Structural Strain by Tabitha O'Connell

Indie Ink Awards 2022 Nominee: Best Mentor Character

After realizing how badly he was failing his partner, Yaan promised to do better. Being open and vulnerable with Kel isn’t exactly easy, but it’s worth it for the closeness they now share. Kel, meanwhile, continues to combat his conflict-avoidant nature and be honest about his own wants and needs. The payoff includes not just an increase in affection from Yaan, but also Yaan getting to know his family, and even pledging to help get the old neighborhood theater—the catalyst for their reconciliation—open again. When Yaan begins noticing other ways the city government he works for has failed its working-class residents, his renewed commitment to Kel leads him to push back against his boss’s policies. Kel, however, is concerned Yaan might be taking on too much. When he’s proven right, their relationship will be tested anew, as Yaan is forced to decide what really matters to him and Kel must choose how far he’s willing to go for Yaan’s sake.

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