Since I follow this author on social media, I have the pleasure of knowing that the plot of this book sprung from a chance encounter she had with a model while on vacation in New Orleans. The finished product is a lovely, slow-burn romance that I have no problem imagining could be real. The way Marlon and Reed reunite as adults might smack of kismet or fate, but the staying power of the friendship that reignites between them only exists because both men put the work into it. I appreciated that both characters are mature enough to understand that the physical chemistry they explore is a perk to their friendship, not necessarily a feature. As they separated the first time, I had no idea where this book was going or what the happily ever after would look like, but I was definitely invested and along for the ride.
The traveling lifestyles both characters enjoy mean Neuhold could have focused the story on their in-person encounters, but I also enjoyed the many scenes in which their communication was via text or telephone. These are what proved the strength of their friendship, which in turn made the physical reunions all the steamier. The inevitable emotions both men catch for each other (despite all protestations to those around them) are not a surprise, but the way they handle them is. What results is a strange sort of limbo in which Marlon and Reed are dedicated to each other but both afraid to upend the status quo. The second half of this novel is surprisingly emotional, and I may have shed some tears. Despite that, I support the “low angst” description attached to this book, and I loved the dichotomy that Neuhold carefully balances to create both.
This stand-alone novel is not to be missed by anyone who enjoys the friends-to-lovers trope, especially when the path getting there doesn’t follow a stereotypical map. I also enjoyed the separate character development each man undergoes based on the support from his best friend, not necessarily because of it. Multiple journeys of all sorts are undertaken in this book, and you won’t regret meeting me at the end.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.