Fragile Ground, Louisa Keller

Fragile Ground by [Keller, Louisa]

Damn.  I could blame PMS for making me over-emotional but that would just be a big fat lie.  I loved this book.  The feels were there, the passion believable, the characters were alive, the setting was real, the support cast was properly supportive and involved without eclipsing the MC's, and the ending was perfect.

Olivier wakes up from a coma and seems to recognize almost everyone but Auriel.  Who is he and why does he want to take care of Olivier when they're just roommates?  And why won't anyone look him in the eye when he asks about it?  And why are his arms covered in tattoos?  Wait, he's graduated from college too?  And why does he have a picture on social media kissing the roommate when he's still in the closet?!

So many questions, so much confusion.  There's about a two year gap in Olivier's memories and a lot of that loss circles around his overly caring roommate that he can't help but be attracted to and isn't sure what to do about it.  We learn that he was in a car crash and we watch him as he struggles to fill in the rather large gap.  He's scared, nervous, confused, and on the verge of panic more often than he would like.  I can't say I blame him for lashing out when he's so vulnerable.

Auriel has the patience of a saint.  He's also completely in love with Olivier even though he seems to have forgotten him and the life they've built together.  He takes the outbursts and the averted gazes with a pure desire to help Olivier cope and be comfortable as he navigates a life he doesn't remember living.  The tenderness he shows Olivier is both sweet and off-putting to Olivier because he's not sure how to deal with a virtual stranger knowing so much about him but also staying slightly aloof as well.  It all comes to a head when Olivier discovers a picture of them kissing and looking adoringly at one another on social media.  The confrontation turns into a passionate kiss that gives Auriel hope, and ignites something inside Olivier yet leaves them in a worse place than when Olivier first woke up.

Knowing that you love someone that doesn't think they can return that affection is one thing, but to know they returned it until one day it becomes unrequited with no warning or reason is crushing.  To have had a life and a future built with someone and then to see it all literally crashing to the ground has shaken Auriel in a way that he could never have predicted.  He's doing his best to be there for Olivier and their kiss in the kitchen cracks open a door for them.  Olivier begins to push that door wider only to say something that slams it in Auriel's face when the motives for opening it in the first place are mentioned.

 Fragile Ground, Louisa Keller

I'm finding it quite difficult to not spoil everything so I don't have to speak in riddles to lay a foundation for why I felt so strongly about the book.  Ugh...  So no more saying basically the same thing anymore, I promise.  Possible plot spoilers ahead!!  Here's the deal:

Olivier has retrograde amnesia.  His boyfriend, Auriel, is in the picture until Olivier tries to use him to get his memories back.  Using him without actually acting on affection, just attraction, is too painful for Auriel so he begins to avoid Olivier.  The cold shoulder makes Olivier turn to his friends for help and they verbally smack him in the head in the hope of figuratively dislodging it from his anal cavity.  When Olivier's solution is to break things off with Auriel so he can't use Auriel's feelings that way again Auriel thanks him and then takes off.

And here I cried a bit.  Like, literal tears and sniffles for a good 45 seconds.  Trust me, that's a long time when I'm reading a book

With time and space they're both able to see what they want and what they need for the future.  Auriel makes use of Stella's family's cottage at the beach to find room to breathe, cry, and to think about what he wants his future to look like.  He meets a barista/bartender that listens to him and extends a hand of friendship...and neon alcohol with an invitation to 80's night at a kitschy bar.  The space is refreshing but also crushing because he's coming to a realization that what he wants isn't fair to the man who can't remember how he became the person he sees in the mirror.  No matter what Auriel wants he's determined to let go of Olivier because it's the right thing to do.

Olivier, in the mean time, begins to discover who he was and how he came to be who he is.  With the guidance of Sartre and the trust he has in his self and the choices that self has made he realizes that he wants Auriel.  The man who cared for him despite knowing Olivier saw him as a stranger intrigues him, draws him in.  Since he chose love and Auriel once he trusts that that's what he should do again.  He knows that there's a large part of him that doesn't remember Auriel the person but his presence, his essence, is essential to the happiness he sees for his future.  Determined to win him back, he turns to his best friend, Hattie, for advice to do just that.

Their journey to love for a second time is sweet and honest.  It's also sensual as Olivier gets a second chance to confess his desires and passions to a man who accepted it all once and is eager and happy to accept again.  What I kind of expected, the long-suffering Auriel sticking it out and the vulnerable yet frustrated Olivier eventually regaining his memories, didn't play out like I thought it would.  These men didn't always react predictably and the choices made were the same.  I was surprised by Olivier's choices and reasoning behind them, but more than that, I respected them.  There was something very real and mature in the way that he went about things with Auriel once he saw the consequences of his impulsiveness.  Even more was how he sought to learn about himself and the thought applied to moving forward from his memory loss.

The ending was sweet and passionate.  Tenderness and honesty were there too and that made the amnesia outcome a bit of a surprise but much more realistic and satisfying.  I grew to love these men throughout the story.  For a debut novel by the author I'm impressed and a new fan.

*Fall in love with Olivier and Auriel
Only 99¢!
 Fragile Ground, Louisa Keller

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