I’ve been eager to read this story from pretty much the first moment Garrett Wolf and Spencer Hawkins were introduced in The List, book one in Felice Stevens’ Second Chances series. Spencer and Wolf – along with their best friends Elliot and Chess – have known each other since college, but the minute they appeared, it was clear that there was something going on between them that wasn’t covered by the term ‘friendship’. The chemistry zinging between them was electric, and theirs seemed to be a relationship based on teasing and sniping that was obviously a cover for something else. But by the time Beautiful Mistakes begins, what had started out as mostly good-natured banter has turned into something else, verbal digs and jibes that are hurtful and sometimes downright nasty, and it was difficult to see how Spencer and Wolf could possibly pull back from that. In this final book in the series, the author reveals their heartrending backstories and the truth behind their deepening antagonism in a story that sees them both facing the possibility of losing what has been one of the defining relationships of their lives – and each other.
Spencer is the life-and-soul of the party. He’s always upbeat and ready with a cheeky comeback, and he’s a big believer in ‘the more, the merrier’ when it comes to his seemingly endless parade of bed-partners. He works as a fashion consultant for a high-end store, and the show he’s organising for the talented young designer he’s discovered promises to be a real career high point. But his trademark insouciance and carefree attitude mask a deep hurt and a secret he’s never shared, even with his closest friends.
Wolf is Spencer’s polar opposite in almost every way. Quiet and introspective, tightly controlled and serious to a fault, he’s always been a workaholic, even as a student, driven by his need to right the wrongs of the world as a kind of penance for the actions of his father. Like Spencer, he’s concealing something from his friends, a past he’s been trying to leave behind for almost all of his life, and which is leading him down a path that threatens to consume him utterly.
As I said at the start, it’s been clear since Spencer and Wolf first stepped onto the page that there was something between them that lay behind their outward animosity, and here we find out exactly what happened and why. I won’t spoil it – suffice to say it’s emotional and messy and that it’s obvious that both men are experiencing a world of hurt, but neither of them is prepared to open up to the other, scared of rejection or worse. And sadly, the growing rift between them is affecting their other friendships, too; Elliot and Chess and their partners are worried about Spencer and Wolf’s deteriorating relationship and upset by it, too – but they don’t know what, if anything, they can (or should) do to help.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that although they grew up in very different circumstances, Spencer and Wolf had difficult relationships with their fathers that have informed their actions and decisions throughout their lives. Spencer chose to cover his grief over the loss of his mother and his hurt at the way his father ignored him by becoming ‘the fun one’, while Wolf’s father’s crimes led to Wolf becoming incredibly driven and putting up thick emotional walls so that he would never, ever lose control.
They’ve both struggled and overcome so much – but no matter how hard they’ve tried to put it behind them, the past won’t stay buried for ever, and it’s going to take a massive leap of faith on both their parts if they’re going be able to deal with the crappy hand life is about to deal them.
Gah! At times I wanted to bang Spencer and Wolf’s heads together and yell at them to stop being such a pair of idiots! – but their motivations are well articulated, so that even though their continual state of denial is frustrating, it makes sense. The way they prod and needle each other is unpleasant at times, and the frustration and longing and desire and denial they’re both feeling really leap off the page. The story is well-structured, with a few flashback chapters near the beginning, and then a slow reveal of the issues the men are facing at the same time as they finally become able to open themselves up and be vulnerable to one another in a way they’ve never been with anyone before. Their romance is a sexy slow-burn and I loved seeing them – at last – admitting to the truth of their feelings for each other and steadfastly supporting each other through some really difficult times. On the downside, there’s some repetitiveness, and the sub-plot about the jealous colleague who wanted to oust Spencer is maybe just a little too much considering everything else he and Wolf are going through!
Felice Stevens is a go-to author when I’m craving something angsty and moving and real, and she certainly delivers those things here. Beautiful Mistakes is a poignant, intense and steamy character-driven romance featuring two stubborn, complex men who have to learn that a mistake can sometimes turn out to be the best thing ever.