Read my reviews of the previous books in the Heather Bay series:

Like I Pictured (#0.5) | Like I Promised (#1) | Like I Wished (#2) | Like I Needed (#3)

One of my favorite aspects of Novak’s writing is that not only does each series portray a fantastic cast of well-developed primary and secondary characters, but each of these series also takes place in the same shared universe. I’ve been looking forward to Henry’s story since meeting him via his brother in Proficiency Bonus ages ago, and Novak has seeded the details for the appearance of a world-famous actor in the tiny town of Heather Bay make total sense. The relationship that develops between Henry and Heather Bay native Alex begins with vibes of opposites attract, but I appreciated that Alex’s adorable grumpiness is a feature of his character instead of a cliché dislike of the television production occurring in the town.

Alex may be spiky, but he is a genuinely good guy who cares for his home and his friends. I was immediately interested to learn what made him swear off relationships, but it sets up a fantastic dynamic with Henry. While Henry tries to figure out what is different about Alex, these characters trip and fall right into the fake relationship trope! Novak makes it relevant to the relationship arc while sliding some thematic subtext into the story about the ridiculousness of pop culture corporations only wanting to recognize queerness in a specific way.

We do eventually learn what caused Alex’s “emotional wound” as he gets comfortable enough to share more of himself with Henry. On the surface, it might appear that said wound heals quickly, but enough time has passed since the initial issue that I was okay with the low-angst resolution. I would argue that Alex had already done 99% of his healing and was holding onto the wound more out of habit than anything else. He just needed that last push of genuine interest in someone else (i.e., Henry) to take that last step.

On Henry’s side of the not-so-fake relationship, I also appreciated that Novak shows a lot of the actual hard work of being an actor. This ties directly into both Henry’s character development and the final conflict of the book. Though the circumstances surrounding the dark moment for Henry and Alex were a bit predictable, the angst doesn’t linger and the resolution is properly swoony (dare I say right out of a movie?).

This was another enjoyable book by Novak, who has grown so much as a writer in the few years that I’ve had the pleasure of reading her. I’m looking forward to the final book in this series while also dreading the end of yet another extended window into the lives of so many wonderful characters. But as I mentioned above, there’s a decent chance I’ll get to catch up with a few of them in future stories!

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
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