Title: After the First Taste of Love
Author: Salome Wilde, Talon Rihai
Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Characters: Nick Torres, Angelo del Valle
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
In high school, Nick Torres and Angelo del Valle were inseparable, outsiders who found strength in friendship. The bond between the gay, mixed-race teens turned isolation into brotherhood. Overachieving loner Angelo became “big bro,” looking out for cocky, mischievous “little bro” Nick. But everything changed when Nick fell in love and moved away. Angelo tried to be happy for his dear friend, seeking solace in his college studies and a lonely string of one night stands.
Then, one late night two years later, Angelo’s phone rings. Nick is back in town, and he needs his big bro’s help. Nick’s dream life has become a nightmare, and he’s come to the one person he could always trust for shelter. But when Nick looks to Angelo for more than brotherly affection, Angelo is left to wonder if Nick’s feelings are genuine or an effect of his trauma. And if those feelings are genuine, Angelo must then decide if his own feelings for Nick have grown into something deeper as well.
Angelo and Nick are best friends. They’re both gay, but they’re not together. Then Nick meets Barrett, a suave rich kid who sweeps Nick off his feet, and off they go to the sunset. Angelo is left behind. Years later Nick finds his way back to Angelo, having been physically and emotionally abused all this time. Barrett has become a political figure of authority, and Nick is on the run. Then suddenly, after all these years, Nick makes a move on Angelo, and they succumb to their desires for each other. But are Nick’s emotions real or is he just looking for temporary solace on his way to better things?
I liked these two men, real with flaws and ghosts in their past. Nick is traumatized, bruised and battered, and he has night terrors and panic attacks. He’s also made to believe he’s worthless and that no one could love him. Angelo is a private, reserved man who has his work life on the rise but his personal life filled with casual one-nighters with hunks. He wants to protect Nick, but he’s not so sure about his feelings, let alone Nick’s.
There were a few problems here. Like having anal sex with broken ribs? I don’t think. The chapters feel a bit disjointed at times, broken off almost in the middle of a sentence—and then its days or a week later. Also, apart from two sex scenes, most of the others are cut off abruptly. I don’t mean fade to black, but getting all worked up, hot and bothered—and then skipping to a new scene. Weird. Thirdly, the dialogue isn’t always easy to follow because in between speech tags there can be whole paragraphs of thought patterns and reminiscences. In fact, this story has a several scenes where I got confused if the scene was in the past or the present.
Other than the above things, this is still a good story, well worth a look. The friendship between Angelo and Nick is brought out so well, with humor and quips, a kind of gentleness that’s wonderful to see. These are likeable men, even if Angelo has self-doubt and Nick acts like a kid sometimes. The baby steps it takes for Nick to overcome the memory of the abuse is done subtly. Angelo wishes to comfort and be close to his friend and lover but when the other is having a full blown panic attack that’s not so easy. Yet he never gives up.
The story’s not veered to Barrett or his abuse too much which I appreciated. Violence doesn’t have to be shown all the time. There are a couple of friends in the picture, like Marina who’s a lot of fun. We don’t get to see much of Angelo’s or Nick’s families, though they do talk about them a lot. It’s nice that they have that family background instead of the usual melodrama of having been raised by nuns or some such. Angelo’s mother, especially, is a strong, comforting presence.
Long story short (too late!), After the First Taste of Love is a good story I recommend to all who like friends-to-lovers stories and overcoming abuse.
Reviewed By: Susan