Nick Fuller’s divorce is newly finalized, and for the first time ever he’s living on his own. He’s also single for the first time since he was seventeen, when he started dating the woman he married. But despite his mother’s protests, Nick is ready to start living his life on his own. He has a new home in half of a duplex, and his restaurant, and that’s all he needs to start his life over again.
After a health scare, Bryce Tanner is determined to live his life to the fullest. He’s found his passion in motorcycles, and he sleeps with whatever woman he wants. When he moves into the other half of the duplex, he doesn’t meet his neighbor until he’s in his garage working on his classic Harley, and Nick comes home one night from work. Nick thinks it’s as good a time as any to introduce himself. When Nick needs help with furniture a few days later, he asks for Bryce’s assistance. As they get to talking and learning about each other, Bryce finds out that Nick has never been with anyone other than his wife. He cajoles Nick into going out on Saturday with him, so that he can help Nick find a woman to have sex with. But it doesn’t work according to plan, and the two men end up spending most of the night talking. And the next Saturday it happens again. And the one after that. Until the men realize they’ve got a very solid friendship and are spending almost all of their free time together.
When Nick accompanies Bryce to a family birthday party, Bryce’s brother says something to him about hiding his boyfriend. Bryce is shocked, and denies it. But he can’t stop thinking about what his brother said, and when a conversation with his best friend confirms things, Bryce heads right to Nick. Bryce can’t believe the way he feels about another man, and though it starts off rocky, Nick admits he feels the same. Right down to never having feelings for another man before.
The men decide to take things slowly and to see where things lead. But each day they spend together they get closer and fall more in love. They can’t keep hiding from their families, but things don’t go the way they want. Their relationship is tested and things get strained, but Nick and Bryce’s feelings run deep. But they have to figure out if they go deep enough to withstand the pressures from the outside, or if they are going to crumble.
Friends to lovers is one of my favorite themes, and so when I had the chance to read this book that’s been on my radar for a while, I was quick to pick it up. Bryce and Nick have chemistry from the moment they meet, and it builds from the friendship that they have first. In this story, there’s definitely a stronger undercurrent of attraction, though both MCs are naïve enough not to notice it. I admit I would have liked to have seen more of their friendship first, to have that built up a bit more, before they got together. But, on the other hand, I liked that we didn’t have to wait a terribly long time to see them finally fulfilling that part. Overall, I think the friends to lovers theme was executed well here, and I can definitely recommend this book for that alone. But that’s not the only reason I would.
The characters are really well drawn here. Bryce was maybe my favorite of the two, simply because he had a lot of layers and was well crafted. I liked that he was sort of, but not really, the odd man out in his family. I loved his passion and verve. When he found what really lit his fire, he went after it full bore. First it was learning about and then repairing motorcycles. And then it was Nick. When he went after Nick, there was no stopping him. He had doubts. He second guessed himself. He was human. But he also knew what he wanted and he was willing to work for it. Nick grabbed my heart for other reasons, as he was coming out of a long relationship that ended badly. And he was making his way on his own for the first time. I liked his dedication and passion when it came to his restaurant and cooking, and I liked that once he let himself feel all the things he felt for Bryce, he didn’t question it over much.
That was one of the parts of this book that I liked the most. Both these guys were previously straight identified, and though there were a few small mentions of maybe now identifying as bi, they didn’t dwell too much on labels. But what really worked for me was that while the doubts and second guesses that both the characters had were perfect and fitting for their situation, there wasn’t a lot of angsting, teeth-gnashing, and hand-wringing. They had moments where they questioned it, where they checked to make sure they were really feeling like they did, but they both accepted their feelings easily. It was believable for the characters that Hart created, and I appreciated it a lot.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have quibbles with the story, because there were a few bits that got to me. I had a trouble with the guys’ families, to be honest. Both mothers were rather over the top and meddling. While they definitely did not read as caricatures, they walked a fine line, and it felt like both of them in the same story was too much. I had issues with the way they treated their sons, for different reasons, though I felt Bryce’s mom read a little more real. I think that if this was toned down a little, either in quantity or just plain reaction, I would have liked it a bit more. I also thought, though this is minor, that some of the scenes had a bit of a redundant feel, as if they were covering ground we’d already covered.
But ultimately, it was well written and well-paced, and the characters were nicely done. If you’re looking for a really nice friends to lovers story, with some angst and some well-done OFY thrown in, then this is the book for you.