Series: Gold Coast Collage #1
Author: L.J. Hayward
Publication Date: May 25, 2020
Length: 240 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
Brian Stagliano’s life should be pretty sweet right now. Two of his closest friends are getting married, and he’s taking a new, exciting step in his career as a doctor. Most amazing though, his best mate has been given the all clear from cancer. But Brian’s normal has just been tipped A over T and the friendship he’s relied on for years is in danger. All because of five little words.
Andrew Fitzroy should be on top of the world. The cancer that’s haunted him is gone. He can finally get on with his life—except he doesn’t know what that life is anymore. Is he brave enough to come out as bisexual? Should he pursue architecture or stay in construction? Either way, Andrew knows happiness won’t be his until he has what his engaged friends have—love, joy, passion. So, he says those five little words to Brian—I’m in love with you.
Friends since childhood, Brian and Andrew have always been closer than brothers. Best mates. Nothing could ever tear them apart. Except for those five little words. Now, Brian’s not sure about so many things—their friendship, his own desires—and the foundation Andrew’s built his world on feels like its crumbling. But if they manage not to destroy everything they have together, Andrew and Brian might just find a new normal with each other.
Andrew is six months free of testicular cancer and finally feeling strong and able to face the life he has put on hold while recovering. His ex, Elle, who remained his good friend and another bestie, James, are about to get married and he has been asked to be best man. Andrew should be over the moon but all he can see is what he doesn’t have—the love he desperately wants from his longest friend and roommate, Brian.
Brian is about to start his new rotation on his way to full doctor status in Accident and Emergency. It has been a long haul caring for Andrew as he went through chemo and the entire cancer process and Brian was by his side through it all and would have it no other way. Since they were young and Andrew stood up for him on the playground at school, Brian and Andrew have been best friends. The idea that he nearly lost his mate still scares Brian. But all that is behind them and they are celebrating with their small group of friends, two of whom are about to be married. It’s a great night until a slightly inebriated Andrew confesses that he is in love with Brian and the world drops out from under both of them.
The New Normal is the first foray into L.J. Hayward’s work for me. I can see why this author has the following they do for this story is rich in emotion, soul searching moments and discovering how deeply friendship is intertwined with falling in love. This is not an insta-love trope but rather a real journey of finding out about one’s sexuality and how deeply connected one man can be to another. Brian is absolutely sideswiped by Andrew’s declaration and instead of taking it back the next day, Andrew tries to explain his feelings to a very frightened and slightly angry Brian. To say things are awkward in the beginning of this story is an understatement. But Andrew has been hiding how he feels for quite some time and hiding the fact that he has known he is bisexual for even longer. Brian, on the other hand, has never thought of himself as anything other than straight—until Andrew’s declaration--which gives the young doctor lots to think about. Can you be gay for just one man? Is he bisexual like Andrew? It’s all so confusing for Brian and he is not eager to label himself when he’s unsure what the label should be.
Thankfully Andrew not only understands but never pushes Brian to declare his sexuality. Instead the affection between them slowly morphs into an intimate relationship that they hide from their small circle of friends. It is lovely to watch these two become a couple—the honesty they share and the respect with which they treat each other is wonderful. Seriously if their friends would have just left them alone all would have been great and the rating for this novel would have been a solid five.
I think all the drama with Elle and James and their wedding, the multiple couplings that happened prior to this story beginning (Andrew and Elle, Brian and Andrew’s sister, Simone), and the feeling that they all lived in each other’s back pockets (and not in a good way) made this novel really stall for me. There were honestly times when I just wanted that whole group to go away—much like Andrew says more than once to Brian. It was too much and took away from the real central plot which should have been Brain and Andrew falling in love and discovering their “new normal” and how to live in it.
But truly there are some stellar moments in this book—I loved the cat and the way the two guys treated her. I applauded how the author had Brian grapple with the labeling of his sexuality and how his friend, Sean, from the hospital, led him through it all. I do wish the thing between Andrew and the architect had been settled somehow—that felt as though it was left unsatisfactorily moot—not really taken care of but no longer a threat. However I did love watching Andrew grow stronger in terms of asserting himself and standing up to their friends who were so upset when they discovered he and Brian were a couple.
In the end there were many things to enjoy in The New Normal and I will say this story left me hankering to read more by this author in the future.
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