Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Who We Are by Nicola Haken Blog Tour


Since putting his life on hold ten years ago, Oliver Clayton doesn’t know who he is anymore. To his clients at the hair salon, he’s the sassy and confident stylist. To the crowds who come to watch his drag act at the club, he’s the fierce and fabulous Miss Tique. He’s popular. Talented. Out, proud, and self-assured.

He’s also a good actor.

Sebastian Day is content with life’s easy, if not a little monotonous, routine. After several failed relationships, he likes the simplicity of being alone in his truck at his job as a heavy goods driver, spending the weekends with his teenage son, and putting the world to rights with his cat, Marv. He’s not lonely. He isn’t hiding.

At least…he doesn’t think he is until he meets the mesmerising stranger with the red hair and purple lips.

Can Oliver and Sebastian help each other embrace who they are? Or will a cruel twist of fate end their journey before it’s even begun?

M/M Romance. Not recommended for readers under 18 years of age due to language and sexual content.

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~ Sebastian~

I WAS JUMPING down from my cab after arriving back from my last drop of the day when my life almost ended. Okay, so maybe I was known for being a tad on the dramatic side, but when Benny – my oldest friend and biggest pain in my arse – jumped out from behind my trailer, I almost choked on my fucking heart.

“Jesus Christ,” I muttered, breathless from the fright. “How the hell did you get in the yard?”

I’d been a heavy goods driver for thirteen years, working here at Patterson Haulage Ltd. for three of those – long enough to know they didn’t let pedestrians wander in off the streets to play hide and seek behind the lorries. Transport was in my genes, I guess. My dad had been a trucker all his life, and he met my mum at work – she worked as a clerk in the office. I never wanted to do anything else. I walked straight into my first warehouse job fresh out of school and stayed there until I was old enough to train for my Class 1 licence and could go out on the road. I loved my job.

“That old lady with the bright orange face let me in. Told her I needed to talk to you about Scott.”

“Scott?” Slamming the door to my cab closed, I fished my phone from the pocket of my Hi-Vis jacket and scanned the screen for missed calls. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Well, he likes Eminem, but hopefully he’ll grow out of that.”

What?” Narrowing my eyes in confusion, I stared at Benny who looked to be admiring his thumbnail.

“Nothing’s wrong with him. I just knew they’d let me come see your truck if I played the kid card.”

Rolling my eyes, I huffed as I turned and re-opened my cab door. Climbing the steps, I leaned inside to grab my holdall and tacho card before hopping back down. “You’ve seen a wagon before. You shouldn’t use Scott like that. There could be a real emergency one day.”

“And if there is I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the one anyone’d call about it,” he said, his tone amused as he ran his finger along the curtain of my trailer. “This needs a wash.”

“You offering?” I asked as I locked up the cab and started walking towards the transport office. I found it highly doubtful as I turned my head to the side and eyed up his leather coat, and beige turtleneck that no doubt he’d paid upwards of a hundred pounds for. Benny worked in recruitment. In other words, companies paid him far too much money to find them suitable candidates for their businesses, money which he wasted on overpriced shit he didn’t need. “Or did you come here for another reason?”

“I came because, as you know, it’s my birthday on Friday. The big three-four. I want y…” Pausing mid word, Benny spun on his heels. “Holy hot ginger.”

I didn’t need to turn around to know he’d spotted Rod, seeing as he was the only red-headed bloke who worked at this depot. “Christ, Benny. Keep it down. I have to work with these guys.”

“Chill out. The fact you’re mates with a gay guy won’t give away the big secret that you like cookies and ice cream.”

“It’s not a secret,” I snapped. Or maybe it was, given that I’d never told anyone I worked with that I was bisexual. My last two relationships had been with women, and ‘passing’ as straight was simply… easier. I was a copout and a liar but I was tired of explaining, defending myself.

There are a lot of misconceptions about bisexuality and I’d encountered most of them during my twenties. Now, at thirty-four, I was kind of exhausted with it all. I wanted to fall in love and create a future with another person as much as anyone, but I’d given up on the idea a while ago. Relationships, for me, whether with a man or a woman, seemed to consist of me justifying myself, reassuring my partner, or hiding – as Benny would say – the cookies or ice cream part of my sexuality.

I couldn’t just be me.

I wasn’t good enough.

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to sleep with everybody, and there weren’t twice as many fish in the sea, because most fish thought I was confused, greedy, unfaithful, trying to be trendy, or afraid to admit I was gay. The last one confused me the most. The number of people who believed bisexuality was a temporary label used to ease the transition to gaytown would never cease to amaze me. It happened, sure, but there were a hell of a lot of bisexuals claiming to be gay, or straight, for no other reason than they couldn’t face the stigma attached to it, too.

