So, I totally love Goodreads! Reading all of the things that people didn't like about this prepared me enough that I went into this anticipating the worst and was therefore able to sincerely enjoy it.
Because a lot of people talked about how differently both Lio and Griffin act in this one--to the extent that some of them even asked if they were the same characters--I was able to appreciate the ways they'd grown during the time that had elapsed between the end of book 1 and the start of book 2. Griffin does mention that Lio has had to make a lot of changes in order to be able to survive in the political climate he was brought home to.
I actually enjoyed some of the changes. I liked that Lio wasn't as dependent on Griffin as he was in the first book. And I think Griffin did also, once he got over his insecurities and really was able to actually be proud of Lio and not just think that he OUGHT to be proud of him. I liked it because it made them both seem stronger. That they were both these tough, good, strong-willed men and yet were still able to find ways to open up to and lean on each other.
Because a few people talked about how different Griffin and Lio's relationship is, again I was able to appreciate the ways in which it is obviously stronger, and the ways they're working on improving things. From the reviews, I was anticipating them just being stupid and stubborn and obnoxious and not communicating or even being together except for angry revenge sex.
I was delighted to find that that was far from being the case. Yes, they both had issues. They both had secrets they were keeping. They both had things they needed to work on. But they were working on those things, together. And they were communicating as well as they were able given their situations. (except maybe Griffin and the baby thing... but I get how that would be something that might be hard to fit into a conversation) I still totally loved their relationship. I loved how obviously and fiercely and determinedly they love each other, in spite of everything.
Because someone talked about how it came across to them like Griffin just spent the entire book thinking about Suzan and missing her and not paying attention to Lio, I was prepared to hate her memory and to resent Griffin for focusing more on her than Lio. I actually thought the Griffin-mourning-Suzan thing was beautifully handled. It absolutely made sense that he hadn't been able to grieve properly while things were so unsettled. It helped me understand him and sympathize with him a lot more to know that missing her was part of what was going on in his head. And that mourning her was all mixed up with mourning who Lio used to be and what had happened to him was also beautifully done.
The one thing that did make me sad was the end. There was a review that warned that this isn't even a HFN, let alone a HEA. I don't know if I would go that far, but it did seem like they'd taken a step backward by the end.
I thought what Lio did with Suzan's bracelet was totally sweet, and asking Griffin to mourn her for Lio since his memories hadn't come back was touching. But to end with Griffin not even still wearing Lio's bracelet that he had on at the beginning seemed like a step back. If the three of them were together, can Griffin not wear the necklace to remember Suzan at the same time as the bracelet to look to the future with Lio? That made me sad.
Having been warned, I anticipated that things would be much worse than they turned out to be, so I'm glad. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and thought it was a beautiful continuation of Griffin and Lio's love story. To me, the major difference was that this one was about maintaining and strengthening a relationship while dealing with day-to-day life, where the first one was all about forming the relationship while they were basically free from responsibilities. So, up until the end, this one seemed more... meaningful.