Ravi Tandel and Tristan Jones have both just started the jobs of their dreams working for a cutting edge gaming company with Ravi doing graphic design and Tristan in marketing. The two men find themselves at odds almost right away, as their personalities could not be more different. Tristan keeps to himself and is organized to a fault. He manages work with planning, endless spreadsheets, and extreme organization, and seems to find himself always dissatisfied with Ravi’s more laid-back work style. For his part, Ravi is getting tired of Tristan always seeming to doubt his abilities and dedication, and knows his own casual demeanor does not mean he is not committed to his job.
When food poisoning strikes the office, the guys find themselves forced together for a road trip to a big gaming conference where they need to deliver and set up the company booth. Neither man is looking forward to days on the road together, but they have no choice but to make the best of it. At first they continue to drive each other crazy, but the more time they spend in the truck, the better they start to get along. Ravi and Tristan find they have much more in common than they originally thought, particularly with their difficult families. And the attraction between them is strong.
Even though they both know getting involved with a coworker is a bad idea, Tristan and Ravi find they can’t stay away from one another. While they plan for the hookup to last no more than the trip, it turns out that there are feelings growing between them in addition to the attraction. With a connection stronger than either of them expected, will they be able to stay away from each other when the trip is over? Now they must figure out if the demands of the job, as well as Tristan’s difficult family, will keep them separate even when what Ravi and Tristan want most is a future together.
Beta Test is one of those stories that totally pushes all my buttons. I love a good road trip story, and this book is a great example of how this trope can bond characters together and build a connection in such an intense way. Both men have an initial negative impression of one another, but their time together and the opportunity to see each other out of the office give them the chance to really get to know one another in a totally different way. Mixed into that is another one of my favorite tropes, enemies to lovers, or in this case, kind of an enemies to lovers light. I wouldn’t say there is so much hatred here as dislike and a lack of understanding between these guys. They each get an impression of the other that is kind of one dimensional and they are so different they can’t quite see eye to eye. But the time alone together lets each man see the real person underneath, and get to know the other for the good man he is. And on top of all of that, we get a great opposites attract thing going here. Tristan is such a compulsive organizer, such a crazy planner. I loved him with all his spreadsheets (sigh, I do love a good spreadsheet) and his detailed notes on every potential issue that could come up along the way. What I really liked here is how the issues that most bugged the guys about one another end up turning into traits they find really appealing and endearing as time passes.
Albert does a nice job developing these characters and building a conflict that goes beyond the initial dislike of one another. Once the guys succumb to their attraction, they still face hurdles. Ravi has been burned by an office romance and is afraid to go there again for fear of messing up his dream job. Tristan isn’t really out due to a controlling, conservative family who want him to stay in the closet for fear of upsetting his mother’s political career. And Ravi has some family issues as well. So as these guys fall deeper in love, we see them struggle with all these outside forces that are making them think things can never work between them.
I just loved the connection between Ravi and Tristan and how sweetly in love (and lust) they are with each other, even before they can admit it. Ravi can’t help find himself delighted by and protective over Tristan, wanting to help him come out of his shell and live for himself. And Tristan can’t help but be drawn to Ravi’s outgoing personality, creative sense of style, and great self confidence. They are super sexy together, but the connection between them goes so much deeper and Albert really does a great job developing their characters and they way they fit together.
This story is the second in Albert’s #gaymers series, but even though Adrian does make some cameos here, this story totally stands alone. The connection is that the MCs of both books work for the same company, but you could easily read this one with having read Status Update. That said, the first book is great and I definitely recommend it as well.
So another hit for me from Annabeth Albert. I really enjoyed everything about this one and am looking forward to the next installment in the series.