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.
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alwyn Hamilton Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.G. Drews Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elizabeth Acevedo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray John Green Julianne Donaldson Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Williamson Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Mackenzi Lee Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally M. Tasia Nancy Garden Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve River Braun Roan Parrish Roseanne A. Brown Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Saundra Mitchell Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophie Gonzales Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Teagan Hunter T.J. Klune Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard Yamile Saied Méndez