Author: Christina Lee
Release Date: April 2, 2020
Length: 272 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
The last thing Emerson Rose expects is to fall for his best friend, Rhys, especially since he’s never been attracted to a man before. Everything in his life is already complicated enough. He’s put his own future on hold to raise his two younger siblings, and confusing feelings for the guy who always has his back muddy the waters even more. But then something astonishing happens. For one perfect moment, he thinks Rhys might feel the same—only to have his world come crashing down around him a second time.
Rhys Lancaster has always known he’s gay and that Emerson isn’t. Best friends since childhood, their easy companionship has usually been enough. Between his job, his adrenaline-filled adventures, and hanging out with Emerson and his siblings, he has it good…until he wakes up in the hospital with no memories of the last year of his life.
Like they normally do when things go horribly wrong, Rhys and Emerson support each other. Frustrated by all he’s lost, Rhys stays with Emerson during his recovery, and Emerson helps Rhys through the fog, while pushing those other feelings aside. To make matters worse, Rhys knows Emerson’s keeping something from him. Everything feels different now when he looks at Emerson, and as they fall into a comfortable routine, that aching desire doesn’t stay buried for long.
But Emerson has a family to raise, and Rhys is struggling to figure out what’s going on inside his head. Unless they can push past the doubts and fears to seal that connection between them again, this tragedy might become the one each has to weather alone.
Emerson and Rhys are inseparable and have been since they were young boys. Living across the street from each other, the two did everything together so when Rhys figured out he was gay he told his best friend first, of course. Emerson was a bit shocked but took it in stride after all what were best friends for? Six years later Emerson lost his parents to an accident and thoughts of going to nursing school went right out the window as he assumed the rearing of his two siblings. Again, Rhys was there for him—helping with the kids, celebrating every milestone. Then one night Emerson saw Rhys return from a date and watched as the two men said goodnight. Suddenly there was an odd stirring in his gut and he realized it was not only a bit of jealousy but arousing to him as well. Could he like Rhys more than a friend? But Emerson had always grappled with sex and the lack of emotional connection to his one and only girlfriend to date—could he be gay?
As time went on Emerson would realize it took a deep emotional response to feel anything sexual or otherwise about someone—male or female. He was demi sexual and more than a little infatuated with his best friend. But he could never act on his feelings and jeopardize what they had—losing Rhys would be intolerable. Then Rhys kissed him and the world turned upside down. Rhys bolted, Emerson worried and then the world crashed around them—Rhys had a climbing accident and the last year of his life, including that kiss, was a long forgotten memory Rhys might never get back.
A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies by Christina Lee explores the foundation of friendship when it is shaken by a mutual longing that is suddenly derailed. The bulk of this novel ponders the question what if? What if that kiss scared Rhys and his memory loss was for the best so that Emerson would never have to deal with being rejected by the one man he loved? What if Rhys didn’t run away because he was scared but because the full impact of Emerson coming out to him and their feelings were a bit overwhelming especially since Emerson’s little sister walked in on them? What if the climbing fall and subsequent amnesia saved them both from making a huge mistake and losing their friendship? So many questions swirled around in Emerson’s mind and it had the effect of squelching any mention of that fateful night. So the two men had an uneasy relationship—something both hated but never spoke about.
The premise for this story was a good one and at first I enjoyed how the two men both skirted around the obvious elephant in the room. The sexual tension followed up by Emerson’s grappling with all his doubts and fears and Rhys’ confusion about why Emerson was sometimes so distant was done very well. Unfortunately this went on for most of the novel—way too long, in my opinion. There are only so many ways an author can write about the same conflicting thoughts and emotions and honestly while I applaud Ms. Lee’s ability to ferret every one of those ways out and incorporate them in her story it got to be just too repetitive after a while. I wanted one of these men to make a move and it never happened until near the end of the novel. Then when it did, the circumstances surrounding it made Emerson doubt Rhys even more—I mean truly? That was when I seriously felt the story had moved into territory that just wasn’t realistic. Honestly these guys were best friends for years—surely they could trust each other not to lie to each other about something as important as to whether they wanted to be together.
This novel is a prime example of a little too much introspective musing making for a slower pace that often stalled and left me frustrated and wanting to give up on the book completely. I love a slow burn but this was more than that—this was a rehashing of a common theme that went on for much too long considering these were two grown adults who had known each other all their lives. I do think this story, A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies, will resonate with a certain audience but for me I felt a second editing to tighten the story line would have made this novel really shine.
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