Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blog Tour ARC Review + Giveaway: Beyond the Surface by Felice Stevens

Beyond the Surface
The Breakfast Club #1
by Felice Stevens
Genre: M/M Romance
Release:  August 17, 2015

On 9/11, firefighter Nick Fletcher’s world changed forever. He's unable to rid himself of survivor’s guilt, made worse by the secret he hides from his family and co-workers. Nick's life is centered around helping burn victims, until he is reunited with the man he’d once loved but pushed away. Now he has a second chance at a love he thought lost forever.

For fashion designer Julian Cornell, appearances mean everything. His love affairs are strictly casual, and the only thing he cares about is making his clothing line a success. A chance encounter with the man he loved long ago has Julian thinking for the first time in years there may be more to life than being seen at the best parties and what designer labels to wear.

When Julian’s world takes an unexpected turn, it's Nick who helps him regain perspective on what matters most in life. Julian, in turn, helps Nick accept who he is and understand he isn’t responsible for tragedies he couldn't prevent. Lost love found can be even sweeter the second time around and after all the years apart, both men learn to look beyond the surface to find the men they are inside.

( 5 stars)

"We've been given a second chance. Some people never even get a first."

Nick Fletcher is the closet gay firefighter.
Julian Cornell is the stereotypical gay fashion designer.

Julian was in love with Nick since they were sixteen, but due to Nick's inability to come out, they both separated from each other with bruised hearts

Decades later, Nick's working as a trainer for new firefighter recruits and dealing with the survival guilt from the 9/11 incident. While Julian's career came crashing down after his unsuccessful runway show.

When these two men meet again, Nick and Julian started to reevaluate what they really want in their life and finding happiness amidst the prejudice. 

"Is it normal to live a lie because you're too scared to tell the truth?"

Most of the M/M romance tends to deal with closet gay, and Beyond the Surface is the same. Nick is the one having the hard time to acknowledge who he is and feeling sorry for surviving 9/11, while his comrades were sacrificed. He had always envied Julian's ability to held his head high and proud of his own sexuality.

Julian had been enjoying his fabulous life in the fashion arena up until the day his reputation was in tattered. After being confronted by Nick of his vanity and meeting the burnt survivor, Julian found a new purpose for his fashion again and for a better cause. 

"Your entire focus is caught up in appearances and what others think of you. There are people out there who are hurting with real issue."

What I love about Nick and Julian's relationship is that they both bring out the best in each other. Nick's journey to self-acceptance and his coming out to his family and colleagues is something to be admire. Also hats off to the author for acknowledging the burnt victim survivor. I wonder can Julian's idea works in real life.

Not to forget, Julian's two fabulous bff, Marcus and Zach. Their routine breakfast-get-together reminds me of the ladies in Sex and the City. I simply adore both the manwhore Marcus and the introvert Zach. I'm sure Felice plans to write more about the guys later. Although the ending feels a bit too neat, I will enjoy it as it is. 

"I'd thrown myself into a world where no one looks beyond the surface. They live mediocre lives, content to judge people by the visual, rather than forging friendship based on true character."

Julian was in the kitchen, sitting on one of the stools by the counter. He had a glass in front of him filled with what Nick presumed was vodka, having spied the Grey Goose bottle.
“Would you like a drink? I have beer, wine…anything you’d like.”
Nick shook his head, regret piercing his heart as he watched the hope drain from Julian’s eyes.
“I don’t think so. I’m going to head home. I want you to know how much I appreciate what you did for Jamal tonight.”
Julian stood abruptly, kicking the stool away from his feet.
“Don’t treat me like I’m some fucking stranger, Nicky. You owe me. It’s been eighteen years; you think I’m going to let you walk out on me again like you did before? After what just happened between us? After you fell apart? No fucking way. I’m not that same person and neither are you, obviously.”
Taken aback by Julian’s anger, Nick remained mute.
“What the hell is going on with you? One minute you’re tongue fucking me into the next century and the next you’re freaking out. I know I’m a damn good kisser, but this isn’t about us, is it? It has nothing to do with our past and everything to do with you and the shit that’s floating around in your head.”
Julian stepped closer to him and Nick, who normally couldn’t stand people near him, was rooted to the floor, unable to move.
“Talk to me, Nicky. Tell me what happened to you.”
He was so tired of holding himself together, feeling like at any moment he’d shatter into a million tiny pieces, leaving nothing behind but a pile of dust.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The words poured out of him, flowing unchecked this time. “It should’ve been me. We all went to the Towers to save them. It was my day off, but I went anyway. I heard and couldn’t stay home; I had a duty to help, you know? But I lived and they all died. Why, Julian? Why did I live and they didn’t?”
“Oh, Nick.” Julian held him close. “I don’t have the answers for you. No one does. But I’m going to be completely selfish and say I’m so thankful you did make it and we’re here together after all these years.”
Unflinching green eyes gazed back at him. Clever, beautiful eyes that Nick could never stop dreaming of. Eyes that at one time had held the promise of forever, until Nick ruined everything with his cowardice and shame. Unable to maintain Julian’s scrutiny, Nick broke away and ran to the elevator, his chest heaving, eyes stinging with tears.
“Let me out. I need to leave here. NOW.”

I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.

But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.

I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

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