Halo, E.M. Lindsey (The Beginning of Always, #1)
Rating: 3 Stars
Publisher: E.M. Lindsey
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Age Gap, Bi Character, Disability, First Time, Insta-Love, Rent Boy, Series
Length: 284 Pages
Purchase At: Amazon
*This review has spoilers.*
One mistake: Victor got into the wrong car.
One decision: Oliver didn’t kick him out.
One lie: neither of them knows who the other person is— at least, not until it’s too late to turn back.
There are many words for what Oliver does for a living.
Man of the night.
Not to mention a few others his clients like to sling at him when they want to be cruel.
But Oliver’s time in that industry is coming to an end, so when a gorgeous older man with sad eyes tumbles into his path and thinks he’s someone else, Oliver finds it impossible turn him away, no matter how much it’s going to hurt when it’s all over.
And not just because Victor looks at him like he’s an angel, even when learns who Oliver really is. So, for the first time in his life, Oliver’s willing to fight for what he wants.
And, more importantly, for who.
Halo is a stand-alone novel featuring an age gap romance, the best hot wings known to man, the merits of good gas station burritos, aquarium dates, sight-seeing, meteor showers, slow dancing, kissing hands, and the most hard-won happily ever after you may ever read.
Halo starts out with Victor, a successful businessman, walking in on his fiancee and his best friend and business partner having sex in his penthouse. Alice was the fiancee, Charlie the friend. Instead of cancelling the honeymoon, Victor decided to go by himself. This, of course, was after the wedding was cancelled, and Alice threw a bit of a fit thinking Victor would forgive her and Charlie because he couldn’t do better than her. I say the last part because the entire book goes on about how everybody thought Victor was less than because he has cerebral palsy and wears leg braces. I guess he was expected to be okay with her and Charlie having a longtime affair and go through with the wedding…. all because everybody was convinced – including Victor – that nobody else would want him.
When he gets to the honeymoon spot – only a three hour or so drive from his home because Alice wanted to stay close during the honeymoon – he hires a car with the intention of at least doing some of the things he’d originally planned. He ends up getting into the wrong car, and not being corrected by the ‘driver’. That driver was Oliver. They go to a hockey game, and while there, Victor discovers that Oliver isn’t who he thought he was.
Victor gets mad and has Oliver take him back to his hotel. This turn of events is upsetting to both because they were genuinely having a nice time before the truth came out. Not only did Oliver help Victor step out of his comfort zone with the hockey game, he also tried messy chicken wings when he’d never done that before.
Apparently Victor, because of his wealth, never did most things an average guy would do.
I get not doing those things, and even a few others that he’d not experienced, but the book made it sound like Victor had lived solely in this little bubble his entire life. Seriously, what would be normal to, well, pretty much anybody, wasn’t to him. It wasn’t one or two things. It was pretty much everything Oliver mentioned or suggested. I get that the super wealthy live different lives than people like us, but still. This made it sound like he didn’t know that certain basic things even existed.
Oliver is a part-time rent boy, using the money he makes to pay for his education so he won’t be stuck in debt. He’s in his last semester before getting his master’s. His goal is to become a history teacher.
Victor ends up texting Oliver, they work out an arrangement to spend the week together, and then they’ll go their separate ways. Only when the week ends, they’ve both fallen in love with each other. Fast, yes, but it happened.
The week they spend together was okay, I guess? It was mostly hanging out and doing a few things sexually, a lot not on-page, just no penetration until their last night together. The reader can see that they already care about each other, even if I never really felt it. Oh, they shared sweet words and touches here and there, but that was about it.
When the week is over, Victor goes back to his old life but makes a lot of changes. He doesn’t know what he wants to do yet, but he does know he doesn’t want to be stuck continuing to live a life that made him miserable, especially after being betrayed by those he was closest to, including Emil, another business partner and so-called friend.
I’ll come back to Emil.
There’s quite a bit of talk about Alice not wanting a scandal because her father is a politician. Charlie doesn’t want anything getting out because he’s married with children. But then it says that Alice was attempting to sue Victor for things she could never get like his penthouse that he owned before meeting her. She even had a meltdown over him cancelling the wedding dress order.
