Zeb Evans lives a careful, ordered life. His chaotic childhood has left Zeb craving a structured life where he keeps his promises, stays organized, and doesn’t take many chances. It leaves him a bit lonely and unsatisfied, but Zeb doesn’t know any other way to be. The biggest source of chaos in his life is Jesse Reed, one of the staff at Zeb’s employment agency. Jesse is Zeb’s total opposite — full of life, a bit out of control, and often on the verge of disaster. Zeb knows he should stay away from Jesse; the man is his employee after all, not to mention 20 years Zeb’s junior. But he can’t help the attraction he feels for the younger man.
Now, Zeb’s ex-boyfriend is getting married and somehow Zeb has ended up the best man. The bride and groom are having a pre-wedding house party and, not wanting to show up alone, Zeb asks Jesse to pose as his boyfriend for the week (fake romantic partners being a staple of the services Zeb’s company provides). Jesse is eager for the chance to spend more time with Zeb. He knows a man as polished and sophisticated as Zeb is never going to want a guy like Jesse, but he will take any opportunity to spend time with Zeb.
As the two head off, the party is mostly a disaster. It is clear to Jesse that Zeb’s ex-boyfriend, Patrick, most definitely still wants him; Patrick’s mother is horrible to Zeb and Jesse; and the stuffy guests make the both mostly miserable. Yet even with all that, Jesse and Zeb find themselves really connecting. Jesse is more than ready to take things to the next level with Zeb, but Zeb is more wary. However, as the days go on, Zeb realizes he can’t hold out either, and the two finally indulge in their mutual attraction.
Things still aren’t smooth sailing, however. No matter how they try, both men fear that they are not enough for the other. Zeb, in particular, has trouble accepting Jesse really wants to be with him. Now Jesse and Zeb must trust in what they have built together and they may find everything they have wanted with each other.
Best Man is the first book in Lily Morton’s new Close Proximity series, and I totally loved it. One of the hallmarks of Morton’s writing is the humor in many of her books, and that is definitely present here. There is great banter between the men and lots of poking at one another, each one delighting in provoking the other into an eye roll or a sarcastic comment. And I am all here for that type of humor, so I love Morton’s style. But what really stands out for me with Morton’s books is the incredible character development. She has a way of writing such rich, layered characters that they jump off the page, fully realized. And that is exactly what we get with Best Man, as well. Both Zeb and Jesse are complicated, interesting people. Both have backgrounds that have really shaped their personalities. As the story develops, I could really understand what was driving these men and what was holding them back. This is especially true with Zeb, who is struggling with his sense of obligation and his fears of becoming like his father to the point that it is choking a lot of joy out of his life. Watching him come alive with Jesse, to laugh again and take chances and reach for what he really wants in life is very rewarding. I absolutely adored these guys together and loved watching them fall for each other.
As I said, this story is the first in a series, but like many of Morton’s books, it does have some small connections with other series. We first met Jesse briefly as Eli’s best friend and roommate in Gideon, and Eli and their third roommate have cameos here. Zeb’s stepbrother, Max, is also good friends with Ivo from Risk Taker. So you definitely don’t need to have read the other books (though OMG you should be reading everything Morton writes), but it is a fun little twist if you are familiar with past books. Morton also drops some hints as to what is to come in this series and I am quite excited to see where it goes.
So this one was another hit for me, and I pretty much adore everything Morton writes. I really loved Zeb and Jesse and can’t wait for more in the series.