Life on Pause by Erin McLellan
Series: Love Life #1
Published: March 23, 2018 by Erin McLellan
Genre: LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
Niles Longfellow is a nerd, and not the trendy type of nerd, either. He wears a historically accurate homesteader costume to work every day, has a total of one friend, and doesn’t know how to talk to guys. So when he gets a flat tire and the hottest hipster ever stops to help him, all Niles can think is that he’s wearing his stupid cowboy getup. Normally, Niles feels invisible to other men, but he’d take that invisibility any day over Rusty Adams seeing him in suede and fringe.
Rusty moved to Bison Hills to help his sister raise her daughter, and nothing is more important to him than that. He’s also fresh off a breakup, and isn’t prepared for anything complicated. But then he meets Niles. Rusty sees Niles as more than a clumsy, insecure guy in a costume. He sees a man who is funny, quirky, and unexpected.
Nothing about their connection is simple, though, especially the lies and insecurities between them. Niles doesn’t know if he can trust Rusty with his heart, and when Rusty’s sister decides to move away, Rusty doesn’t know if he can stay behind.
I actually read the second in this series, Life of Bliss, first and I have to say I enjoyed that one a lot more. Life on Pause was enjoyably written style-wise and it moved pretty quickly considering it covered a good span of time but overall I just couldn’t get on board with Niles and his overly insecure demeanor. From the very beginning it’s clear that Niles has a lot of self-esteem issues. He comes from a loving family who accepts him for who he is but that doesn’t stop him from getting bullied in school and struggling to deal with being social. He’s lost his mother to cancer, his father is in a nursing home, and his only real friend works on a cruise ship so he’s mostly alone. I actually liked this dynamic because it’s so true that even the best upbringing can still leave a person insecure. But what I hoped would be an uplifting experience as Niles gains confidence ended up being a somewhat long journey of Niles doubting everything about himself and his relationship with Rusty and then a depressing separation that lasts almost the entire second half of the book. Though I don’t mind a dive into the emotional currents, I do want the story to become uplifting toward the end but I never quite felt that even after the characters get back together.
Rusty does his best with Niles but it’s incredibly hard to be with someone who doesn’t believe in his own self-worth and has zero confidence in the sustainability of a relationship. Quite frankly, Rusty was a saint throughout the entire book to put up with Niles. My rating is mostly saved by how much I enjoyed Rusty’s character who comes across as “hipster-lite” — all the good fashion without all the annoying qualities of a hipster. He’s sweet, funny, a loving uncle, and he really seems to get and appreciate Niles’s quirks. Rusty himself is struggling because he’s forced to work with his ex of three years who dumped Rusty and immediately starting dating someone else. I have to note that this ex, Todd, is actually the hero of the second book and I’m glad I read his book first because he’s find of a jerk in this one though he does redeem himself in the end. Rusty is ready to move on and find someone new but when Niles finds out about the ex Todd it sends him off the deep end of insecurity. Granted, I too would not enjoy my new boyfriend spending so much time with his ex but it acts as a major gulf between Rusty and Niles in the book.
Rusty and Niles do have great chemistry together and when Niles let’s go of his control he’s actually pretty cute in a dorky kind of way. I wish we could have seen more of this Niles and had more intimate scenes rooted in love rather than insecurity. Niles does work to overcome some of his problems but it’s towards the end and like I mentioned above, I still felt the heavy weight of his insecurities from earlier in the book that made it hard to enjoy the sugar-sweet epilogue. If this doesn’t sound like your jam, I would still highly recommend reading Life of Bliss because it’s amazing! It can be read out of order and any references to this book are easily explained.
**Reader Safety: Parent in nursing home after several strokes (on page); death of a parent
3 stars – it was good
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