After the End, Alex Kidwell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Angst, Contemporary, Grief
Length: 200 Pages
A beautifully written, heartbreaking story of loss, grief and finding love again.
“You’ll love him, Quinn, I promise. He’s just what you need.”
“And what is that?”
“You know, breathing. Walking. Talking. Come on, trust me. It’ll be fun.”
I bet General Custer had promised his men the same thing. “Come on, guys, just one more fight. It’ll be fun.”
Quinn O’Malley has been talked into a blind date by his best friend, Tracy. Quinn doesn’t date. He has been mourning the loss of his long-term partner, Aaron, for over two years. He is not ready to move on. He is not ready to stop grieving. His friend means well but he knows there is no way that he is ready to jump into any type of relationship. His one great love, the man he shared ten years with, is gone. No one can ever take his place. Not in Quinn’s life and definitely not in his heart. He goes on the blind date anyway to appease his friend. When he meets Brady Banner, he likes him immediately. Brady is a good looking man. He’s funny and the date goes better than expected.
Brady: “Tracy didn’t really tell you much, did she?”
Quinn: “Just that I was going to die alone and be eaten by my cat if I didn’t take the chance to meet you.”
But when it comes to the end of the evening, Quinn is ready to escape back to his lonely apartment… without Brady. Brady takes Quinn home and he is reluctantly invited inside. Things are going well….. a few touches and kisses and Quinn is starting to actually feel again… for the first time in over two years. He freezes. His mind immediately strays back to Aaron and he is overcome with guilt for feeling something… for allowing himself to do something… with another man. The date quickly comes to an end.
Quinn is the owner of a comic book store. He is also an artist, though he hasn’t so much as picked up a sketch pad since the death of his partner. Ten years with his one true love and then suddenly that true love was taken away from him and his life now has little meaning. How could he allow himself to be touched? To be kissed? By someone other than Aaron? What kind of person did that make him? He had allowed himself… during those few moments in the arms of Brady… to forget… to not remember that he is no one without Aaron….. that he has no life without Aaron.
Brady, an events planner, is persistent. After the sudden end of the first date with Quinn, he continues to pursue him, even knowing that he is competing with a ghost. He felt a connection with Quinn when they were together and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make Quinn realize that life must go on. He doesn’t expect, nor want, Quinn to forget about Aaron. He just wants Quinn to realize that he, Quinn, is still alive and that he should move on in his life… preferably with Brady. A date to the movies and then dinner with Tracy and her partner, Anna, and things are starting to head in the right direction for Brady but Quinn is not yet able to move on.
“I miss him,” I whispered, voice breaking. “Every second, like I’m screaming all the time, and I can’t stop. I want to go up to people and ask them why they can’t hear it. Why they can be smiling or laughing, why can people eat or drink or live when he’ll never do any of it again. How can I be happy without him? How can anything make any fucking sense?” My eyes went to his, to those damned beautiful depths, so kind and so confused. I could see it in his expression; What could he say? What could anyone?
“But then I kiss you.” I moved a step forward, a magnet on string, his iron sweet solidness drawing me in. “I kiss you and I don’t miss him. I kiss you and I’m not living in that place. I’m not soaked in sickness and sadness and grief. I just… am. I can breathe.”
The first half of this book is an emotional roller coaster. It would take a person much stronger than me to get through that part without getting teary a few times. The author did an outstanding job in making you feel what Quinn is feeling. The heart wrenching pain. The guilt of feeling like he is cheating on Aaron. The agony of knowing that the person he loved more than life will never be with him again. The fear of wanting to move forward with someone else. To love someone else.
“God, you’re not even here. You’re in that bed, where I lost you. You’re back there, two years ago, and I can’t go back there. I can’t ever get back to you.”
Brady is perfect. He knows not long after meeting Quinn that Quinn is not even close to coming to terms with the death of his partner. But yet Brady keeps trying. Through the tears, the yelling… Brady stands by him because he knows that they are meant to be together. It is a very long road they both must travel for the two men to finally be able to have any semblance of any type of relationship. Brady doesn’t push Quinn to not mourn Aaron. He doesn’t push him to not discuss Aaron. He just wants him to understand that he, Quinn, is alive and should start living again. With Brady. It takes a very long while for them to get there but they do get there. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
“It was more than just grief; it was bigger than who I’d been before.
I loved him. Not the same as I’d loved Aaron, but not less, either. It was Brady’s love, only his, and Aaron’s love only belonged to him. I held them both in my heart, in my very breath, and I wasn’t torn apart from it.
I was sad, yes. Perhaps I’d always be a little bit sad. But there was more to me than the sorrow.”
This is an amazing story. With the sadness and grief there is also a bit of humor thrown in. I loved all the secondary characters as well as Brady and Quinn and Winston, the drama queen cat. I am a big fan of this author’s work so when I saw this was being released I was eager to jump into it. What I was not expecting was such a moving and touching story, one that will stick with me long after The End. I highly recommend it.
The cover is perfect.