Book Review: Expectations by Liz Borino

Expectations by Liz BorinoMatt and Chris Taylor are just like any other post-grad adults trying to figure out what it is that they want to do with their lives. Though twin brothers, their trajectory in life is anything but identical. Matt is the book-smart, guarded brother with a good head for business and a flair for self-destruction, while Chris is the softer, creative brother with a keen eye for photography and a passion for dance. No matter how different their personal lives have become, they strongly support one another and understand that they will not advance far in life without each other.

Seeking liberation from the controlling clutches of a tyrannical father, the twins search for new direction in life under the seductive caress of the New York skyline. However, it is at this stage where the twins begin to splinter and the unique challenges that Matt and Chris will face begin to take shape. For Chris, he will discover a deep-seeded love for his long-term friend Aiden that has bubbled up to the surface and struggle with the challenges associated with living as an out-of-the-closet homosexual. For Matt, he will come face-to-face with his fear of becoming just like his despised father and attempt to postpone the transformation by hiding behind countless empty bottles and throngs of nameless, faceless women.

Under any normal circumstance, these situations may sound normal, or possibly even relatable, but there is a caveat. Both Matt and Chris each have a $50M trust fund set aside for them if they can accommodate the lofty expectations set by their father. To acquire the funds, Matt will have to become the one thing he hates the most in life, and Chris will have to hide from his true identity to become the person his father wants him to be. The burden sends Matt down into a shame spiral of binge-drinking and loneliness, while Chris is able to reach down and find a hidden strength that will empower him. Just as the days are beginning to look their darkest, Chris finds that true love will guide him through the toughest decisions of his life, and Matt will find that learning to embrace his natural talent will come easier with the support of someone special in his life.

Expectations is an enjoyable read because Liz Borino understands the significance of solid character development. Though Matt and Chris are the stars of this story, Liz has done an incredible job of creating a supporting cast that feel anything but secondary. Through Aiden, we learn about a dark past and a strong will to survive that makes the unconditional love that Chris feels for him believable. Through Carley, we learn that two people don’t have to have similar backgrounds to make a relationship work and that it’s those differences that truly allow Matt to shine at full radiance.

Make no mistake, however. Expectations is not an easy-to-swallow, garden variety romance novel. The path that the characters will take you down is not always sweet and innocent. Borino delivers plot points that can get gritty and uncomfortable even for those not easily squeamish. By doing so, she demonstrates to us that these characters are human and not a Hollywood portrayal of characters living under perfect conditions. What really comes through in Borino’s writing is that she genuinely loves these characters, even when she puts them in situations that leave the reader shuddering. At its core, Expectations is a story of hope and love that anyone can relate to, though the path to get there is unconventional to say the least. It is because of that very fact that the book stands out as a must-read, rather than a paperback romance squeezed tightly into an impulse rack at the local supermarket.

Q & A with Expectations author, Liz Borino

[DAVID K. HULEGAARD]: You’ve been creating stories for most of your life, but Expectations was your first book. What was it about The Taylor twins’ story that made it ideal for your first published endeavor?

[LIZ BORINO]: I’m not sure. I’d say it was honestly the first one I deemed publishable. I connected with the stories and the characters in a way I hadn’t with any other book. Also, I did a lot of work and research to make it work.

[DKH]: Most writers say that there’s a little bit of themselves in each character they create. Is that true for you, and if so, which one do you think you identify the closest with?

[LB]: Chris is the character I hope to be most like. He’s unconditionally loving, supportive, optimistic, and really full of life, even at the worst of times. Aiden is how I perceive myself. He’s introverted, only opens himself up to certain people, but talented in a way his (old) family doesn’t understand or support. I think I made them male to give myself some distance. Matt deals with problems I’ve seen destroy people close to me. And Robert represents one of my greatest fears: being controlled.

[DKH]: As a straight woman, did you find it challenging to write a love story about two gay men? Did you do any special research to uphold the authenticity?

[LB]: No, actually, I enjoy writing about gay men more than the straight couple. Maybe it’s because Carley annoys me so much. As for research, one day at college I sat down and had a discussion about m/m sexual positions with a bisexual male. After that, I let the characters guide me.

[DKH]: Creating such different lives for Matt & Chris must have been fun, but challenging. Even though we learn much about Matt, we learn even more about Chris and Aiden. Do you tend to think of them as the stars of your creation?

[LB]: No, I don’t. After Expectations, the stories between the couples even out. Matt’s story, and past, is darker than Chris’s, but he’s got a good heart and wants to make sure his family’s future is bright.

[DKH]: Expectations is only an introduction to the fast-paced lives of these characters. It ends on quite a bit of a cliffhanger. Where do we find these characters in the next installment, What Money Can’t Buy?

[LB]: Both couples are anticipating parenthood and dealing with the stresses and joys that entails. Matt and Chris have to compensate for the changing role their father has in their life. It’s an exciting and dramatic book.

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