By Riley Hart
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
A double shot of devastating news turns Justin Evanson’s life upside down. When he learns his father has cancer, and he has siblings he never knew existed, he leaves everything behind and moves to Virginia to support his dad as he tries to make amends with his family—a family Justin’s not sure he has a place in. Things go from bad to worse when he discovers his recent hookup is his newfound sister’s brother-in-law.
Drew Sinclair never expected to see Justin after their night at the club or to discover their family connection. If anyone found out, it would give Drew’s brother another reason to hate him. But there’s something about Justin that draws him in, and it’s not only because they burn up the sheets together.
One meeting leads to another, and before Justin realizes it, Drew has become the only thing in his world he feels is his. And for the first time in his life, Drew knows what it means to be needed. Being there for Justin and supporting him when things spiral out of control feels right. But with so much happening so quickly, it’s hard to trust their feelings. Is this thing between them real? Or just a test drive before life forces them down two separate roads?
That was life, wasn’t it? People didn’t always do the right thing. Sometimes they made mistakes or had to take a different route to get to the same place than someone else did. They detoured, or test drove a hundred different cars before finding the one they fell in love with. People got hurt, people hurt others, people died, but the living part? Living and laughing and loving? That made everything else worth it.
Just when I think Riley Hart can’t outdo her last book, along comes the next one…and it rocks my world even harder. Oh. My. God. I cannot say enough good things about Test Drive. It has to be one of my all-time favorite books and I’m betting I end up reading it over and over again. I simply fell in love with Drew and Justin, from how they went about expressing their emotional vulnerability to exploring Drew’s bisexuality and the evolution of the couple’s physical relationship (talk about melting the paint off the wall!) and their ever-growing and evolving true love for one another, I didn’t want the book to end. I loved this couple.
Hart did an amazing job handling the progression of Justin’s dad’s cancer, as well. The scenes between the family members as they confronted the limited time they had left with their dad once he returned to spend time with Joy, Landon and Shanen were spot-on. Hart vividly crafted real-to-life and poignant scenes where the family embraced their anger about losing him and struggled to hurdle the emotional chasms that came with pulling the “old” and “new” families together after years apart. Some of it brought tears to my eyes because what was taking place was so easy to identify with since it so accurately portrayed the end-of-life scenes I experienced with my dad just a year and a half ago.
Life was messy. It was ugly and painful and hurtful, but sometimes beautiful things were born out of tragedy.
And the “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella” nicknames and bantering about health food? Loved it. These two have that intuitive-based relationship, they know how to have fun and talk to one another, and they just “fit” together. Their chemistry is palpable, as is the respect and love they have for one another.
Drew nodded. He understood but also felt a knot in his gut at the same time. “You can call for more than that, too. I think I might like hanging out with you, Sleeping Beauty.” Justin nodded, nudged him with his elbow and replied, “Right back at you, Cinderella.”
Test Drive is not just a book, or a story, it’s a journey that will touch the reader on so many levels.
He brushed his thumb over Justin’s hipbone. His skin had warmed up. It was slightly wet from the rain but he felt good, too f*cking good. They were playing with fire. He already felt the singe, but damned if he didn’t want the spark to ignite brighter. If he didn’t want to go up in flames with this man.
Drew dropped his head backward to rest on Justin’s shoulder. “Yeah, but I was wishing you would. Jesus, what do you do to me?” “I don’t know, but whatever it is, you do the same thing to me,” Justin answered honestly.
Drew smiled as he let his hands run up and down Justin’s back, loving the feel of the muscles there. Being with him felt as natural as breathing. “Yes, it is.” “I’m scared,” Justin said softly. “I’m scared of losing my father. I’m scared of not having a place with my siblings when he’s gone.” “I know,” Drew whispered, his heart breaking. He wrapped his arms around Justin tighter, greedy for him. To comfort him, to fix whatever it was that hurt him. “You will, though. They love you. I see it. And even outside of Shanen and Landon, you have friends here. People who care about you – Nick, Bryce, Rod…” “You,” Justin added. “Nah, I’m pretty much over you.” Drew tried to keep the mood light, when really he wanted to tell Justin he was all f*cking in. Maybe it was too soon and maybe he was somehow just wrapped up in his first relationship with a man, but this didn’t feel like a test drive to Drew. It felt like the real deal.
“Don’t be like me. When I’m angry or hurt, I run. There’s nothing I want more than to know you’ll have a relationship with your siblings when I’m gone. You’re all better people than I am, and you’ll all need each other. They love you. It doesn’t matter that they were raised together. They’re your brother and your sister and they love you.”
Justin closed his eyes, a mixture of pain and hope in his chest. “I love them, too,” he whispered.
“I know you do. I see it – you think you don’t belong, that you don’t have a place with them, but you do. Now sit down and tell me about Drew. I want to hear about the man you’re in love with.”
It was a truth that Justin tried to ignore. He turned, and walked back to his empty chair, and sat down. “Maybe I am. I don’t know. I can’t think about that right now.”
“You should. No matter what’s going on in your life, always make time to think about the things that make you happy.”
“No,” Justin shook his head, but he wanted that. He really f*cking wanted it. The second he’d told Drew no about talking with hospice the other day, he’d wished he hadn’t. “You can’t want to be here for this. You shouldn’t have to be here for this.” Who wants to be there when someone dies? He wouldn’t put that on Drew, because Justin couldn’t help himself from depending on him.
“Jacob is there. Rod is there.”
“They aren’t allowed a pass. They’re in love with my siblings.”
“Don’t.” There was a rough bite to Drew’s voice. “Don’t pretend you don’t know that I’m in love with you. Every f*cking thing that Rod would do for Landon, or that Jacob would do for Shanen, I’d do for you. I want to be where you are. I want to support you. Tell me you know that.”
And he did. F*ck, he really did.
Justin held the phone against his ear with his shoulder. With the palms of his hands, he rubbed his eyes. This incredible man had just told Justin that he was in love with him. He wanted to say it back. To jump with joy but the pain was still too heavy. It held him down.
“I didn’t want to say it. I know now’s not the time, and like we said before, I don’t expect you to be able to sort your feelings out right now, but I’m tired. I’m tired of pretending I don’t know my feelings. I’m tired of skirting around them. I’m in love with you, Justin. I want to be there with you. I want to be by your side. I want to be the one who gives you what you need.”….
When Justin opened his mouth, the truth that he’d kept hidden behind all the pain came rolling out. “I need you,” he whispered. “Christ, I really f*cking need you. I keep telling myself I shouldn’t. That it’s not fair and it’s not your place, but I need you, Drew. I need you.”….
Drew’s response was immediate. “I’m on my way.”
The entire story was simply phenomenal. The characters, their development and evolution, the storyline and sensitive handling of several plots and sub-plots, the return of favorite characters from previous books, and the HEA for these two, Justin and Drew, was so heartwarming and beautiful.
Several times. One test drive won’t be enough – this story has lots of miles on it.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on May 31, 2016.