Austin Lloyd is stuck late at his pet grooming shop, Pawsitively Purrfect, waiting for the owner of the adorable pug puppy to show up. And when Evan Partridge comes to collect his puppy, Austin gives him a piece of his mind, though he feels bad about it afterward and knows he overreacted. Austin wants to apologize for his behavior toward the hot man, but he has to wait to run into him in the grocery store to do it.
Evan has spent most of his life putting other people first, and it’s very hard for him to open up to others. Getting a pug puppy, Dexter, was the only impulsive thing he’s ever done, and having the puppy makes his life better. But a series of circumstances has Evan having several bad days, and his run in with Austin is only part of it. When they meet up again, Austin offers a free grooming session for Dexter to make up for it. And when the neighbor’s toddler colors all over Dexter, Evan takes him up on it. Things don’t go according to plan, again. But in the fallout, Austin gets the opportunity to invite Evan out with a group of friends.
Though the attraction is there between them, Evan makes it clear up front that he’s not looking for a relationship. Once they get past their rocky beginning, Evan and Austin become friends and start hanging out. Evan has never really had a good friend like this, and he doesn’t want things to change. But when Austin misreads signals, things do. Eventually the two are able to move into more and are starting to settle into something good when Evan’s sister shows up.
Dealing with his sister takes up all of his attention, and Evan’s fall back is to push people away. He knows it’s too soon to involve Austin in the mess that is his family, and when he refuses to let Austin in, Austin has no choice but to walk away. But Evan finally sees how far he’s let things go, and he knows that if he ever wants to be happy, he’s going to have to take his life back. Now he just needs to do it, and find a way to get Austin back.
I liked this story. The characters were cute and well developed. The dogs were super cute and gave the story a little something extra. However it was not without a few small problems that brought down the enjoyment of it for me.
First and foremost we have two great characters. I liked both Austin and Evan a lot. I felt we got to know them well, and that they showed us all their layers. Austin was a sweetheart with a huge heart, and though he has some small insecurities, he’s a well-rounded guy. He was the perfect match for Evan, who has some more personal issues, and really needed someone patient and understanding to help him break out of his patterns. Together, these guys worked really well. And I liked watching them move to friends and then to more. As a romance, this story worked pretty well, and I liked that their chemistry made it work.
This story is peopled with a lot of secondary characters and they too work really well. There was no point where they got overwhelming, and I liked the way everyone interacted. At times it felt almost like and ensemble piece, but the focus was never taken off the two MCs and it worked well. I felt that they really fleshed out the story and gave everything depth. Even the two dogs, Dexter and Maggie, added to the story. I very much liked all the characters.
But I had a little bit of trouble with Evan’s sister. It was clear she had some emotional and mental issues, and I think the author did a good job presenting her without her seeming like a caricature. My issue came with the lack of resolution with her storyline. It felt like such a big aspect in the second half of the book, and I think it was ultimately too big for the way it was handled. Because of the nature of the plot point, it seemed unresolved at the end and that didn’t work as well for me.
And then end in general is where I had some other small issues. Up until about the three quarters point, the pacing was great. But then I felt like it was rushing. There were time jumps that moved things too quickly and glossed over things I would have liked to see, even if it was only in a few paragraphs. And then when the very ending came about, the conflict resolution seemed way too fast and the ending felt very abrupt. I actually tried to turn the page again, to see something more and I couldn’t really believe it just ended as it did. It felt unfinished to me, and I wanted more to tie everything up.
Overall, I liked the book and thought it was cute, nice read. But I also thought that some of the plot points were a little too big and resolved a little too quickly or not at all. Ultimately, I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of this author or is looking for a nice read, watching two guys go from a rocky start with amusing mishaps to friend and ultimately to lovers.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.