Title: Maybe This Time
Series: The Belonging Series, #2
Author: A.M. Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication date: July 21st 2014
Page Count: 168 pages
Age Rating: Adult (explicit sexual scenes, language, mentions of violence and sexual assault)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: Maybe This Time
As a regular at gay hotspot Pot O Gold, Ezra Kelley avoids his tangled emotions with the simplicity of one-night stands and attachment-free hookups. Until the night bartender Donner Davis picks him up off the floor after a misunderstanding and too much tequila. Ezra can’t remember the last time someone was…nice. It’s more than he deserves.
Witnessing his lover’s death two years ago has Donner trapped in a holding pattern–living in his sister’s basement, working at the Pot and flirting with the customers. He’s not above spending a night with the gorgeous Ezra, but love is not in the cards. That’s more than he’s ready for.
A passionate night leads to a connection neither man expects, and they take the first steps to something that looks like a real relationship. But Ezra’s been running from himself so long he doesn’t know how to live any other way. And Donner can’t risk his heart just to lose everything again. They’ll both need the strength to let go of the past if they want to get it right this time.
Maybe This Time was a quick read for me and I was surprised upon finishing it to realize it’s a full length novel and not a novella. I just devoured it in one sitting, stuck in the angst-ridden tension of Ezra’s and Donner’s unfolding relationship.
To say Ezra and Donner have not had it easy in life is an understatement. Both men come from traumatizing backgrounds with horrible parents (to say the least). Both have loved and lost the person they thought was their forever (Ezra’s ex pretty much abandoned him after a move to a new city and Donner’s partner of six years was killed in a senseless act of violence). Now Ezra goes for no attachment fun and Donner hasn’t opened himself up to the possibility of anything long-term in a longtime. Ezra’s preferred hunting ground for willing partners happens to be Pot O Gold, where Donner works as a bartender. Despite the fact that neither man is looking for more at the time, when the two finally meet they just seem to click. Ezra’s never had someone show they care for him the way Donner does and there’s something about Ezra that makes Donner want to put himself out there and let someone in again. It’s not all smooth sailing, and some miscommunications lead to a rocky start, but they’ve stumbled upon something together worth fighting for and they both know it.
Actions speak louder than words in this book when it comes to how the characters perceive themselves and how others perceive them. Ezra thinks he has no real friends, but he cares deeply for his friend/occasional hook-up Romy and goes out of his way to help the other man when he finds himself in a bad situation. He also has good friends in couple Jamie and Alessandro (the main characters from the first book in this series, No Such Thing, that I can’t wait to get my hands on) who likewise go out of their way when Ezra needs them. Ezra knows how to use what he has – including extensive experience in the bedroom and eye-catching looks (white blonde hair and colored contacts he matches to his outfits), but while he oozes self-confidence he lacks real self-esteem. He just does’t think he’s good enough for someone like Donner, who actually seems to care about him as a person and who looks like a tough guy but whose big heart leads him to feed the hungry in his spare time and cry when his sister’s dog gets really sick.
Spoiler warning: be warned there is a scene where Ezra interacts with someone who is not Donner in an explicit sexual act. It’s before they get together, so there’s no cheating, but I still skimmed that section as much as I could since I’m kind of a purist when it comes to intimacy in romances, I’m seriously not fond of any hook-ups outside of the main characters.
I enjoyed this book from beginning to end (barring the one incident mentioned above). It’s a page-turner for sure with great characters and emotional tension that never quite eases until the last page. It’s the first time I’ve read this author and I can tell you they know how to a hook a reader and not let go – I’ll for sure be on the lookout for more books by A.M. Arthur.
Ezra is a man after my own heart – a coffee lover. His go-to morning brew is “eye-opening Ethiopian coffee”. I’m sure Ezra, a self-described “coffee snob” would want to try Open Eye Café Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Coffee – a medium (on the light side) roast coffee with a thick, almost syrupy sweetness balanced out with spice, citrus, and floral tastes.