This book is the first in a series called Seasons of Love, and when I saw that series title on Goodreads my first thought was, “Hey, that reminds me of Rent.” Then I actually read the book and realised that was deliberate. Wahey for musical theatre references.
Anyway, this is another ARC from NetGalley, and another LGBTQ+ book — I’m clearly starting the year as I mean to go on! Plus, both the queer books I’ve reviewed so far have fallen into the “unbury your queers” subcategory (e.g. books where the queer characters survive to the end, a very low bar that a lot of books still fail to meet).
It wasn’t quite what I expected, though. The blurb elicited a certain type of expectations: a character waking up without their memories and a boyfriend who seems very loving (maybe too loving?) but who isn’t telling them everything… well, the ideas that leapt into my head weren’t reassuring. Although I can’t give many details in this review without breaking my spoiler-free policy, I will say that I’m glad the truth wasn’t that Jason turned out to be an abusive arse who had abducted Noah and locked him in a cabin or something. So that was good.
At the time that I read this, I was in the mood for something gay and, well, this fulfils that requirement pretty adequately. It even has musical theatre in it; Rent‘s not one of my favourite musicals, but I’ve actually seen it, which puts it above a fair few others, and meant I got the references and knew what was happening in the rehearsal scenes later in the book.
It’s possible those scenes might have been lost on someone who didn’t know anything about Rent, making it a bit confusing. That said, it’s a fairly well-known show that’s been made into a film, so most people might have at least heard the songs. It’s not like the author picked something super obscure that would throw everyone off.
While this isn’t the most ‘adult’ of the LGBTQ+ books I’ve read over the last couple of months, it’s still got some explicit sex scenes, which might not be my followers’ cup of tea. In this case, it wasn’t really mine either. I’m not great with explicit stuff, especially m/m, so I was reading for the rest of the relationship and for the plot. Thankfully, those were much bigger features of the books, and while I skimmed through the sex scenes, they didn’t seem too awkwardly written. I’ve definitely come across worse — at least there were no terrible euphemisms here. (My issue with sex scenes involving only cis dudes is that penises generally freak me out, and since I have neither interest in nor experience with them, it’s also very hard to relate to what’s going on. So it’s just weird and uncomfortable.)
This is a tricky book to review because I’m trying very hard to avoid spoilers, and a lot of what was clever about it was the way that details were gradually teased out, allowing the reader to join the dots at the same time as Noah was rediscovering his memories. Although it wasn’t entirely realistic (I don’t know much about amnesia, but I don’t tend to live my memories as entire scenes, they’re usually random images and disconnected bits and pieces), it made for an effective plot device, and I came to several wrong conclusions before I figured one out that was fairly close to the truth. The reveal is far from the end of the story, though, and there’s plenty of plot afterwards. For a short book, there’s a lot of character development and emotions crammed in there.
My one critical point would be that I didn’t feel the writing style was all that strong. It wasn’t bad writing — I’ve come across some of that lately and it stands out like a massive red flag — but it just wasn’t super polished, either. Quite often, the narrative told me too much about what Noah was thinking or feeling, instead of allowing me to figure it out. Too much telling and not enough showing, I suppose. It would have been nice to see more of the subtle emotional description, rather than just being told that a character was confused or whatever.
Since that’s my only negative point, my reason for giving the book a slightly lower rating than you might expect is mainly that it just didn’t entirely do it for me. I give four stars to books I really enjoyed but which weren’t perfect — since I’m not so keen on books where romance is the dominant feature, it would’ve been hard for this to get that unless it totally blew my mind, which it didn’t. That’s more about my personal tastes in books than a judgement on it.