Rocket Science (Book 1)
I’m not terribly interested in the “falling for the brother’s best friend” trope, but I’ve enjoyed previous books by this author and wanted to keep enjoying their work. This story bends the trope by having the brother urge his sibling and BFF into a friendship now that they live in the same city, though he has no idea that the BFF has had a thing for older bro since they were much younger. The older brother is reasonably oblivious to the unrequited crush, but he lays eyes on BFF and realizes he’s not the forgettable nerdy teen he once was.
Neuhold particularly twists this trope by immediately making the friendship between Elijah and Pax one hundred percent believable. They are genuinely friends first, and it is only when Elijah seems interested in dating that Pax acts on the chemistry between them. Alas, Pax feels like he’s taking advantage of Elijah and already carries the baggage of not being great at relationships.
Except relationships do work when both parties are on the same page, and these men have more than explosive chemistry going for them. Like the scientist he is, Elijah knocks down every barrier Pax throws between them, giving readers a sweet happily ever after. As a bonus, we’re introduced to Pax’s extended friendship group, promising plenty more relationship drama by Neuhold for us to enjoy.
Four Letter Word (Book 2)
It was quite apparent from the previous book in this trilogy that, eventually, the focus would end up on Bishop and Hudson getting together. Except this isn’t just a friends-to-lovers story. It’s a surprise dose of polyamory as Bishop learns about it from his one-night stand with Riot. Suddenly, Bishop understands that the emotions haunting him since high school might have an outlet. And that’s when his other best friend Leo returns to town.
Because this is also an enemies-to-lovers story, as Leo and Hudson are forced to bury the hatchet (or at least stop putting Bishop in the middle) (and not in a fun way). Finally, Leo and Riot bond over baking, Hudson and Riot bond over their shared secret lives, and there’s a lovely happily ever after. But this book, like polyamory itself, is not about having your cake and eating it, too. It’s about the importance of communication and openness and remaining true to yourself. The story told isn’t a single love story, which made it all the more interesting to me.
Perhaps the most surprising element is that Riot (who, remember, started as just the hot bartender) remains an integral part of the relationship arcs. This book could easily have been a tale about three high school friends evolving their relationship to the next level, but Neuhold breaks from the expected by including a fourth. I had a lot of fun getting to know all of these characters and seeing how the various dynamics played out across different social (and more intimate) situations.
This story can work well as a stand-alone, but it references and crosses over with events in the previous book and sets up the couple for the next story. I look forward to enjoying that one, as well.
By the Numbers (Book 3)
After the shenanigans inherent to a polyamorous relationship in the previous book, part of me worried that this trilogy’s final installment might be a bit of a let-down. I should not have feared because Neuhold is just as adept at managing the tension and sexiness between two characters as between four. In this case, we get to follow along as roommates-turned-lovers Alex and Theo explore both a new friendship and then, when sparks fly between them, so much more.
With his genius-level intellect, Alex never had the chance to enjoy a traditional childhood. Luckily, Theo is there to introduce him to the joys of sleepovers, arcades, and nerf gun fights. In turn, Alex introduces Theo to romance novels and a certain drawer in his dresser in the strangest trade ever. A particular scene might put off some readers, and even I gave it a bit of side-eye, but when Theo admits what he did to Alex, it brings the characters closer together rather than drive them apart. They might not follow the traditional romance arc, but I appreciate both characters’ emphasis on maintaining their new friendship even while exploring the possibility of a relationship. On the individual side, Alex helps Theo realize that an old flame is more of a habit than unrequited love. Theo helps Alex figure out what he wants to do with his life (and intellect) rather than continuing on the expected path.
I enjoyed getting to know both of these characters better after meeting them earlier in this trilogy. Even though not much about any of the relationships in this series are by the numbers, they follow their own logic and make for excellent reading.