Russ is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for his family and it’s turning into a disaster. He recently broke up with his boyfriend, who was supposed to do the cooking, and Russ is out of his depth handling the meal alone. After scorching and ruining a pan, Russ runs into his sexy neighbor, Esteban, by the dumpster. Russ has been crushing on Esteban from a distance, but the two have never really talked. When Russ explains his predicament, Esteban offers not only the use of his pan, but to help Russ cook the dinner. The men get along well and Esteban prepares a wonderful meal. But when Russ’ family mistakenly assumes Esteban is Russ’ boyfriend, the guys decide that maybe pretending they are together is a good idea.
Both men figure their ruse will be short-term, but one thing leads to another and soon they are finding reasons why they need to extend their “dating.” Esteban has a big fundraiser coming up, and Russ’ family may make a donation since they think the men are together. Not to mention that Russ is working for a promotion and his boss very much wants her new hire to be in a stable relationship. It seems like playing pretend a little longer is good for both of them.
The more time the men spend together, the more they realize how well they fit. The attraction between them continues to flare and what started as friendship is starting to feel like a lot more. But Esteban is wary that Russ is on the rebound and a real relationship between them would never work. Russ would love to turn their pretend dating into the real thing, but Esteban needs to get over his fears and take a chance on real happiness with Russ.
Mr. Right Now is a warm, sweet story with a fake boyfriend theme and a great holiday vibe. Russ and Esteban are two super nice men who are both caring, kind, and a little lonely. They are both that perfect combination of gorgeous and sweet, and I don’t think you can help but like them. The story is full of cozy moments where the men cook together, have nice nights chatting by the fire, and enjoy the holidays, both separately and together. There is some nice food porn here too, both that the guys cook together, as well as part of their various holiday celebrations. Both Russ and Esteban are a little bit adrift, Russ in particular. He has not quite found himself after getting our of the military. He is still working on figuring out what he wants out of life and reaching for his goals. The potential new job is just one step, but something that will give him a feeling of accomplishment he is lacking. So there is a nice warm fuzzy vibe to this story as both Russ and Esteban fall for one another and accept that they are definitely becoming more than friends.
I did struggle here really feeling a connection to the men as a reader, or between them as a couple. I can’t totally put my finger on why, but it feels like a lot of the book we are just watching the men hang out together. We are told a lot of their feelings and their backstory, but we don’t see them play out on page as much as I would like. For example, we know that Russ is out of sorts after getting injured in the military and being forced to retire, but we don’t really see how that is affecting him. Or we are told that Esteban’s ex broke up with him to return to his own ex and therefore he is fearful of dating Russ, who he assumes is on the rebound. But we are just told this, and never really get any detail into the backstory or the impact that is having on Esteban. It just felt like I was watching two very nice men fall for each other, but not that I really got to know them well enough to feel fully invested in them or their relationship.
This is a “fake boyfriend” trope, one of my favorites. As I have mentioned before, this trope is often is one you just have to go with in terms of set up, because they tend to be a bit crazy. But I still struggled here with a few things. First, Esteban is basically way too good to be true. The men meet for the first time and within two minutes Esteban offers to help Russ cook, which turns into Esteban literally cooking Russ’ entire Thanksgiving dinner for him. It felt like either Esteban is the mostly selfless man alive, or hard to really believe. Then, in order to save Russ the tiniest bit of potential awkwardness, Esteban steps in to pretend to be his boyfriend in front of his family. Again, these guys met that morning. I also felt a little irritated with the fake boyfriend set up itself. Russ wants a promotion and his boss (who is also his sister’s mother-in-law) makes a comment about how she doesn’t want to promote anyone not in a stable relationship to avoid any drama if there is a breakup. I mean, this woman is basically family and she won’t promote him if she knew Russ just broke up with someone? What’s more, Russ and Esteban then lie to their entire families the whole holiday season and pretend they are together. This includes pretending to be boyfriends so it is more likely that the woman will donate to Estaban’s charity. It just didn’t completely sit right with me, even taking into account the trope.
So I did have a few hurdles here fully connecting with the characters or the set up. But I do think this one hits the mark for what it is — a sweet, warm, holiday story about two really nice guys. I think if you are looking for low angst and nice feels, this one is a good choice.