“Beyond the Surface” by Felice Stevens is a m/m romance which starts the ‘Breakfast Club’ series and centers around the relationship between Nick Fletcher, a closeted firefighter who is still struggling to deal with the aftermath of 9/11, and Julian Cornell, a fashion designer who has an emotional past history with him. Their reconnection at a dark point in Julian’s life elicits an unexpected reaction from the guy who broke Julian’s heart, but paradoxically leads him in a new direction for his talent. Each of these damaged men must get past the toxicity that surrounds him before beginning to heal, and maybe they can find a future together.
The title of this story is so appropriate because it reminds us of how much is hidden in each of us and what pain and talent exists beyond what can be seen on the surface. I enjoyed getting to know the two main characters and watching them overcome the obstacles that have kept them apart although the rapid shift in their outlooks was a little tough to reconcile with an almost two-decade separation. It was depressing to think that there are still plenty of chances for one’s sexual preferences to be dangerous to reveal, particularly in a profession where one’s very life can depend on others’ actions.
I love watching characters grow strong together and finding a way to be supportive in each other’s endeavors, and this story did a wonderful job of following the relationship as it goes through the inevitable growing pains. The combination of passion and angst was nicely balanced and there were several passages I particularly liked, especially this one: “The measure of a person was how they handled their roadblocks in life. They could lie down and let the world happen all around them, and do nothing, or they could learn, adapt, and seek to make a difference in the world.” Words for all of us to live by.
I wish the secondary characters were a little more defined, as most of them seemed a little stereotypical at this point, although I know that Julian’s buddies will each get a chance in the spotlight, and I thought things were a little forced into the tidy box at the end. Overall, this was a nicely spicy tale with intriguing characters and a lovely romance and a good start to a new series and I hope to have the opportunity to read more about these guys.
On 9/11, firefighter Nick Fletcher’s world changed forever. He's unable to rid himself of survivor’s guilt, made worse by the secret he hides from his family and co-workers. Nick's life is centered around helping burn victims, until he is reunited with the man he’d once loved but pushed away. Now he has a second chance at a love he thought lost forever.
For fashion designer Julian Cornell, appearances mean everything. His love affairs are strictly casual, and the only thing he cares about is making his clothing line a success. A chance encounter with the man he loved long ago has Julian thinking for the first time in years there may be more to life than being seen at the best parties and what designer labels to wear.
When Julian’s world takes an unexpected turn, it's Nick who helps him regain perspective on what matters most in life. Julian, in turn, helps Nick accept who he is and understand he isn’t responsible for tragedies he couldn't prevent. Lost love found can be even sweeter the second time around and after all the years apart, both men learn to look beyond the surface to find the men they are inside.