Oliver has had a crush on Matt almost since the first time he saw him years ago and pretty much nothing has changed. They are still the best of friends, but Matt moved to New York City ten years ago and Oliver remains in California. Oliver still spends every Friday night with his friends at their favorite bar, Wild Side, and his friends still like to give him a hard time about his hookups, or lack of hookups. It’s just that Oliver wants it to mean more and it certainly doesn’t help that Matt remains on his mind.
Matt’s first love was the piano, but when a career in music didn’t work out, he turned to modeling. He’s successful, yet nothing feels right, from his relationships to his career and he can’t figure out what he needs. Matt never felt like he fit in with Oliver and his friends as he was the housekeeper’s kid and he knows he hasn’t been the best friend to Oliver over the years. But when Matt feels like it’s all coming apart, he finds himself at Oliver’s door.
Their friendship finally catches fire and Matt and Oliver find themselves turning to each other again and again while telling themselves it will end when Matt goes back to NYC. Oliver has always known it would be difficult to give Matt up and Matt is caught off guard by the depth of his feelings for Oliver. Matt has always felt that Oliver deserves better, but it may take Oliver letting Matt go for him to realize what he has had all along.
This book opens with brief flashes of the past that highlights the relationship between Oliver, Matt, and their group of friends. We see the guys at 18, right after high school graduation, again at 20, and then in present day when they are 28. They have all remained the closest of friends with Matt being the only one that has moved away. Matt and Oliver are still in contact and will always have a bond, but the visits become less over the years.
Oliver is living his dream as an author and has the career he always wanted. He doesn’t have someone to share his life with and although he tried dating, nothing and no one seems to stick. Oliver will deny it, but Matt is always in his mind as a comparison. Matt is more successful than he ever thought he would be, yet he feels unsettled and unfilled, like any moment someone will see through him and call him out. When he needs to figure out his next step the only place he thinks to go is to see Oliver.
Childhood friends-to-lovers can put me in the zone when it’s done well, but this one wasn’t done as well for me. I never felt the longing and the passion that these guys were said to have for each other, especially from Matt. They are in the friend zone for a long time and that spark never came off the page for me. Also, their voices never did seem to grow up for me over the course of the book and they gave off the sense that they were still way young and playing grown up. Many of their interactions felt stiff and forced and the emotion that was being discussed didn’t reach out to me and the whole book had a sense of detachment to it.
Oliver is a nice guy and the stable one that looks after all of his friends, yet he came off as a bit bland, while Matt was the gorgeous model who never felt good enough and he has personal as well as family issues to work through. All of these guys tended to emote all over the place, yet they can’t find the words for each other and it all shockingly fell flat for me.
The story introduces us to a group of friends, which includes Dare as the owner of the bar the guys hang out at. Dare and Austin were featured in the story, Dare You To, that Jay reviewed as part of It Was Always You anthology. That story is now available on its own as is listed as book #0.5 in this series. While Dare and Austin do make an appearance in this book, it’s not imperative to have read that story.
The first book I ever read by Hart still remains my favorite from the author and I feel like I am constantly chasing the high from that book as this one was lacking for me. But, if you enjoy this author and are looking for a new series set around a group of friends in California, you could give Gone For You a try.