Melissa reviews Controlled Burn by Erin McLellan Expected publication: August 14th 2017 by Riptide Publishing, 309 pages.
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.
An ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: Simply – the blurb spoke to me. I love a story with angst and this one just screamed it had that.
I just have to say WOW, this was an amazing debut novel for Erin McLellan. I love the cover (it’s so perfect!) and the title makes sense now that I’ve read the entire story. I just loved these guys! The whole time I read this I felt all warm and squishy, LOL. Joel and Paulie are great together. There is no insta-love here, so don’t worry. They start off as casual friends (Paulie basically dumfounds an agreement from Joel to be a back up note taker, just in case Paulie misses a class, he wants to borrow Joel’s notes, so he better be good!), and then as they spend more time together at the club, feelings start to develop. Joel has been suffering from the death of his high school boyfriend and has not been ready for a serious relationship and so has stuck to casual hookups. Until Paulie.
And oh boy, are they electric together. The characters were written realistically and as much as some of their decisions angered me, I understood them.
There are several heartbreaking moments between these guys, and with Paulie’s family too, but I shouldn’t go into those details because of spoilers. 😉
The conflict is not just with Paulie and his family, or later between Joel and Paulie. There’s also family drama angst with Joel’s parents. After Diego’s death and the kids being outed by the press in the aftermath, Joel’s parents separated. Joel’s father is a jerk, but as we see more of him, it’s obvious he loves his son, he just doesn’t understand him or how to relate to him. The only thing they have in common is their love of westerns – not much to base a bonding father/son relationship on. In the end, I think they will find their way, and they have a tentative start before the book ends.
“I was dating him because I love him…But Paulie made me feel normal and happy. And I screwed it up.”
“Sounds like you need to figure out a way to get him back, then, son. It’s not easy, though. Let me tell you.”
You can tell that Joel’s father is trying, and it really touched me that he said this, even though he doesn’t understand his son being gay, he wants him to be happy. This is why I think they will eventually form a tight bond with each other. It won’t be for years to come, and it will take all those years in between, but one day they will have the relationship they both always wanted. Of course, the author could prove me wrong and write a sequel (there is room for that) that shows otherwise, but I choose to see HEA everywhere. 🙂
I highly recommend this and I can’t wait to read more by this author. Oh, and there was a lot of sex, a lot, and after a while I skimmed those parts because, well, you know why.
Erin McLellan writes contemporary romance with characters that are complex, goodhearted, and sometimes a little quirky. She likes her stories to have a sexy spark and a happily ever after.
Erin has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. A former public librarian, Erin still enjoys being surrounded by books and readers, but now she hopes to find her stories on the shelves as well.
Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska with her husband and spends her time dreaming up love stories set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr. Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.