Troublemaker (Book 1)
Queer is a spectrum, and bisexuality is often rendered invisible in the M/M romance genre. That is not the case here, as reformed “troublemaker” Aiden accompanies Carter to a wedding as his fake date. Trouble is the plan here, to disrupt Carter’s mother’s plan to connect him with an old girlfriend. However, trouble of another sort emerges when Carter finds himself interested in Aiden as more than just his best friend’s younger brother. (Aiden, on the other hand, is living the dream as his childhood crush on Carter is fulfilled.)
The burgeoning romance is sweet, and it’s a solid through-line to the external wedding drama. Carter’s mother is the obvious villain here, but Ashcroft is deft at setting her up as a character who genuinely believes she knows what’s best for those in her family (even her ex-husband), and it is when they step outside of those lines that things go “wrong.” When Aiden attempts to deflect some of her harm onto himself, Carter realizes just how damaging his relationship with her is. Even if he and Aiden aren’t going to live happily ever after, Carter embraces living his authentic life with Aiden’s support. Support also comes from the surprising sources of his father and the ex-girlfriend, in additional story elements that are delightful for how unexpected they are.
Carter’s character development in this book is more pronounced, and it extends beyond his sexual orientation. In contrast, Aiden’s is more subtle but just as integral to the story. This is a story that is just as much about familial love as it is romantic love, and I look forward to the other Goode boys also finding their happiness.
Heartbreaker (Book 2)
On the surface, Felix is living his dream as an author, writing full-time. Except his publisher doesn’t agree with how the final book in the series should end, which means Felix has hit a brick wall when it comes to finishing said book. His agent packs him off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and the handyman happens to be the best friend he lost touch with as a kid.
In reality, the only plausible thing about any of that is the publisher disagreeing about book content. But this is a romance novel, and the wish-fulfillment shouldn’t be limited to the two adorable main characters getting their happily ever after.
Kieran is asked, again, to play the part of a fake boyfriend, but this time he doesn’t turn down the opportunity to liven up Felix’s Instagram account and prove to the publisher that Felix is a good role model for readers of his YA book series. Along the way, Felix agrees to be more than a fake boyfriend for appearances only. Both men promptly catch feelings (way beyond friendship-level) once the relationship turns physical. Luckily, Kieran has a support system more than happy to prompt him and Felix back together.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the “fake boyfriend turns guy bisexual” happening twice in a row in a series, but this book is different enough from the previous that I didn’t mind it. The emotions are here, too, but in a different context. Of course, after two books of watching Kieran and Aiden’s younger brother be oblivious to Morgan, I can’t wait to finish this trilogy and see all the Goode brothers get their happy endings.
Risktaker (Book 3)
This book shares some aspects with the first two in the trilogy, such as the fake boyfriend and “only one bed!” tropes. However, the difference lies in how both main characters are already secure in their sexual orientations and that a current friendship already exists between them. Devin doesn’t need a date to prove anything to anyone, but he doesn’t want to share a cabin with his ex, and if he manages to show said ex that he’s moved up in the world, all the better. Too bad he’s already half in love with the person he asks to help him out.
And too bad that person is already half in love with him back. It’s not a hardship for Morgan to pretend to be Devin’s boyfriend, except that it brings them closer together in all the ways he wasn’t prepared for after pining from a distance. Luckily, well-meaning friends manage to get these “idiots in love” together properly, amidst the surprisingly high drama of a kayak competition. (Of which I know little about, but the author makes it easy to follow along without the necessary background knowledge.)
The “dark moment” between the characters isn’t terribly dark, but it does show how both men can only hurt each other because of how much they love each other. Between some delightful sexy bits, some of my favorite romance tropes, and plenty of cameos by other familiar faces, this book was a sweet closing story to the trilogy.
Binge-reading this trilogy might lead to burnout on the tropes in common, but splitting it up over a few weeks was the perfect distance in time to enjoy each book for itself.