Growing Pains, by Cass Lennox
Series: Toronto Connections, Book 3 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: March 20, 2017
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.
Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied.
It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.
I think the biggest problem with this novel was that it was attempting to conform to a romance novel format.
There were some really big things being dealt with in this book, most specifically physical abuse, shaming and family. Because of the format of a romance novel, however, the beginning of the book read as Brock being unreasonable in not wanting to go to the wedding of his partner-of-one-year’s sister.
For a long time, Brock gives no reason for this— longer in the world of the story than in the pages of the book— and from that point of view it’s completely reasonable that Gigi is absolutely fed up with it.
However, from an abuse point of view, it’s completely reasonable that Brock was hiding a lot of this in a small corner of himself, and trying to pretend it didn’t exist. This is one of the common coping mechanisms of abuse, especially when it’s within a family setting— one that makes it harder to separate yourself from.
Most of the stuff that we got from Brock’s point of view— experiencing this and also reflecting on it— was spot on to my eyes. When he made his separation from his parents, and burst into tears instead of cheering, I was there. When he worried that he was turning into his father because he exhibited some violent behaviour, I was there. The way it makes you guess and second guess yourself… I was there for all of that.
However, in between all of these wonderfully insightful and well-drawn scenes, we got chapters bringing the reader back into the romance between Brock and Gigi. Whether it’s three months before, 8 years ago, a couple of seasons ago, or whatever, these chapters told their own story. It was a sweet one, where a very closeted Brock was trying to come to terms with his feelings for a very camp Gigi. I absolutely loved some of these scenes. There were also some scenes in which we saw Gigi’s feminine side come out good and proper, complete with female pronouns and acknowledgment of them from Brock, which absolutely made me squeal with happiness.
They just didn’t mesh incredibly well with what Brock was trying to deal with in the present. Why? Because Brock and Gigi weren’t together in dealing with what was going on in the present. They weren’t learning from past mistakes. They were griping with each other, in the lead up to Gigi’s sister’s wedding. While that added to the abuse story, and the way that Brock felt increasingly cornered and threatened, it didn’t add to the romance story, at least for me.
Cass Lennox is a permanent expat who has lived in more countries than she cares to admit to and suffers from a chronic case of wanderlust as a result. She started writing stories at the tender age of eleven, but would be the first to say that the early years are best left forgotten and unread. A great believer in happy endings, she arrived at queer romance via fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and manga, and she can’t believe it took her that long. Her specialties are diverse characters, gooey happy ever afters, and brownies. She’s currently sequestered in a valley in southeast England.
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.