I was NOT happy with the
lack of resolution with Alice and Charlie. Oh, I know what happened to them later, but none of it was on-page. The same applies to Charlie’s wife, Hannah. She finds out about the affair and tells Victor that she’s going to take Charlie for everything he owns. Okay, cool! But did she? I don’t know because it’s never mentioned again.
Was there a scandal? How did people – including Alice’s politician dad – feel when Alice’s engagement to Victor ended abruptly and not long after, she got with one of his so-called best friends?
I’m just going to go ahead and list other things that bugged me about this book.
There’s an age gap between Victor and Oliver, apparently a substantial one. How old were they? I don’t know because I don’t believe their ages were mentioned at all in the book. I’m guessing in the twenties for Oliver, but I have no clue with Victor. I’m weird because I need numbers. Don’t just say there’s an age gap and leave it at that.
The week Victor and Oliver spent together felt too transactional. Yes, they had dates, sex, and a few snuggles here and there, but it all boiled down (for me) to the fact that Oliver was getting paid $15,000 for that week. He had plenty of money saved. He didn’t need Victor’s. Their romance would’ve been more believable to me had Oliver turned down the money and shown Victor that he truly wanted to be with him during those few days.
Things happen fast, as in, they fall in love fast. I’m all about insta-love if it’s written well. I never felt it with these two.
There are seven months between the time they separate after their week together and when they reunite. A few weeks I could probably understand as they both had to get things figured out in their own lives, but not seven months.
Emil. Where do I start? Emil was very aware of the affair Alice and Charlie were having. Hell, pretty much everybody in the company was aware. Instead of doing the right thing by telling Victor, he allowed him to make a fool of himself by almost going through with the wedding. He also made it clear that he was one of the people who saw Victor as less than and unable to find anybody else because of his disability. He figured a cheating Alice was better than nobody at all. That’s my take anyway. He claimed to be trying to stay neutral, but with friends like Emil, who needs enemies?
Now back to Victor’s wealth. He wasn’t just rich, he was SUPER rich. All that’s fine and good. What wasn’t was how he and Oliver basically battled with each other and themselves over their differences as far as money and the lives they lived. Oliver wasn’t broke. He had well over six figures saved, even after paying for college, but he could never be put in the same category as Victor. Okay, I get that. There were some major differences there. But, honestly, their differences were brought up too much. We get it. Really. Oliver is a part-time rent boy who turns tricks to pay for college, and Victor’s never even had a hot dog or been inside a convenience store before. It explains how sheltered he was growing up, but he’s a grown man now, you know? He had zero street smarts, and was very naive in my opinion.
The epilogue was honestly not necessary. It takes place a little bit down the road, though I don’t know how far. It’s nothing more than a quickie romantic moment, and a not very satisfying sex scene. There’s talk of Oliver having been emotional over something and crying when he didn’t think Victor heard him. I’m guessing this was with regard to his new job teaching? It did introduce Renzo (from the next book), by name anyway.
Which brings me back to Emil. His and Renzo’s book is next, but I honestly hated Emil so much in this one that it’s highly unlikely that I’ll read his story. I didn’t buy his apologies to Victor. All I saw was somebody not much better than Charlie and Alice. He was nothing more than a fake friend in my opinion. He knew the affair had been going on basically from the start. He chose not to tell Victor. He chose not to tell Victor because he, like everybody else, though Victor wasn’t good enough to find anybody else. I guess it was expected for him to just settle for a woman who was cheating with Victor’s best friend, and everybody knew about it? It’s like they were laughing at Victor behind his back.
There was entirely too much woe-is-me-I’m-not-good-enough-for-anybody-so-I-settled-for-a-woman-I-didn’t-even-like-so-I-wouldn’t-be-lonely from Victor. For a moment, he almost forgave her; again, because he didn’t want to be alone, and he thought he wasn’t good enough for anybody else.
I did like that Oliver wears sexy panties, though I would’ve preferred the sex scenes be more exciting.
Overall, Halo was okay. It didn’t wow me, and I felt like I was being told a whole lot of stuff without being shown much. It dragged in too many places, and as I said above, the whole week felt too transactional between Victor and Oliver. By the time they came back together, I was long over it.
It’s highly doubtful that I’ll be reading the next in the series, Most of You, though the story would look really good to me had I not already been introduced to Emil.
I do love the cover. The model is perfect for Oliver.