ARC Review by Annie: Growing Pains by Cass Lennox

31567744Gigi 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.

Goodreads / Jude’s Review
Amazon  / Riptide Publishing
Growing Pains is the third book in the Toronto Connections series.

annie

*an ARC of this was provided by Riptide Publishing via Netgalley

I wanted to love it but.. didn’t. I still really liked the story, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.
My main issue is that for most of the book it feels like Brock is doing all the work and a relationship involves two (or sometimes more) people. But those in the relationship *all* have work to do. It can’t just be one person who’s trying their best to keep things going, who compromises on things and the other one only demands more.
I understand the point Gigi is coming from. His experiences, particularly in high school, shaped who he is and he promised himself that he would never be “Toby” again. This, by the ways, is portrayed very well in that when it comes to flashbacks his birth name is used, while the rest of the time he is Gigi “LaMore” when he’s using more of an armor and “Rosenberg” when he’s not feeling so insecure.

“Gigi LaMore had adorers and a stage; Gigi Rosenberg had friends and three jobs. Toby, on the other hand, had a weight problem and hated attention. Toby raged. Toby hid. Toby was no fucking more, not if Gigi had anything to do with it.”

So I understand why he reacts and behaves the way he does, I just didn’t like it a lot.
His time in school wasn’t the best, to put it nicely, and he was hurt more than once because he was different. We all know how vicious kids in school can be, so I can definitely relate to that…but it’s still no excuse. As an adult Gigi is unapologetic flamboyant. He doesn’t hide anymore. And knowing a bit from Brocks and Gigi’s story from Finding Your Feet I could relate more to him. At times is was still frustrating though.

There’s a lot I can relate to with Gigi but other instances I wish he wasn’t so uncompromising and blind to what concerns Brock.
I do like the transformation from Toby to Gigi. I love how strong he became and how he’s like “fuck it”  – in that regard I’d definitely like to get a little piece of his confidence. He just has to learn that there’s two in this relationship. 😉 And for me it just took him too long to actually consider Brocks side and feelings.

“The way he’s so open, so completely free with his emotions, it’s an incredibly wonderful and beautiful thing, but it is tiring to the rest of us who maybe don’t Need to share everything all the time.”

The reveal of Brocks past was quite well done. There were hints here and there, but to see the full picture really hit me. Without wanting to put it all out there, because it is personal, but I understood him quite well. Same as Gigi it’s not an excuse for what he did. But honestly…in his situation I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same. He was a teen, scared of what would happen at home so he just tried to protect himself.

I really loved how Brock grew throughout this story. Before reading Growing Pains I would have said that Gigi is my fave but I think Brock overtook him.

Overall I liked Growing Pains. Lennox did a great job fleshing the characters, we had previously met, out. I liked how Growing Pains focused more on the post-honeymoon phase when the rose-colored glasses are gone and you have to work to make things work, but overall Gigi’s attitude – even though I can somewhat relate to it – just left a bad taste.

The epilogue was satisfying and in the end I was sad to say goodbye to Gigi and Brock.

“You, like, balance me. Ground me. And it’s so easy for me to forget that you might be dealing with other stuff, because you just handle it. If I wasn’t around, you’d be fine on your own. You don’t ask for much, but you give and give and give. “

Growing Pains deals with heavier themes and trigger warnings for homophobia, homophobic slurs, fatphobia, self harm and abuse apply.

 

Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Riptide Publishing Review Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Part of a series

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