The List (Second Chances #1) ~ Felice Stevens; Narrated ~ Denis Lambert
The List is the first book in Felice Stevens' new series, Second Chances. The series follows four friends, who, after over 15 years of friendship, are as close as family (and occasionally annoy each other as much, too!). The List is Elliot’s story.
The List is a powerfully written character driven romance with a relatively small cast. In a story such as this, where the characters are the main focus, it is essential that those characters stand out; they must be dynamic and alive on the page to allow the reader to fully engage with them and the story. Whether you like, love, or hate them, it doesn't matter; the only thing of importance is that they make an impression. Felice Stevens never seems to have a problem making her characters live and breathe on a page, but I think she outdid herself this time. Elliot and Win are both beautifully broken. While they have their flaws, their inner strength and kindness outshine any fault. Their intrinsic goodness engages the reader, but it is their flaws that keep the reader invested in them.
Elliot Hansen is seemingly one of those tragic cases often made fun of or caricatured in fiction. He is desperate to love and be loved; falling for anyone who gives him the slightest inclination that they may feel something. To a certain degree, he meets this stereotype, allowing himself to be used and taken advantage of simply because he thinks his feelings are returned, that this time, it is different. Elliot's desperation is not rooted in a lack of self-confidence though or a sense of dependency. Instead, it stems from a feeling instilled in him since birth of never being wanted beyond what he could provide. The depths of Elliot's loneliness and his poignant history are revealed slowly. His tale is not one I predicted, and when it was revealed, I was no longer able to look at him as a foolish or naive boy who gave his heart too readily. Elliot's story made me tear up more than once, and it was simply glorious to watch him get everything he deserved.
Winston (Win) Rogers is still grieving the death of his husband. However, despite being pushed to do so, he isn't interested in dating and cannot find a connection with anyone he does meet. Until Elliot. Win and Elliot meet in the most unconventional circumstances; and while there is a bit of push and pull at first, they soon develop a steady friends with benefits relationship, which in practice, never existed in that form, not really. Still, they both, or especially Win, needed the denial of a 'relationship', so it worked for them, until it didn’t.
Apart from Elliot and Win, the rest of the cast is relatively small, primarily Elliot's friends: Spencer, Chess, and Wolf; Win's kooky matchmaking mother, and his work partner. Naturally, in The List, the foundations are laid for the future books, giving us glimpses of the boys' personalities and lives, making us already a little invested in their stories.
Regardless of their importance in the story, none of the characters, even those that are a minor flash in the pan, are one dimensional. They are all developed to the extent they need to be for their role. One of the things I love about Felice's stories is that there are never any inconsequential cardboard cutout characters. Even if they only exist in the world for a paragraph or a page, for that time that they are visible, and they are very much alive.
The audio of The List will be released the same day as the book, and it’s already Whispersync ready! It’s narrated by Denis Lambert, who I believe is making his audiobook debut. I was fortunate enough to listen to the first chapter, and wow, colour me impressed! Denis is a Broadway actor, and his training is evidenced through the inflections and emotions he can bring out in his voice. I have already pre-ordered the audio along with the book; I was that hooked!
I also can't let this review go without remarking on the book's cover. I think this has to be one of the most gorgeous of Felice's covers. I'm sure if she ever reads this, she'll groan (I may have said this a *cough* few times), but OMG! the eyes on that model – absolutely gorgeous!!
This would come as a massive shock to anyone who knows me, but I had a tough time putting words down for this review. Not because I didn’t love the story; in fact, I couldn’t put it down until I finished, which happened to be 2am on a work night when my alarm goes off at 5.30am! No, I had trouble because I wanted to do the book justice but couldn't find the words. I still haven't, not really, but I hope it's enough for you to want to grab the book and read it for yourself.
If you enjoy a strongly character-driven story, one that will make you cry, make you laugh, and just sigh at the pure romance of it all, then don’t hesitate to grab a copy of The List. You will not be disappointed.