjoyed the listening experience. If you aren’t able to find the time to read this 400+ page book, I definitely recommend the audio.
The story: Let Love Live is the 5th full novel of the Love series and it stands apart because it features the only same-sex couple. It contains two very separate love stories that share equal time on page, one happy and one sad. I don’t feel the blurb explains that well enough. It can definitely be read as a standalone, but I have to say I am curious to read the first book because Dylan’s best friend is Reid who is the male main character and he has gone through a lot in his past. I am curious to read how that affected him in adulthood and in his romantic life.
The first half of this book is titled “Before” and is devoted to Dylan and Shane. The POV changes back and forth between the two characters as does the narration. Dylan has known Shane and his brother Reid since childhood and the three are very close. Dylan and Shane grow up and play baseball together, and in high school each begins to realize that they have feelings for each other. As the truth of their sexuality comes to light Shane cuts off his friendship with Dylan.
Dylan’s parents react like I wish all parents would react, with love and acceptance. Shane who has known a life of physical and emotional abuse doesn’t even dream of telling his parents how he feels. It’s easier to cut off ties with the person who has come to mean too much for him. The two boys eventually give into their feelings but have to keep it on the down low. I’m sure Dylan would prefer it to be different, but the relationship is working for them until Shane tries too hard to be something he’s not.
Considering that Shane’s name isn’t even mentioned in the blurb, it’s obvious that this is a love story without a happy ending, though I had really hoped for a better fate for them than what happens. Make sure you have your tissues ready. I cried and wanted to scream in anger, not because of what the author wrote, but because I knew that in reality things like this happen. Parents abuse their kids and get away with it. People can feel so alone, so in pain, that they make choices I wish they didn’t feel they had to make. The first part of the story gutted me, but like I said I love angst. I want to be put through an emotional wringer but only for a little while and so life goes on.
The second part of the book titled “After.” As with the first part, the story is told through both Dylan and Conner’s perspectives switching back and forth. The narrator who took care of Shane’s POV now takes over Conner’s. Dylan now works with Reid at a Gay-Straight Alliance center, counseling teens. Reid is happily married with kids, but Dylan is struggling still with finding happiness. He feels a lot of guilt over his past and I think that he keeps people at a distance not only to protect his heart from getting hurt again, but also because he doesn’t feel he deserves happiness. Until he joins the newly opened gym that happens to be owned by Conner.
Conner has known loss and pain in his past. His career as an MMA fighter ends due to a head injury. He and his sister run the gym together and live together. He finds himself immediately attracted to Dylan but thinks that he is taken. Also he has been betrayed in the past. Neither man is looking to start a serious relationship, but Conner isn’t interested in one night stand’s either. For Dylan, Conner is a challenge. Conner won’t let him dial in a relationship or use him for sex. Dates are required, talking and getting to know one another. He breaks through Dylan’s barriers and they both might find a happy ending yet. It’s not an easy relationship with both of them carrying baggage, but I really liked them together.
This book definitely took me on a roller coaster of emotions. For me a really good book is one that makes me feel. I enjoy sweet, uncomplicated romances. However, when there is pain before the happy ending, rain before the sun, I can’t help but embrace the book deep in my soul. The fact that the author even has me wanting to read a heterosexual romance after 2 years of strictly male/male really says something about her writing ability. I definitely recommend the book.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melissa Collins has always been a book worm. Studying Literature in college ensured that her nose was always stuck in a book. She followed her passion for reading to the most logical career choice: English teacher. Her hope was to share her passion for reading and the escapism of books to her students. Having spent more than a decade in front of a classroom, she can easily say that it’s been a dream.
Her passion for writing didn’t start until more recently. When she was home on maternity leave in early 2012, she read her first romance novel and her head filled with the passion, angst and laughter of the characters who she read about it. It wasn’t long before characters of her own took shape in her mind. Their lives took over Melissa’s brain and The Love Series was born.
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Twitter – @mcollinsauthor
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