Arranged marriages, ones to cement a business deal or political alliance, or, in this case, a pretend-marriage for convenience, can have all kinds of consequences for the people involved. ‘Strangers No More’ shows the effect of two men, Max and Pete, getting together for companionship and because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Without love or even a strong friendship they remained strangers, didn’t even try to deal with the issues arising because they shared a house, and ultimately grew angry and resentful. When they have a car accident caused by Pete having a heart attack and exacerbated by alcohol consumed at a party just before, the underlying conflict breaks into the open and the real mess starts. Much of this story focuses on both men’s issues with their partner, the fights they have, and the ways they hurt each other. But there are also moments of regret, the secret hope for the sham becoming a real relationship, and their attempts at reconciliation. Max struggles with the fact that his drawing hand has been injured, and he thinks he is no longer the artist he always wanted to be. Pete has to deal with a painful, lengthy recovery from triple bypass surgery, and his physical weakness makes him lash out at Max more than once. This is a pretty accurate summary of what the problem is: “The two years they’d been fake married, Pete kept his buried emotions to himself, and all the frustration and resentment just continued to build up. When they had a fight, they wouldn’t speak to each other for days then pretend nothing happened. Nothing got fixed.” In many ways this story is much like an enemies-to-lovers tale, yet these men start out knowing each other and that makes the conflict worse and increases the pain they know how to inflict on each other. Even though they never loved each other, they behave like a married couple when they have become estranged and badly need a divorce. But because they never loved each other, once they decide to stop inflicting pain and start getting to know each other, this story has many characteristics of a romance as well. If you like unusual romances that feel more like a war of emotions much of the time, if you think everyone deserves a second chance at love, and if you’re looking for an emotionally intense read that is not always comfortable but always honest about the way humans can hurt each other even when they want to change things, then you might like this novella.
Romance on the Go ®
Can two broken men take another shot at love and go from being strangers to soul mates?
Max and Pete are the perfect power couple. Max’s a renowned artist and Pete’s a successful and cocky divorce lawyer. Their friends envy them, except their marriage is a sham, a fake arrangement. When a car accident shatters all the lies they’d built over the years, will Max turn tail and run away, or see the chance of a lifetime?
The moment Pete opens his eyes in the hospital room, he instantly hates the massive surgical scar across his chest. It's a reminder of his mistake, his sin, because Max might have forgotten but he was the one at the wheel that night. When fate offers them a second chance to make their marriage real, will Pete be brave enough to right his wrongs?
Be Warned: m/m sex
“Come on, there’s a nearby cafe over at the park’s west exit. We’ll head there and warm ourselves up with some coffee, until the rain stops.”
“Fine,” Max grumbled.
“If you’re so worried about me, then hold onto me until we’re there,” he said. Max did just that, sliding his good arm over his, and they made their way slowly to the exit.
Pete prayed the cafe was open. Thank God, he thought, spying the “open” sign. He pushed it open, and they found a cozy seat near the back.
“I’m sorry,” Max blurted. “I get angry so quickly these days. I should really calm down in situations like that.”
“You shouldn’t punish yourself for small things like that. Life’s too short, and as for being angry all the time? I get it. I’m like that, too, with myself and sometimes with you because I wanted to blame someone else other than me.”
The two years they’d been fake married, Pete kept his buried emotions to himself, and all the frustration and resentment just continued to build up. When they had a fight, they wouldn’t speak to each other for days then pretend nothing happened. Nothing got fixed.
Max bit his bottom lip, looking at him like he was a stranger, or maybe like a new Pete he didn’t quite understand yet. Good. Pete wanted to start fresh, wipe the slate clean.
Pete continued, “Maybe we both need to take anger management classes or something.”
Max looked so horrified, he laughed.
“Wait, was that a joke?” Max finally asked with a groan.
“It’s fun to tease you sometimes.” Max seemed to loosen his shoulders. “Hey, the umbrella was no big deal. I should be aware of my limitations, too. Have I ever thanked you for taking good care of me?”
“You did, plenty of times,” Max answered.
When the waitress arrived, Max didn’t just order coffee but also cake.
“Can I get a bite of that blueberry cheesecake?” Pete asked when their coffees and Max’s dessert arrived.
Max rubbed his jaw, pretending to look contemplative, making him laugh. “Should I share my precious cake with my husband?”
Max took a forkful, pausing when Pete leaned over and said, “Ah.”
Max rolled his eyes and gave him a taste. The treat tasted sweet on his lips, but he bet Max would be sweeter. Pete fisted Max’s shirt, tugged him close, and sealed his lips over Max’s. He nibbled, sucked and playfully bit on Max’s lower lip. This time, Max didn’t push him away, merely planted one hand over his chest, where the scar was.
This heart is yours if you want it, Pete thought, thrusting his tongue down Max’s throat.