Never judge a book by its cover.
Michael Campbell can’t hold a job for more than a few days. He’s lucky his foreman is giving him another chance with the solar panel project at an elementary school in Atlantic City. When he spies a man walking strangely in front of the school, Michael laughs, assuming he’s drunk or high. Little does he realize that Joshua Stone, a teaching assistant, has cerebral palsy, and he’s having a bad muscle control day. Taking a tumble right in front of the handsome construction worker is just his luck.
When Michael learns the truth, he feels bad for his cruel behavior. He offers to give Joshua—and his tricycle, the Racing Rhonda—a lift. Joshua accepts the help, and suddenly there’s a gorgeous man breezing into his life, turning his world upside down. But Michael has more issues than his inability to hold down a job, and neither man is sure if they’ll be able to overcome their fears in order to be together.
I absolutely adored this book. In the course of my career I have met people like Joshua, people who have cerebral palsy yet have absolutely no mental retardation at all. Needless to say, I loved that the author was able to convey this so effectively in Despite the Odds, creating a character that is both realistic, delightful, and determined to break the stereotype. It’s because of this that the novella resonated with me on so many levels.
Considering that I work with people with developmental disabilities, is it bad that I actually felt badly for Michael? His laughing at Joshua’s struggles that fateful morning was due to an honest mistake. He was not laughing at a man with a disability because of his disability. He thought he was laughing at a stumbling drunk. So when his co-worker went off on him, I felt bad for Michael. Why? Because his was an honest mistake and it was made obvious by the fact that he stopped laughing as soon as his co-worker told him about Joshua’s disability and then later when he jumped in to help Joshua. His actions made it clear that there was no malice meant on his part. What made Michael’s later interactions with Joshua even better is that he really didn’t treat Joshua any different than anyone else other than to accommodate his physical limitations when they flared up.
I loved that Kat chose to build the relationship between Michael and Joshua slowly. There was no rush to bed for these two. Yes, there was an incident in Joshua’s past that made him hesitant to get physical with Michael too soon, but Michael didn’t try to push his boundaries and opted to keep it at Joshua’s comfort level of kissing for most of the book. Even when they moved beyond kissing, there was no pressure from Michael to go all the way and this makes the intimacies that do occur both sweet and steamy. I also liked how Joshua called Michael out on his double standard regarding their disabilities. Although I never quite figured out whether Michael was dyslexic or illiterate (and I likely read over it, so my apologies to the author), his inability to read made him feel even more insecure next to Joshua’s level of education. They were both concerned that the other would find someone better and end the relationship. While Michael repeatedly assured Joshua he wasn’t interested in anyone else and had never been interested in anyone the way he was with Joshua, his own insecurities kept him for accepting Joshua’s assurances in the same way. But when Joshua pointed out that he meant his commitment to their relationship as much as Michael did, well I fell in love with Joshua even more. My only complaint about Despite the Odds is that the book ended too soon. I am relieved that book two in the Odds Are series is a continuation of Joshua and Michael’s story and I’m looking forward to its release because I cannot wait to see what happens next.