One Real Thing, by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox
Can you believe this is the first m/m novel I’ve ever read? Yeah, me neither.
One Real Thing is a very sweet story, I think. At the start of the book, you see that organised, happy Nick is still concerned about his college friend Holly even when they haven’t seen each other for a long time. You also get to see how much of a mess Holly is in, staying in a dilapidated motel with a room full of drugs and a girl he doesn’t care about. Luckily for him, Nick realises he can’t just sit and watch his old friend’s self destruction, so making up a story for his wife and telling his boss he’s following a lead on a story, he goes to find Holly. It’s clear as soon as he pulls Holly away from the motel and back to Nick’s hotel that he cares for Holly a lot, but he doesn’t know that Holly would like to be a lot more than friends. As Holly recovers back in New York at an apartment Nick has rented for him, Nick remembers more about how he felt when they were in college together. He likes Holly, but keeps denying to himself how he really feels. I really liked how Nick took care of Holly. It’s the friendship between them, despite how much Holly thinks Nick should leave him alone, Nick stays there. I’ve found that’s an important part of friendship - taking care of someone when they can’t do it for themselves, even if they think they don’t need the help.
I like the way that Holly’s submissiveness is slowly introduced to his thoughts, and the reasoning behind it for Holly. It seemed real, and added to the sweetness of the story. He feels better just being around Nick, but at the same time he feels like he (Holly) is not good enough for him. It’s natural for him to do what Nick tells him, and Nick likes it when Holly just does things he says, without asking. There’s nothing particularly sexual about it, it’s just the right thing for them to do.
One character I really didn’t like was Danner, who Holly goes to work for. He just didn’t seem realistic. He’s very enthusiastic, but at one point his wife, Julie, compares being with him to looking after a puppy. To me, that’s exactly what it seemed like reading the book. He doesn’t act like a grown man, he acts like an immature kid who needs constant attention. Any scene or conversation with Danner in just had him acting so silly, I had to wince at the awkwardness of it. Thankfully, though, he doesn’t have a very large part in the book.
The second half of the book was my favourite. When his wife leaves him, Nick’s life falls apart, and it takes a while before Holly finds out, but he drops everything with his new job to come and help Nick. Free from his marriage, Nick is ready to listen to his feelings for Holly, and things get much more interesting: “I want your mouth. You always looked so good like that, your lips all soft and swollen. Such a pretty mouth.” Everything between them is always about taking care of each other, trying to please the other. I think that’s one of my favourite things about the story. I love how Nick opens up to Holly, and lets himself enjoy what they’ve got. You know that it’s going to be ok in the end, but it’s still nice to watch and see how they manage it. A very cute story, I really enjoyed it, and I would probably read more from these authors. I give it 7 stars out of 10.