TOXIC by Avylinn Winter

 5 stars


I read this without realising it was the second book in a series, but I don't think it really mattered as this story focused almost entirely on Adam. Chris and Dante from the first book do have a presence but only as support characters.


Adam is in his last year at university and in a secret relationship with his best friend Gabriel. They grew up together but Adam only recently came out and after some tension between them, Gabriel claimed Adam as his boyfriend. However, Adam is at college on a football scholarship and is not ready to disclose his sexuality to anyone. This puts a strain on their fledgling relationship but Adam is so in love and lust with Gabriel he will do pretty much anything to keep him happy. 


The story is angst ridden from the start. Adam is sweet and pretty and clever and kind. Gabriel is a brute. He is rough and rude and although he claims to love Adam, he is insanely jealous which subsequently sparks his violent temper. Before long anything and everything Adam does invokes a fight until his friends notice a very changed person from the Adam they used to know.


Adam has a photography teacher, Cameron, who takes him under his wing and simmering attraction builds between them but Adam loves Gabriel and Cameron is his teacher.


The story is told beautifully, full of sensitivity and love and hope. Cameron, Chris and Dante care deeply for Adam and they refuse to sit by and watch as he falls victim to Gabriel's fists time and time again. 


I was drawn into this story from the first page and I don't think I took a breath until the last. My heart was fit to burst over how Gabriel treated Adam and I cried a lot. Avylinn tugs on the heartstrings constantly but the skill of her writing is how a lot of it is suggestive and she leaves the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps. I really like her writing style. I was captivated throughout and loved the characters and the storyline. This was refreshingly enthralling and I look forward to more from this author soon.