This was such a gripping, angsty, emotional, poignant and sweet small-town, friends-to-lovers M/M romance! I rooted so for the main characters and suffered with them in their longing, heart ache and fight to deny their feelings. But at times I was also so annoyed and angry with them for not trusting their friends and family, and for being so afraid to trust each other and to allow themselves the lives they both deserved.
The First Man is the second book in the From Connemara With Love series, but it can very well be read as a standalone. The main characters from the first book, The Best Man, have important roles here too, but focus in this book is on Ellie’s brother Shane and his long secret love, Andy.
For seventeen years, Shane and Andy have kept their feelings for each other a secret. Even to themselves; not admitting what they really are to each other, nor that what they are feeling is true love. Instead, they’d both done all they could to deny the feelings, to avoid touching each other, to suppress all emotions, ending up heartbroken and living a life in constant torment and hiding their true selves.
“If I can’t have him, I don’t think I could ever want anyone else.”
It took me a while to get into this book. The angst and heartache were so raw already from the start, which was a bit hard to relate to until we were provided with the backstory from Shane’s and Andy’s long history and how they first fell in love. And since I hadn’t read the first book, it was a bit confusing with all characters at first, especially as the same person could be referred to by either his first name or surname without any explanation. But once I understood the latitude of Shane’s and Andy’s love story, and the reasons for their actions, I rooted so much for them both. They were both so adorable, so broken, so much in pain and yet always putting other people’s needs and wishes before their own happiness.
This book is one of the honest and rawest descriptions of how devastating love can be that I’ve ever read. The love between Shane and Andy was so obvious and strong, and they wanted each other so much it almost destroyed them to hide it. At times it was almost too painful to read about their distress and longing, and I wanted to scream at them both to just be brave and take a chance on each other.
“Do you know how it feels to spend your entire life pretending to be someone else? Do you know what it’s like to love the only person you’re not allowed to love?
You can’t seem to feel anything other than him; when you walk away, you know that you’re turning your back on the only thing that’s good in your life.
Yet you still walk away.”
There were two things I had problems with though. The first was the premise that Shane and Andy had to keep their love a secret. I felt that the fear of not being accepted by their friends, family and the small town didn’t really add up with the way the other characters in the story were described. Their friends and family all seemed open-minded enough and obviously loving them, so the need to stay in the closet didn’t seem fully authentic. It also made me annoyed that Shane and Andy never even gave their friends and family the chance to get to know the real persons, but lived their lives constantly pretending to be someone else. And then there was the issue with how the love story started. I really did not like that they started to have an affair when Shane was only sixteen to Andy’s twenty-one. The age difference was no problem when they were older, but the idea that Shane was so young, even though he was the one taking all the initiatives, just didn’t sit well with me.
But all in all, The First Man was a gripping, devastating and utterly honest love story that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It was my first read by Alex Kelly, but it will certainly not be my last.
Thank you NetGalley and Xpresso Book Tours for the opportunity to read this gem in advance. (It will be released on 25 February.) All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez