Review: You Never Know by Mary Calmes

About the Book

Cover-You Never KnowHagen Wylie has it all figured out. He’s going to live in his hometown, be everybody’s friend, explore new relationships, and rebuild his life after the horrors of war. No muss, no fuss is the plan. He’s well on his way—until he finds out his first love has come home too. Hagen says it’s no big deal, but a chance encounter with Mitch Thayer’s two cute sons puts him directly in the path of the only guy he’s never gotten out of his head.

Mitch returned for three reasons: to raise his sons where he grew up, to move his furniture business and encourage it to thrive, and to win Hagen back. Years away made it perfectly clear the young man he loved in high school is the only one for him. The problem? He left town and they have not talked since.

If Hagen’s going to trust him again, Mitch needs to show him how he’s grown up and isn’t going to let go. They could have a new chance at love… but Hagen is insistent he’s not reviving a relationship with Mitch. Then again, you never know.

The Finer Details

Narrative Arc: Standalone
Publication Date: July 21, 2017
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante Website
Length: Novel, 212 e-book pages
POV: 1st person, single character
Tense: Past
Pairings: Male/Male
Identities: Gay
Age Ranges: 30 to 34, 35 to 39
Genre(s): Contemporary

Tropes and Tags: actor, athlete, family, love triangle, reunion/second chance romance
Settings & Locales: Oregon coast
Ending: HEA

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Back Porch Thoughts

Rating

Rating 3 Stars

3 Stars

Rating Info

Ratings stick closely to the GoodReads standards. Occasionally I’ll make note of half-star ratings and will typically round up on GoodReads reviews and other sites where I may cross-post.

Stars Goodreads  What this means to me
5 AMAZING This totally knocked my socks off, and I might end up a crazed fan (from a respectable distance).
4 Really Liked This was truly enjoyable, and I’d recommend it.
3 Liked It was good, and I’m glad I read it, but I may have had some issues.
2 It was okay I finished it & kept hoping for improvement. I definitely had issues.
1 Didn't like I read the whole thing but....
1 DNF Didn't like I read past 50% (at least) before giving up.
0 DNF No Rating I couldn't even make it to 50%, but I still feel the need to share my thoughts.

 

Review

You Never Know was an impulse buy. Mostly. I mean…I’d seen it on Amazon and sure, it’d popped up in my recommendations because of whatever algorithms are currently in play. I ear-marked it in my “probably later” list. Then there was a nifty sale happening directly on the publisher’s site. I went there for a few wish-list items and…then thought hey, why not?

I desperately want to say that Mary Calmes is an auto-buy author for me. Alas, she’s not quite there yet. To be sure, she’s close, because I’ve ultimately gotten some significant enjoyment out of a lot of her books. But they’re kind of hit or miss for me. So, I remain hesitantly optimistic because…and yeah, I’m gonna say it…You Never Know.

This book is a second-chance romance of the highest order with The One that got away. It’s also a bit of a love-triangle with Mr. Fun-For-Now.

And here’s what. I loved Hagan, the guy caught in the middle. He’s a little bit damaged — his armor dented from a long-ago broken heart and chinked from a really bad couple of experiences serving in the Army. But he’s home, finally, in small-town Benton, Oregon and mostly living out his dream. But it’s a half-life that he’s making the most of while surrounded by lovely, if not overly intrusive, friends. His personality and razor-sharp, slightly cynical wit had me drooling over him possibly more than I should.

It’s probably more precise to say that I loved the idea and promise of him. Because for as much as he amused, bemused, and made me want for his HEA, it all fell just a tad bit short of the mark. I sort of think I’d built him up in my head and conjured some really high expectations that weren’t quite met.

I kept hoping we’d get to dig deeper into pretty much everything, from Hagen’s survival and PTSD from his Army days to his reunion with Mitch. I could’ve done with less of Ash, the celebrity booty call, who was clearly not meant to be Hagen’s future. As much as I have a love-hate thing with kids in books, I found myself wanting more of Mitch’s smarty-pants kids working to woo Hagen into the family fold. I wanted more but less time spent in the past — and I know that doesn’t make sense, so I’ll just say that some pieces were helpful and needed more exploration and some didn’t. I needed Hagen and Mitch’s reunion and forgiveness of past wrongs to not happen so rapid-fire quick over the course of two days. I needed there to be some more time in the trenches, rebuilding a foundation, that stuff that makes me believe they’re really going to survive the long-haul this time around. I needed some more intimacy, the quietly simmering kind that builds until it combusts between Hagen and Mitch. And I needed to know more about Ed the owl.

There were so many little threads of opportunity, and instead of tugging on them or weaving them in tightly we just got to run a finger over them before moving on to the next.

All that griping aside, there was a lightness to this that I enjoyed, parts of Hagen’s easy acceptance of people and situations that were touching. The humor and banter between Hagen and everyone he knew were just the kind of amusing, cynical drollness I love. The town of Benton sounds like a place I’d love to find myself lost in for a few days and the folks there ones I’d at least like to friend on Facebook.

Although not a solid win for me, You Never Know was a quick and mostly delightful read for a lazy Sunday on the Back Porch.


About the Author

Mary Calmes believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five-pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and the neighbor’s dogs. To stay up to date on her ponderings and pandemonium (as well as the adventures of the ninja) follow her on Twitter @MaryCalmes, connect with her on Facebook, and subscribe to her Mary’s Mob newsletter.

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