Finn has been in love with his best friend Nate since he was eight years old. The two men are closer than brothers and know everything about each other. They even live in the same house. Finn has gotten very good at tamping down his love for Nate, but he’s still a little bit grateful when Nate starts making himself scarce. But after two weeks, he breaks and asks Nate what’s going on. Nate hands him his birthday present, even though it’s a month early: a road trip to a good deal of the states and thirty sealed enevelopes of thirty things for Finn to do before he turns thirty.
As the guys set off on their road trip, Finn is reminded once again how well they know each other. Nate has picked some amazing things for them to do, and he’s always conscious of Finn’s limitations. When Finn was seven, he was in an accident that resulted in permanent damage to his legs. Walking is hard on him, but Nate always gives him support without impinging on his independence. They travel through the states and make amazing stops, each one being something that Finn would love…or at least push his boundaries to experience something new. But the sexual tension between them reaches a head, and they finally act on their attraction.
Though things are good between them, and Finn is thrilled to finally be able to touch and kiss his best friend, Finn has worries. Nate has always seen himself as straight, and he fears what will happen when they get back home. He’s too scared to ask Nate where he sees the relationship going, and when a stop in Texas has Nate introducing them as “just friends,” Finn thinks he has his answer. Heartbroken, he starts to pull away emotionally. But Nate is as attuned to him as he’s always been and then finally have the big conversation. And with their final stop on their journey, and with the last envelope, Finn realizes he just might have underestimated his best friend and the man he loves.
This was a wonderfully clever, beautifully written, nearly perfect novel that hit all the right notes. Friends to lovers is a trope that I adore, and adding a road trip in the mix made it all the more fun. Ashwood does a fantastic job of giving us clever and interesting stops along the way, each one perfectly poised to move the story forward and show more about the characters. I adored this book from start to finish.
Finn is our narrator and he’s the perfect on to tell us this story. I loved his tenacity and determination. This man had spent the better part of his life dealing with an injury that will never get truly better. But he is fiercely independent, and I loved his attitude and outlook on life. I have to admit, I loved the way he loved Nate as well. Nate has been his solid rock and best friend since kindergarten, and the author does a spectacular job at letting us see how well they know each other and how comfortable their relationship is. Yes, there were a few times where I wanted to shake Finn and tell him to just talk to Nate, but I couldn’t completely fault him for his actions. It was consistent with his character for him to keep it inside, as he’s been doing for more than twenty years. To Finn it seemed as if their relationship had changed in the blink of an eye, and though it was ever so slightly irritating from my viewpoint, it made perfect sense that Finn would be more than a little reluctant to talk to Nate. I also have to admit that I kind of loved that Finn was a virgin, and that he was getting to experience everything with Nate for the first time, because Nate was, ultimately, the reason he’d been holding out. It really appealed to the romantic in me.
The thought that Nate put into the trip is what really showcases his feelings for Finn, and really gives us an inside look into his brain. Pretty much, we only see him through Finn’s eyes, and so we have his perception coloring Nate. While there was a small part of me that would have liked to know a little more about what was going on in Nate’s head, for the most part we were shown exactly how much Finn meant to him. I would have liked to see a little bit more from Nate about how he came to the realization he wanted more than just friendship from Finn considering he’d never been with a man before. But that aside, he was able to show us enough about his love for Finn that I was satisfied. It was wonderfully done, and I was wholly invested in their relationship from word one.
Because of the nature of the story, we pretty much only spent time with Finn and Nate, and I really loved that part. It’s clear how perfect they are for each other, and I loved that the story wasn’t cluttered with a lot of secondary characters. We got to meet a few colorful folks along the journey, but for the most part, it was Finn and Nate and their growing relationship. On the whole, it was pretty low on the angst meter, and that was perfect for this story about two guys feeling their way into a new level of their relationship. It worked perfectly.
I have to make a quick note about how inventive and clever some of the stops in the book were. I was almost as anxious as Finn was for him to open the envelopes and see what was coming up next. I never knew what to expect, and that made the story a lot of fun. The last envelope was the best, and I’ll admit to figuring it out only seconds before Finn opened it, and then hoping fervently it wasn’t just my wishful thinking.
Guys, if you like a well done friends to lovers story, then Thirty Things is absolutely one you want to pick up. It’s everything it should be without being over the top, and I can definitely recommend it to you. I know without a doubt, this is one I’ll be reading again.
Cover: I love everything about it, and it’s perfect for this story. The gorgeous view, the winding road into the future, the license plate-ish title. It’s perfect.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.