Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) ~ Lily Morton; Narration ~ Joel Leslie
This is only my third book by Lily Morton, but I really enjoy her writing style. The combination of intense emotion, angst, but all encompassed by humour is a perfect combination for me. Oh, and let’s not forget the heat!
Rule Breaker is perhaps a little heavier, a bit more intense, than the previous two books of hers that I have read (Merry Measure and Summer of Us), and that is largely due to the damaged and emotionally crippled Gabe. Despite his wicked sense of humour, a tragic incident from his childhood has scarred him deeply, and all his relationships are a reflection of this damage.
As such, his overwhelming connection with Dylan is a threat to everything he knows. This fear shadows everything, and this story is, at its heart, is Gabe’s journey out of fear, or perhaps replacing that old fear with a new one that overshadows everything else, the possibility of losing Dylan.
You could go out tomorrow and find someone better for you, but the truth is that on one will ever need you like I do." He pauses and then says firmly. "No one will ever love you like I do."
Parts of this story were quite difficult to read. Gabe’s fear of forming a connection make him act out, both before he and Dylan get together and during their relationship. Dylan has been described as a doormat, but I don’t think he could be any further from this description. He is instead sensitive to Gabe’s issues, and even though he doesn’t know the full reason (until near the end), he understands Gabe. While patient, kind and understanding, Dylan is not afraid to call Gabe out when he is being a jerk. There are a number of incidents during their relationship where Dylan calls enough, and let’s Gabe know he won’t take any more.
All characters were well developed, from the deliciously vacuous and malicious Fletcher, to Dylan and Gabe’s close friends Jude and Henry. Jude and Henry, in particular, were great characters, and I’m happy to see that the next two books will have them as the MCs.
Of course, Joel Leslie absolutely killed it, and the intensely emotional expression he voiced in many of the scenes brought tears to my eyes. He excelled in other areas too. His comedic timing was completely on point, making the most of Dylan and Gabe's sarcastic and witty banter. Most importantly he took Lily Morton's beautiful words and characters and made them come alive. It was way too easy to close my eyes, and with Joel's vocalisations, turn the story into a movie in my mind. I'm a relatively new fan of Joel Leslie, but he has cemented himself as one of my favourite instant buy narrators.
Rule Breaker was a rollercoaster ride of intense emotion, but there was a lot of humour to break it up, so it never felt overwhelmingly heavy. I didn’t want to put Rule Breaker down, once I became involved in the lives of Gabe and Dylan, I just had to know it all worked out for them.
I’d also highly recommend reading Short Stack with this one. It is a collection of short stories and scenes that occur during Rule Breaker and the following two books. The short stories each indicate where in the story they occur so it’s possible to read them at the same time or enjoy them after.
If you enjoy an emotional journey interspersed with humour, more than a little heat, and very satisfying HEA then I’d highly recommend Rule Breaker.