Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.
Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied.
It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.
Growing Pains is the third book in the Toronto Connections series.
*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review *
This book picks up the story of two secondary characters in Lennox’s previous book, Finding Your Feet. I made the mistake of reading it before Finding Your Feet. Growing Pains could be a standalone book — we get all of the pertinent information in the body of this book to understand their history — I highly recommend you read Finding Your Feet first. This is why: without having known Gigi prior to beginning this book, it took me a long time to like him.
The book opens with Gigi preparing to leave for his sister’s wedding, and his boyfriend, Brock, backing out of their plans. Understandably, Gigi is upset. However, his reaction (from shouting “Fuck you” out the window all the way through his internal monologue) really turned me off. Now that I’ve read Finding Your Feet, I have a better sense of Gigi. He’s sharp tongued, high drama, sweet, fierce, and really complicated. His heart is so tender and he has a lot of love to give. He is at times self-centered to a frustrating degree; however Lennox shows us what’s behind that and did some great character work with him. I can dig that. Even when frustrated, throughout the book I sympathized and ached for Gigi. From this point of view, I understood his behavior more. But it did leave a bad taste in my mouth a little (this might be influenced highly by my own sensitivity to the way people speak to each other. If my partner every yelled that at me I would be a hot mess of past trauma dragged into the present).
I don’t want to spoil the novel for anyone, so I won’t give out details. Suffice to say that what Brock is going through might be difficult for readers (heed trigger warnings, they are at the bottom of the review, highlight the text to see them). Lennox did a great job with Brock — his fears, confronting his past and overcoming obstacles (painful and scary ones) in his present. And there are beautiful moments between Gigi and Brock — and some fantastic flashbacks– that I loved.
You don’t often see romance that tells the story of two people learning to be together after the initial “fall in love, overcome something” story line. I was so excited to read a story about a couple in the midst of difficulty, of figuring out how to be together, to reconnect, to grow, after the initial honeymoon. There were aspects of this that Lennox nailed.
The sticking point for me with this book is right in the summary: “Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him.” Throughout the book, so many times Gigi demonstrates an unwillingness to bend. He comes off as if Brock doing anything but what he wants or expects is wrong or reason to be mad. I struggled with that. Particularly since this is the exact opposite of what Brock needs — not only because as humans I’m not sure this is healthy — but also because of what is happening at this very moment in this book.
I fell in love with Brock early in the book. Despite his past and the ways in which he hurt Gigi in the past, I carry such a soft spot for him. Several times when reading the book I was intensely frustrated with him — I really wanted him to tell Gigi what was going on — but I found myself cheering for him every step of the way. Also, wow, does he come off as very sexy and sensual. A+. Boys with eyeliner, Jude’s Kink Button Smashed.
At the end of the day, I think that readers of the Toronto Connections series will enjoy this. Lennox has a gift for unusual romance novels that defy genre conventions, which I will applaud with my dying breaths. I definitely think that Gigi will read differently if readers have met him in Finding Your Feet (which is an excellent book and I’d recommend it regardless).
(trigger warnings: homophobia, homophobic slurs, fatphobia, self harm, abuse)
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.