Reading Assignment Challenge: Belonging by Alexa Land
Can two damaged men build a future together from the shattered pieces of their lives?
Gianni Dombruso's life was altered forever at the age of four, when his parents were murdered and he and his brothers went to live with their grandmother, the irrepressible Nana Dombruso. Now almost thirty, Gianni has spent his life bouncing from relationship to relationship, seeking but never finding the security and stability he so desperately craves.
Alexzander Tillane was one of the biggest pop stars in the world when he walked away from it all in the middle of a concert in 2002. Almost destroyed by the pressure of fame, Zan retreated to a life of quiet solitude in an effort to heal. But the cure backfired, leaving him with more issues than answers.
Zan knows he can't give Gianni the stability he's looking for, not with all his problems. He can't even imagine why the beautiful younger man would want to get involved with someone so damaged, but the heat between them can't be ignored. Giving in to it would be a huge mistake. Or maybe both men might end up right where they belong.
Every time I read an Alexa Land book I am sure there will be no way she can live up to the high standards she has set with the previous titles she has already written. And every time Alexa Land proves me wrong and hits it out of the ballpark. Every. Single. Time. I am so thankful that there are authors like Alexa Land bringing me books like Belonging. Reading Alexa Land's books is a whole-body experience: I read her books with my mind, my heart, my gut, and my bones...because that is where she makes me feel. She also engages my entire emotional spectrum; in this book alone I laughed uproariously, had tears running down my face, got goosebumps, had my heart melted, cringed, worried, and sighed with complete satisfaction.
Gianni is one of my favorite Alexa Land characters EVER after reading this book. He is such a beautiful, and beautifully damaged man who has no idea of his own worth, but rather lets other people, specifically his sexual partners, dictate his value. He is aware that some family and friends refer to him as a gigolo due to his habit of acquiring older lovers who take care of him financially. He believes himself to be without skills or talents despite the fact that he is a devoted brother and uncle. And he never seems to notice the fact that he always goes the extra mile for any friend or family member who enters his orbit. Gianni is so generous with his affection and caring but he doesn't seem to notice that about himself any more than he notices how often people gravitate towards him because they know he will listen to them and care about their thoughts, ideas, and problems.
Watching Gianni bringing new fruits for Zan to encourage him to try new things and break out of routines in a safe way was by turns sweet, funny, and heartbreaking. His dedication to creating a safe outdoor environment that would reduce the chances of a forest fire taking Zan's sanctuary was one of a hundred ways that Gianni tried to care for Zan that other's might never have thought of...and to Gianni it just made sense, it didn't seem special or above and beyond. However, Zan's hot-and-cold behaviors, his willingness to talk to Gianni's brother when he won't give Gianni more than a word or two, his blatant choice to end a moment before it turned intimate all convince Gianni that his feelings are one-sided and he decides to move on before his heart is broken.
It is at this point that Zan makes the most ultimate, squee-inducing, heart-melting romantic gesture that I have read in a long time!! And Gianni, being the wonderful man that he is, makes it as easy for Zan as possible without inducing guilt or raising incriminations. He just opens his arms wide and invites Zan into his life and proceeds to make Zan's gesture completely and totally worthwhile. But don't think that everything is smooth sailing because it isn't. They still have to address Gianni's lack of self-worth, Zan's struggles with mental illness, and deal with a life where their privacy will always be under assault by the paparazzi. Their love and the decisions they make both because of and despite these obstacles make this story one of the best in a series filled with absolutely top-notch books.