Why I read it: My friend Chris recommended this one on Goodreads and when I saw it on NetGalley, I snapped it up.
What it's about: Rue is a hairdressing student working part time in a bar who takes a walk on the wild side and tried the hetero sex one night. Surprise surprise Natalie turns up pregnant. She doesn't want the baby and Rue, having been abandoned by his own parents, cannot bring himself to reject his child, so agrees to take her. After baby Alice is born, Natalie signs over her parental rights to Rue and bows out of the picture altogether.
Desperate for help with child care, Rue approaches his neighbour, Erik, a sci-fi writer who rarely leaves his house. Told in the alternating 1st person POV of both Erik and Rue, this is the story of how, the cobble together a kind of family, together with Rue (and soon Erik's) BFF, Dusty (totally non sexual with Dusty, BTW).
What worked for me (and what didn't): Once I got over the hurdle of believing that Rue would actually leave his newborn daughter with a virtual stranger, references or no, with no childcare experience, the story was actually delightful. I occasionally had some difficulty in identifying which POV I was in, but otherwise, the story flowed easily. The relationship between Erik and Rue grows over time and the camaraderie and friendship of Rue, Erik and Dusty and their gradual realisation of the depth of feeling between them (in terms of family) as well as the more romantic relationship between Rue and Erik was both believable and enjoyable. Erik is full of anxiety and uses Star Wars as therapy - there are some funny lines in the book (which I understood only thanks to my husband's own love of the movies and therefore his insistence that I watch them all. Over and over.) In Rue's case, it is Dusty that showed him the joy that is Star Wars and he's not always happy about it.
I’d do anything to keep her out of that place, even subject her to the evil machinations of Emperor Palpati—oh, seriously. I’m gonna kill Dusty. I should not know that.
As for Erik, he might be somewhere on the autism scale but it's never explicitly made clear. He doesn't like to be touched by anyone - except, as it turns out, by baby Alice, Rue or Dusty. He has strict routines which he feels he must adhere to - although, as his relationship with Rue develops, he is able to let some of this go. He also has a slight stutter which is more prevalent when he's upset. So, not your usual hero material I guess. But he's kind and sweet and initially baffled by the whirlwind that is Rue coming into his life. Erik had never identified as gay - he's never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend before - before Rue, relationships of any sort were a very alien concept
I’d always been able to recognize beauty, but I’d never been moved by it.
Not until Rue.
In Erik, Rue finds a safe place to fall and the partner he'd never realised he'd been desperate for. Much to his surprise he takes to fatherhood like a duck to water and falls instantly and deeply in love with his daughter. He finds nothing makes him happier than spending time with his little family and the realisation that Erik is a large part of that sparks the more romantic aspects of the book. I suppose I would have loved an epilogue to check in with them in a year or so as the events toward the end of the book could threaten the status quo - would Rue's new environment lead him to want something else? Erik, while having come out of his shell a great deal, would always be on the anti-social side of the things and would the new environment suit them both? I choose to believe they'll be fine, but would have loved a short epilogue to seal the deal. Having said that, I gobbled the story up. Sweet, fun and sexy, this one hit the right spot for me.