Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Growing Pains
SERIES: Toronto Connections #3
AUTHOR: Cass Lennox
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 245 pages
RELEASE DATE: March 20, 2017
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.
Gigi and Brock’s relationship has had a lot of bumps and dead-ends, but that is going to be nothing compared with a weekend spent back in their hometown for Gigi’s sister’s wedding. Gigi is dreading being back in the place that sees him only as Toby, and Brock is dreading…well. Pretty much everything, to be honest. He hasn’t spoken to his parents in over five years–not to mention they have no idea that their son is gay–and after years of abuse and hiding he has no desire to change that. But if he flakes out on Gigi there is a good chance that their relationship will go down in flames–big, sparkly, world-ending, flames. With both men struggling to keep their pasts in their pasts, the weekend is bound to be a disaster in the making. And that is not even factoring in the small, infinitesimal problem of Brock having not been 100% honest to Gigi about how out he was to everyone in his old life.
This is the third book in the Toronto Connections series by Cass Lennox, and by this point it is pretty clear that she is a very good writer. I have enjoyed all three of these books–to varying degrees–and have loved the different takes on love that she has offered us in this series. For this book we are back to what would be considered a typical gay romance. Two cis guys, falling in love, making a life together amidst the troubles of homophobia, family expectations, and generally just the ups and downs of life. But this return to the norm does not mean that the characters are any less vibrant–especially in regards to Gigi–or well written.
Gigi is a queen to meet every one of your expectations. He is loud, vibrant, bitchy, and determined to take on the world. It is his past however that really worked for me. Having gone thru school as the fat drama geek, I can totally sympathize with the trials of Toby. Granted, while I turned out to be just as shy and hesitant in adulthood, Toby turned into the most sparkly of butterflies. Well maybe not turned, since it is pretty clear from the start that Gigi is who he always was, it just took a while for him to show the world.
I will say however that personally, Gigi kinda gets on my nerves at times. I just have a general dislike of being around people who are that brash, that in your face. And it really has nothing to do with him being a drag queen, and everything to do with the kind of person you have to be to stand up and say this is how I am. I am fabulous and awesome…and you can shove my six inch heels up your ass if you disagree. I applaud the sentiment…just don’t wanna spend large amounts of time in the same room with that kind of person. And when over half the book is told from his point of view, it gets a bit trying. So I’m in this weird place where I really like how he was written…but also not. Because there were times where he was too self-centered, too look at me! pay attention to only me! And even though I agreed with the reason behind him acting like that, it also made me want to slap him for how horrible he was being to Brock.
And Brock really didn’t need shit from anyone in this book. He had enough problems already. The way he handled it–especially his crumbling relationship with Gigi–was actually one of my favorite parts of the story, though. While it may seem like the book is Gigi’s story to tell, I honestly think that it was Brock’s that actually held my attention. His growth and struggles throughout the book were the things I really looked forward to from chapter to chapter. And while his past broke my heart, watching him stand up for himself at the end was worth everything else.
I did have problems with the constant flashbacks in the story (pet peeve of mine), but on the whole I think they added to the story more than they detracted. And I never stopped wanting these two guys to figure their shit out and ride off into the sunset, so that helped bump up the rating a bit. I also really appreciated how natural and real Gigi’s family felt throughout the story. Sometimes I have a hard time relating (or believing) the fictional families in books, but that was never really an issue here.
While this book (and the previous one) haven’t quite lived up to how much I loved the first book in this series, I will still go ahead a give it my recommendation. The writing is smooth and readable, and the characters have a lot going for them. I don’t know if I will be reviewing the next book in the series, due to the fact that it is f/f and I’ve talked a bit about my issues with those kinds of stories in the review for the previous book in this series, but I will give it look when it comes out and see what the other reviewers say. I am curious, so if it doesn’t have a lot of sex-scenes I’ll probably round out the series quite happily. But for now, this story is worth the check out, so if it on your radar I’d so go ahead and give it a try.