Rating: 4 stars
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When Boone Phillips left the south for a job at a gaming company in Silicon Valley, he never imagined he’d end up having a gay best friend who moonlighted at clubs under the drag persona, Honey. Nevertheless, Boone has come to depend on Rob’s friendship. Now, Boone’s big Southern family is throwing a big old family reunion. Over drinks one night, Boone half laments, half regales Rob with everything that he is looking forward to and everything he is dreading. While Boone is of course excited at the prospect of seeing his family, he is loathe to show up as an eligible bachelor and spend the time fending off any and all the sweet young women Boone is sure his family will flight his way. That is, until Boone gets a great idea: he asks Honey to escort him.
For years, Rob has carried a secret torch for his best friend Boone. Despite their physical differences—Rob is slender, small, and dark-haired where Boone is broad, brawny, and blond—and their opposing personalities—Rob is creative and extroverted and Honey is an absolute firecracker but Boone is more reserved—it is perhaps because of these dissimilarities that they get along so well. Too well, maybe. Rob has put his love life on hold because no one can hold a candle to Boone. Too bad Rob will never have a chance with straight-as-an-arrow Boone.
When Boone asks Rob to be his alter-ego Honey at the Phillips family reunion, Rob of course agrees. He’s more than showman enough to pull it off. Yet when the deception begins, neither Boone nor Rob could have foreseen how much was at stake. While they were concerned Boone’s relatives would see past the glamour of a man in drag, the should have been worried about the emotional upheaval pretending to be a couple would bring. One steamy kiss under the starlight sends Rob running, afraid he’s ruined the best friendship he’s ever had and all for a wholly unrequited love. That very same kiss, however, has Boone opening his eyes for the first time. Too bad Rob misread Boone’s reaction because Rob has fled and it’s up to Boone to prove that he’s man enough to love Rob—if Rob will have him.
As far as shorter stories go, this was pretty good! It’s short, sweet, and ends with a steamy love scene between our principles. The bulk of the story revolves around the Honey/Boone interactions during the long weekend where they attend Boone’s family reunion. We get alternating points of view, too. I liked being able to watch the drama unfold from both of their perspectives. From Boone’s side, it’s pretty easy to see him justify the ever growing attraction he feels towards Honey/Rob as natural affection he’d feel for his friend. I think McKay also did a pretty darn good job keeping Boone’s voice and Honey/Rob’s voice (that is, third person omniscient perspective anyway) distinct from each other. Most especially, I appreciated this effort when we’re reading the action from Boone’s POV and he consistently refers to Honey with feminine pronouns. I’m not worldly enough to know what’s the accepted practice, but I found it interesting that the same was not true when the narration switched to Rob/Honey’s POV. That is to say, when we’re seeing things from Rob’s perspective, McKay still uses male pronouns even when Rob is Honey. It was something I noticed and thought comment worthy: the drag outsider being consistently careful about pronouns while the drag artist wasn’t.
AND that actually leads into the big angst element in the story. As the long weekend unfolds, it’s clear Boone starts to feel more and more for Honey—while at the same time constantly reminding himself that it’s his best and very male friend Rob in drag (not as a way to stop himself from being aroused or anything, but more to remind himself that Honey is fabricated, brought to life by his friend). Similarly, we see Honey’s suitably girlfriend-esque behavior played against the internal thoughts Rob has and his fears that Boone is only feeling anything because he’s attracted to Honey as if she were a biological woman. That is the crux of what drives the climatic scene.
The only real downside was that I didn’t feel like these two characters were very firmly established BEFORE they get thrust into the reunion situation. In fact, right off the bat, there was a balk-worthy moment when the Boone (who is more or less described as being sort of straight-edge in the same breath) volunteers Honey for the reunion. That one little slip has me skeptical the rest of the book would measure up…but happily, despite sensible Boone asking his best friend to be his fake girlfriend for a weekend, the rest of the story made up for this.
If you’re looking for a short, sweet little story to read—beach season is coming—this would be a great choice. It’s a little out-for-you/friends-to-lovers, features a drag queen in a low-drama situation, and a sweet get together scene followed by a steamy love scene.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.