When Benji Goss is dumped by his boyfriend, he is too nice to refuse to keep his ex’s cat. Benji not only hates the cat and is highly allergic, but the evil thing actually leads to Benji’s ultimate demise — at the hands of a Del Toro bookcase from CASA, Benji’s favorite store. The next thing Benji knows, he is waking up in CASA. He has no idea how he got there, or even that he is dead.
Like Benji, Patrick Bryant died at the hands of a Del Toro bookcase and now he has been stuck in CASA for years, helping to guide souls on to better things. Patrick has been there forever, and he is pretty sure he is never moving on. So when he sees the adorable Benji, Patrick thinks this might be the perfect opportunity to have some fun before Benji leaves him too.
Benji is friendly and cheerful and full of optimism, everything the grumpy Patrick is not. Patrick finds himself charmed by Benji, and parts of him can imagine having something more with Benji than just a fling. But Patrick also knows that everybody leaves, and one day Benji will move on as well, while Patrick is stuck in CASA. He is determined to harden his heart and keep Benji at a distance, but just maybe with a little help there can be more for them after all.
So this story is just plain a lot of fun you guys. In case it isn’t clear, CASA is a takeoff on the assemble-it-yourself Scandinavian furniture store, IKEA. The set up here is so clever, with CASA as this way station for spirits before they move on (yes, Wallville is the place you don’t want to end up, but if you are lucky, you may move on to Scope, with their red bullseye logo). There are so many clever details here in the way CASA is portrayed, and if you ever have shopped at an IKEA you are certain to chuckle at the familiar set up, from the funky furniture names, to the meatballs in the cafe. I was so impressed with the gentle humor here in the way the store is built into the story, making use of CASA as the setting and building from there. The folks who end up in CASA all went to their death due to a furniture mishap, and you would not believe all the crazy ways someone can die from furniture!
So the whole set up here is just wonderfully creative and makes the story shine. But on top of the great world building, we get a really sweet relationship between Patrick and Benji. I just loved Patrick. I have a soft spot for the assholes that aren’t really assholes. The guys who are so scared they put up these huge walls, only to have those walls shattered when they find right person to tear them down. As we learn more about Patrick’s story, we can see how lonely he is, how scared of being left behind, and why he is at first resistant to hoping for something more with Benji. He is a scientific mind, and he just can’t let himself believe. And Benji is sweet and adorable and doesn’t put up with Patrick’s crap. He is a novice at all this afterlife stuff, and it is through his eyes that we learn what is going on. And ultimately Benji is the one who leads and helps to make the future between him and Patrick.
As someone who reads m/m romance nonstop, I can tell you that finding a truly new and creative story isn’t easy. There is only so much ground to tread, even in the most wonderful books. So it is always a delight to find something truly different, creative, and really clever, and I think that Chase and Baker have created that here. Some Assembly Required is such a fun story, I was entertained from the very start. There is a great balance of humor, sweetness, and poignancy, combined with the creative set up. I really enjoyed it and definitely would recommend it to you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.