jlgribble.com | book cover of Not Allowed (Not Ready for Love #1) by Kate Hawthorne

Hawthorne is one of those authors who can take typical genre tropes and always put her unique spin on them. In this case, she upends the dad’s best friend/age-gap romance premise by featuring two characters who are both too self-aware and incredibly dumb about everything they’re getting themselves into.

As a mature adult in his 30s, Grant easily squashes his initial attraction to his best friend’s 18-year-old kid. However, Wyatt has GOALS for spending this summer at his dad’s place before heading off to college in 8 weeks. Wyatt’s pursual of Grant comes off as adorable and oblivious, depending on the scene’s point-of-view character. In contrast, Grant should be nominated for sainthood for his initial patience with Wyatt.

Unfortunately, or luckily, depending on how you view things, Grant is no saint. He does his best to turn the tables on Wyatt and regain some control of the situation (and chemistry) between them. Still, he’s also self-aware to know that he’s many levels of idiot by allowing the affair. As a result, the story blends the perfect levels of awkwardness and heartbreaking at the same time, especially as the summer comes to a close and the men understand the hole they’ve dug together.

Though this novel is on the shorter side, Wyatt and Grant are still developed as solid individual characters, along with the secondary characters of Wyatt’s dad Adam and even a bit of his boss Cooper. Wyatt’s practiced indifference toward his father evokes perfect divorced kid vibes (especially for this divorced kid). Grant and Adam’s relationship with kink are not specifically delved into here, but although Grant tries to skirt around the issue with Wyatt, innate elements still crop up in their interactions. The way Wyatt accidentally learns about his dad’s lifestyle is yet another delightful blend of hilarious and awkward, especially regarding the research Wyatt attempts afterward.

Finally, the notion of a satisfying cliffhanger should be contradictory. I will admit to some strong words with the author when I started the epilogue, but I completely agreed with the direction Hawthorne appears to be taking this trilogy by the time I finished it. The cliffhanger is much more of a mood than a surprise break in the action, so please don’t let that stop you from reading this fantastic novel immediately.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic review copy of this novel from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

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