I was simply attracted to people. I got turned on by the way someone carried themselves, by their confidence, or even shyness. I felt the same stir in my cock and pull of excitement in my chest when I saw the rugged grooves of a man’s chest as I did the silky curves of a woman’s hips. People are beautiful. I couldn’t help it. It’s just the way I was made.

Thankfully, many people realised these days that being gay or straight wasn’t a choice. Unfortunately, some of these same people believed bisexuals were capable of making a choice, and that they should. Well, I tried that when I was a teenager. I tried to pick a side, to ‘fit’ in somewhere.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out too well.

“Just tell me what you came for,” I added to Benny, pushing open the swinging door that led to the warehouse which, in turn, led to the office.

“Do you have Scott this weekend?”

“No. Lisa’s taking him to see Jenny’s parents in Cornwall. Why?”

“Great! You’re coming to the village for my birthday.”

Ugh. “Ah, you know it’s not really my scene.” I had my reasons for not frequenting the village, unlike Benny who spent so much time there it could be considered his second home. Besides, after a day on the road my idea of a good time was Netflix and a takeaway.

“Yes, Mr Misery, I know having fun isn’t usually on your To Do list but it’s my birthday and you’ll hurt my feelings if you say no.”

We’d reached the office now and I handed my keys over to June through the window partition while raising a sceptical eyebrow at Benny. “Fine,” I said. “But as soon as you’re too drunk to notice whether I’m there or not I’m leaving.”

“I love you.” He turned to June who looked rather amused by my dickhead friend. “I love him, you know.”

“Knock it off, moron,” I said, ramming my shoulder into his.

“Watch the jacket!” he shrieked as he rubbed at the tan leather that made him look like a seventies pimp. “You’re covered in dirt and smell like oil.”

“Please excuse my friend, June. They don’t usually let him out unattended.”

“Don’t mind me, lovey. I’ve seen all sorts in my time.”

I risked a glance at Benny, whose mouth had dropped ever so slightly open. For a man who wasn’t easily offended, the image was priceless.

“You’re on the Midlands run tomorrow, lovey,” June added as she tapped on her keyboard.

Nodding, I told her I’d see her in the morning, swung my holdall over my shoulder and started making my way to the car park, all the while trying not to laugh at Benny’s reaction.

“Did she seriously refer to me as an all sort?” he muttered under his breath when we neared my car. I knew he wouldn’t let it go so easily. “Clearly, out of the all sorts she’s met none of them have been make-up artists.”

“Stop it,” I said, snorting as I clicked open the central locking on my matte black Ford Galaxy. “June’s lovely. A little old-fashioned, but harmless.”

“I’m sure. It just wouldn’t hurt for her to go down a shade or twelve in the foundation department is all I’m saying.”

Opening the rear door, I tossed my bag onto the back seat. “Have you finished being a bitch?”

“God, I hope not.”

Removing my thick, Hi-Vis jacket, I threw that on top of my bag, revealing my dark green uniform polo shirt, before closing the door and getting into the driver’s seat. “Is that all you wanted? You could’ve called or text.”

Benny leaned against my open door, hand on hip. “Told you, I wanted to see your big truck.” He winked at me.

I wanted so badly to roll my eyes, or at least keep a disinterested expression, but I couldn’t help chuckle at him.

“I was in the area, and besides, you’d have said no without my pretty face to seduce you.”

Probably.

“And hey, if you want to bring a plus one your red-haired co-worker is more than welcome.”

Shooing him away from the door, I pulled it closed and brought the engine to life before rolling down the electric window. “Let me know when and where during the week,” I said, dismissing the idea of inviting Rod. He’d only been here for three months and I didn’t know the guy well, but the fact he had a wife and three kids told me Rod wouldn’t be interested in the kind of socialising Benny had in mind for him.

“Will do,” he said, tapping the roof of my car before backing away. “Don’t forget I have expensive taste!”

Shaking my head, I bit my lip to suppress the grin that wanted to escape as I reversed out of my space. I already had his present – a bottle of Dior aftershave, same as every year. It was the only thing I knew the fussy bastard wouldn’t return in exchange for store credit.




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Angie☆☆☆☆☆
Get out the tissue, this book made me cry a few times. I love Oliver and Sebastian. This book was so touching and heartwarming. Oliver has been his brother’s guardian since their mother’s death. Sebastian is divorced with a teenage son. These two hit it off and I felt their connection and chemistry through the whole book. I like how the author didn’t gloss over anything, showed the struggle of raising a kid and making ends meet, and how life sometimes just stinks. Very heartwarming story, the banter between these guys is so sweet. I can’t say enough about this book to do it justice; just read it, you will love it.

Characters: Well written and easy to fall in love with
Sex: Yes
Religious: No
Would I recommend to others: Yes
More than one book in the series: Not sure
Genre: M/M Romance
Would I read more by this author: Yes


Sarah☆☆☆☆☆
Wow. This made me smile. And cry. And cry some more. I fell madly in love with Ollie from the start. I love his many roles and the compromises and sacrifices he makes to keep his family together.

