by Sally Malcolm
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 13, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
First love conquers all in Perfect Day, a captivating contemporary male/male retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Love doesn’t burn out just because the timing’s wrong. It grows. It never leaves.
When Joshua Newton, prodigal son of one of New Milton’s elite, fell in love with ambitious young actor Finn Callaghan, his world finally made sense. With every stolen moment, soft touch and breathless kiss, they fell deeper in love.
Finn was his future…until he wasn’t.
Love stays. Even when you don’t want it to, even when you try to deny it, it stays.
Eight years later, Finn has returned to the seaside town where it all began. He’s on the brink of stardom, a far cry from the poor mechanic who spent one gorgeous summer falling in love on the beach.
The last thing he wants is a second chance with the man who broke his heart. Finn has spent a long time forgetting Joshua Newton—he certainly doesn’t plan to forgive him.
Love grows. It never leaves.
Trigger warnings: homophobia (including one character playfully call another a “dirty fag”)
Second-chance romances are one of my favorite tropes, and since this book is a loose retelling of Persuasion, this was right up my alley It’s told from both main characters’ third-person POVs, and alternating between the past and present. I especially liked this aspect, as it helped show just how broken both men were, in different ways, and made it deliciously angsty.
While I’d have to say Pride & Prejudice is my favorite Austen book, I have a special love for Persuasion retellings. The idea of a second chance romance, especially one where they’re both broken by the initial breakup. I like that tension, the uncertainty that if they had stayed together, they may never have lasted – that because of the breakup and the years apart, they’ve become stronger people. While it’s a loose retelling, it stays true to the themes. Honestly, I actually prefer retellings like this – sometimes the ones that attempt to be more faithful read as too stilted as the author is never really given the space to put their own spin on things.
“Don’t want anything without you. You get that, right? You get that this”—he threaded their fingers together and held tight—“You and me? This is the real deal, Josh. I mean it. You’re it for me. You get that, right?”
“I do,” Joshua assured him. “This last couple months, this summer… Finn, it’s changed everything.”
Eight years ago, Josh had the most perfect summer of his life – thanks to meeting and falling in love with Finn, the man hired to take care of his dad’s car collection. Finn’s planning on going to Hollywood to become an actor, and Josh was ready to cut off ties with his family and follow him – his father would not be pleased to have him dating a man, let alone the help – until his Aunt Ruth stepped in and pointed out the problems Finn would have in Hollywood with a boyfriend. Now, eight years later, Josh’s father’s seaside mansion was put up for sale, and Finn’s brother has bought it. Josh is broken, still pining after Finn from afar, but convinced that he did the right thing for him, especially after seeing the flashy star actor with a different supermodel on his arm every week. When Josh realizes Finn never even told his beloved younger brother Sean about them, he becomes even more convinced that what they had was just a summer fling for Finn.
Finn didn’t answer, ignored the slight tug in his chest at the thought of Josh teaching kids music— But no, he wasn’t interested. Maybe Josh was a nice guy, maybe he was great with kids and puppies, but Finn had trusted him like he’d never trusted anyone and when things had gotten tough Josh had hung Finn out to dry. He couldn’t forgive him for that, for giving up on them so easily. For being so damn weak.
Finn, for his part, believes he’s moved on, but seeing Josh again brings everything back. Finn sees him as weak for choosing his family (their business, and Harvard) over Finn – well, at least that’s the way Finn sees it. In Joshua’s mind, he was preventing their inevitable breakup – as Finn would certainly be forced to choose between his Hollywood career and having a boyfriend. Finn’s string of girlfriends since certainly seems to prove his point, so Joshua believes that it’s just him that’s still mired in guilt and regret, reliving that golden summer while teaching music and slinging coffee. Finn wants to revel in the turnabout of him being the rich guy while Finn works a bunch of part-time jobs, but he can’t quite hold on to his anger when Josh is around.
“But sometimes, if you don’t seize the day, you might miss it.”
“Then it’s not love.” That much he knew for sure. “Love doesn’t vanish just because you missed your slot. It’s not conditional on time and place. It…it stays.” He gave a rueful smile. “Whether it’s wanted or not, sometimes.”
If you’ve read Persuasion, you can guess how the book goes – a series of awkward encounters, lots of that delicious angst, and then, finally, the big reckoning. Overall, it’s a feels-laden ride, and I simply couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!