Title: One

Series: Love by Numbers, #5

Author: E.S. Carter

Format Read: eBook

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this book from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Let me start by saying that this book borders on erotica. This is not a bad thing. It's just a fact, one that should be considered if you are going to read it in public places and you own equipment that makes it difficult to hide sexual arousal. I'm just saying...

Speaking of the erotic, One jumps right into the action and, while it lets up at times to allow for story progression, the reprieves don't last too long. As a warning, if you are going into this as a purely M/M romance novel, you might struggle with the first quarter or so of the book that includes explicit sexual depictions of M/M/F scenarios. I know that I was surprised by this, even though the bisexuality of at least one of the main characters - Isaac - is stated in the book description. I blame my ignorance to this possibility on my own thoughtless reliance on the Goodreads genre tags...

One is actually Carter's first romance novel featuring a M/M relationship; so, if anything, M/F relationships are her bread and butter. I think that this actually helped in her portrayal of the relationship blossoming between two bisexual men - one of whom is comfortably seated in his sexuality and the other just coming to terms with his own. I appreciated how each man represented different points on a spectrum of bisexuality and the author's explicit acknowledgment of bisexual erasure.

This book also happens to be part of a larger series, Love by Numbers, that follows the romantic lives of the Fox brothers. Seeing as I haven't found myself attracted to the idea of reading romance novels that feature heterosexual relationships, I read One as a standalone. While the author says that it can be read as a standalone, I think that doing so may do this book a bit of a disservice. The story hints at a larger context and a wider web of Fox familial relations that are not explored deeply in this volume, but are - I assume - developed through the previous four entries in this series. As a reader of this book in a standalone context, I feel as though I'm missing out a bit, but not to a point where I cannot have an emotional reaction to the events that are portrayed.

On a whole, this novel deals with love, lust, and loss and how easy it is to get lost in any one of them. Carter explores how these forces shape lives, although I would have liked more exploration on this front. The story stops at a superficial level despite the copious amount of internal asides both Flynn and Isaac have in their narratives. Written in a different light, with more psychological exploration, this story could have been literary fiction with sexy time; instead, we get a romance that, while fun to read, doesn't dig deep enough at the issues it raises to satisfy my curiosity. One is ambitious in scope, but a bit lacking in the execution. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it for what it is, a sexy contemporary romance, firmly ensconced in its genre role. I just ache a bit thinking about the potential lying dormant in the backbone of the plot. Overall, though, it was still an enjoyable read.

The author provided a playlist at the end of the book is a fun idea. I made up the playlist and enjoyed listening to it while thinking back over the book. Carter may include such a playlist in all her books - I'm not sure - but it was a nice touch that I thought warranted a mention.

Trigger warning: This book contains depictions of and discussions about suicide.

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