Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher: Danvers Writing and Publishing LLC

Genre: Gay Romance

Tags: Contemporary, Age Gap (9 Years), Grumpy/Sunshine, Humor, Past Bullying/Violence, Romance, Series

Length: 166 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon

This review has spoilers. Keep that in mind before reading.

Blurb –

Julian Gray has everything he thought he wanted after graduation–an adrenaline-raising job, access to the city’s nightlife, and his pick of one-night stands. And yet somehow, he’s bored out of his mind.
Self-proclaimed recluse Derek Campbell is doing just fine on his own, having learned to trust no one at a young age. But after an accident leaves him temporarily unable to care for himself, his meddling nephew hires Derek a private nurse full of snark and attitude.
Derek’s independent, lonely world doesn’t seem so attractive anymore–but can he and Julian put aside their insecure pasts to find a life together?

The Unraveling of Julian Gray is a quick read hurt/comfort m/m romance with low angst and high humor. bullying, explicit content, broken bones, medical situations.

Review –

This started out really good. First, there’s a prologue that explains some things in Julian’s life when he was a child. Second, Derek is introduced when an aggravating weathervane in his fixer-upper farmhouse causes him to have an accident and break his leg. Julian’s a nurse, so it’s obvious right off that he’ll be Derek’s private nurse. The question, however, is how do they get to that point when they’ve never met?

This is where Jonah and Kelly come in from The Unmasking of Kelly James (Tavern Boys, #1). Without bogging down my review with detail overload by explaining the how and why, I’ll just say that Derek, though younger, is Jonah’s uncle. Neither has anything to do with the family (anymore in Jonah’s case, ever in Derek’s). Being his only relative, Derek’s assistant calls Jonah, and he and Kelly show up at the hospital.

Let me tell you about Jonah and Kelly. They’re as different as night and day. Kelly has a live and let live attitude about him when Jonah has anything but. Doesn’t matter. They’re amazing together.

Derek’s first impression of Kelly isn’t that great but only because Derek’s an old (not really… he’s only 36) fuddy dud. Derek being a grumpy butt refuses help from the ‘family’ even when he meets one of Kelly’s best friends, Julian, who just happens to be a nurse. Long story a little shorter, Julian ends up being his private nurse anyway – first at Jonah’s, and later, at Derek’s home.

All this started out great. Really. I was able to see Kelly, one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. I saw Jonah’s too-smart-for-their-years kids, who I absolutely adored. And it was so nice seeing Jonah again. He’s head over heels in love with Kelly and doesn’t care who knows it. They never failed to make me laugh out loud, especially Kelly and the kids.

But here’s the thing… I loved Kelly, Jonah, the kids. I liked Julian for the most part. I guess I liked Derek well enough. But I think I’m mostly basing my rating on when Kelly, Jonah, and the kids were on page. Not the two main characters of The Unraveling of Julian Gray.

Derek and Julian have a love/hate relationship that changes to a lust/love/hate relationship in almost no time at all. They’re attracted to each other, but they’re both a little slow on the uptake when it comes to showing it. When their attraction was made known – from both sides – it felt weird, stilted. Something happens to push them along, and then… nothing. Seriously, nothing. No talking about it or moving ahead in the relationship. It was just something that happened and was pretty much forgotten. When they did eventually get their heads out of their asses together, it was thanks to Kelly pushing them in the right direction, not them actually having a – wait for it – conversation! 

Okay, so Kelly plays little matchmaker and literally forces the two men together. This was awesome, right? Heh, not so much. Again, something major happened and then it wasn’t mentioned again really. Sure, it moved them along a little bit in their relationship, but it still felt off.

The other ‘tavern boy’s – Zane, Henry, Dylan – come together in this book as they did in the last one. I said in my review of The Unmasking of Kelly James that the jury was still out when it came to Zane. It’s even more so after reading the second book. I think I was supposed to be sympathetic with regard to him? Instead, I was thinking how childish he was acting. Hopefully his book changes everything for me, though I can’t say I’m as eager to read his story as I am Henry’s.

Dylan was the loyal one; even to a fault. Kelly was their spirit, wild and carefree. Zane was the goofball, or at least he had been once. Henry, though… Henry was their heart, and hearts are easily broken.

As for Julian? He was their protector, their white knight in shiny armor, and he’d clearly failed at that. He hadn’t protected them from time, and distance, and the inevitability of growing apart.

There were quite a few inconsistencies and lack of necessary details.

Some consistencies include –

  • 55% – Julian has a nightmare while he’s staying at Derek’s place, while he’s his private nurse. Derek is on the first floor of the house sleeping on the pullout sofa because he can’t go upstairs because of his broken leg. Even so, Derek hears Julian’s cries in his sleep – in an upstairs bedroom – and ‘hobbles toward Julian’s door’. How? At no point does it mention how he made it up the stairs.
  • In the beginning of Julian becoming Derek’s private nurse, it was stated that Julian could take time off from his real job for 2 weeks. Before long he was with Derek for 2 months. While that was kind of explained with Julian taking a job at his aunt’s (I think?) family practice in town, that brings me to something else. His leaving his other job was talked about – it even showed a conversation between him and his boss – the position with the aunt was thrown out, and then nothing. It was all a done deal without telling the reader the how and why.
  • The biggest inconsistency – and I’m not the only reviewer pointing it out – is also in the timeline. Derek and Julian throw an engagement party for Kelly and Jonah at Derek’s place. It’s stated more than once that it’s on Labor Day. Okay, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. Just a few pages later, they’re talking about it being the first week of August. Honestly, how was this not caught by somebody?

Other issues I had with the story –

  • Conversation between Julian and Zane @ 95% – Crocheters and knitters tended to be in the midst of an unspoken war with each other, but Julian could lay down his weapons – er, needles – to figure out how to crochet for Julian’s sake. <<←– Should be for ZANE’S sake.

  • At one point Derek throws out something about how he’ll love Julian no matter what, etc. Great, right? Not really because it wasn’t acknowledged by Julian or even mentioned again. There are no Aww! declarations of love in this book, which annoyed me to no end. It went from them talking about living together when Derek’s cast came off, to an epilogue where they’re married and then saying the L word to each other literally in the last paragraph? No. I’m an emotional reader. I’m also a hopeless romantic. I wanted to see the original declarations when they happened, not long after the fact. I don’t like that it was thrown out as an afterthought.

  • Too many details missing or glossed over. Show me when things happen, not throw out a quick mention long after the fact. I’m talking major things.

I loved Julian’s parents and Toby, the vegetable stealing cat. There was also Derek’s simple breakfast that he had every single morning, instant grits and black coffee. I’m a southerner, so we’re practically born eating grits. Throw in the black coffee and that’s the perfect breakfast in my opinion. 😉

Overall, I liked this well enough – obviously because I gave it 4 stars. But this again brings me to this… am I rating it 4 stars for Julian and Derek? Or are those stars for when Kelly, Jonah, and the kids were on page making me laugh? Honestly, I don’t know for sure. Even so, it was an enjoyable read. It just could have been a whole lot better, in my opinion.