Oliver’s insecurities make him real. Beyond his glamorous persona at work and on stage, Oliver is barely making ends meet. He is embarrassed by his inability to provide for his brother. He grieves his mother and has spent a decade being parent, provider, and caregiver to his brother. The gritty details of Oliver’s poverty are immediately familiar to any UK reader and I loved his dignity, his dreams, and his grit-laced glamour.

Seb is a less colourful everyman. He makes enough to live comfortably. He is supported by a big family, and co-parents with his ex in relative harmony. It took me longer to fall for Seb but he slowly and quietly proves himself to be a good and dependable man. His kindness to Oliver is sweet. His insecurities are endearing and his family is both insane and uncomfortably recognisable.

Once the romance between Seb and Oliver begins, this story takes off in a direction I really didn’t expect. Without giving anything away, this is where the author grabbed me by my emotions and swung me round in circles. I loved the story but it left me raw and red eyed.

The beauty of this story lies in characters who feel terribly real as they experience a brutal twist of fate. I really loved this book – I read it in a single teary, messy sitting and it played with my head and my heart for a long time after.


Angela☆☆☆☆☆
To begin with, I’m disclosing that the final paragraph of my review will contain a semi-spoiler about the book’s plot. I rarely reveal spoilers in my reviews, but this one is about a topic that is not so much a trigger, but may be a sensitive issue for some readers. So from reader to reader, I’ll issue a heads-up that simply does not belong in the book’s description because it isn’t cause for a trigger warning, but is the kind of thing that another reader should make you aware of. But the warning I will give EVERY reader is to keep the tissues near as you read Who We Are because Haken has once again penned an emotional story that is likely to have you sniffling, if not outright bawling – even during the happy parts.

Oliver has spent the past decade raising his little brother after their mother passed away. Now that his brother, Tyler, has hit his teens, Oliver is finding it harder and harder to pretend that everything is going to be okay – he feels guilty that he cannot afford to give Tyler more luxuries, he feels ashamed that he can’t provide a better home for them, and he feels as though he’s failed as a guardian when Tyler gets into trouble at school. Until he drops a tray of glasses at Sebastian’s feet, he’s never really felt lonely because his life revolved around his brother. But now Oliver finds himself in an awkward position of trying to figure out if he can have a relationship, and if so, who does he tell what and when does he do it? Little does he know, Seb has his own secret that he’s afraid will send Oliver running. I enjoyed that even though their initial connection was instant, the relationship that develops between Sebastian and Oliver moves fast without feeling rushed or forced. Then again, the way that Seb embraces Oliver in all his various forms and that Oliver never questions Seb’s bisexuality, it made it easy for me to want to see their relationship develop and blossom. I loved how each man made the other happy and that the other people in their lives could see that happiness. Of course, I’m glossing over the obstacles the couple must overcome because I wouldn’t want to spoil their story any more than I’m already going to. So do be prepared for some heartbreaking moments, some heart racing moments, and to fall in love (and laugh because Seb is quite the witty guy) as Seb and Oliver’s story unfolds.

Now, for the semi-spoiler… If you are sensitive to storylines in which one of the major players has to deal with cancer, then you may want to make sure you are in the right frame of mind before reading this book. Haken portrays the characters’ struggles – both the person with cancer and his support system – in a very realistic manner. As someone whose partner lost his battle with cancer, I was extremely devastated when the character received his diagnosis, so much so that I had to put my Kindle down, grab the tissues, and compose myself. As my partner communicated with my honestly about what he went through as he went through it, I felt the pain on both sides of the battle. I was stripped raw and had to hold onto the hope that because Who We Are was advertised as a romance novel, that all would be okay in the end. But even knowing that it HAD to be okay, that the author COULDN’T possibly allow this budding romance to be snuffed out before it even really began, I still bawled my eyes out, and that is a testament to Haken’s skill as an author. Her ability to make me feel what her characters feel and care about their lives, their relationships, and their happiness never ceases to amaze me. That said, I could have done without witnessing Rhys’s heart get thrashed so soundly in the epilogue. Is it wrong that I’m hoping that Rhys starts banging around in Haken’s mind soon, demanding his own story? And is relentless about it? If so, so be it. I’ll just be over here reading until the author’s next release.





Nicola Haken lives in Rochdale, England, with her five kids – one of whom is a grown man who many refer to as her husband. She spends her days writing about life, love, and all the beauty and angst that comes with it, and her nights binge watching Netflix or being the household slave. She’s also not very good at referring to herself in the third person, so if you’d like to get to know her your best bet would be to follow her on social media!

Oh, and if the kids ever ask, she moonlights as the Pink Power Ranger while they’re sleeping…

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Who We Are by Nicola Haken to read and review for this tour.

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