Cayo is settling in at his new job in DC. Working for low-income clients is his dream and, despite being lonely sometimes, he is happy he made the move to the city. The last person Cayo expects to see on the club dance floor is his former roommate, Ben Roth. Ben is supposed to be in New York working in a high profile law firm far away from Cayo. Not only that, but Ben is most definitely straight and the club Cayo is at is decidedly gay.
The two former best friends had a massive falling out when Cayo took the chance and let Ben know his real feelings by trying to kiss him. Needles to say, it didn’t go well and the two have not spoken for the last two years. Now Ben is there, in the flesh, and desperate to rekindle their friendship. Cayo can forgive Ben, but he can never let the man back into his heart—something that might be a bit difficult since the two are suddenly living together temporarily and Ben is giving off signals that are making Cayo crazy.
To make matters worse, Cayo and Ben, through sheer circumstance, end up facing each other in court. The case is one that will test Ben’s new position at a major law firm. Before either can make sense of how they ended up opposing each other, a mysterious package is delivered to Cayo that will break open the case and put both men in a dangerous position. Things take even more turns and the two men realize that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Unfortunately, there is a bigger complication—Ben is sure he is in love with Cayo and begs him to take a chance on him once again.
The writing team of Joshua Harwood and Ryan Taylor have released a new legal mystery/friends to lovers romance called What He Really Needs. Ben is struggling with the idea that despite being so sure he is straight, he can no longer deny that he is in love with his best friend. Cayo, on the other hand, is fighting tooth and nail to keep a distance between him and Ben in order to protect his emotions, especially since the last time he admitted his feelings for the guy the result was not speaking to each other for two years and a badly broken heart. However, the heart wants what the heart wants and before long, these two work through their past and Ben ponies up to admit he has always loved Cayo and was in denial.
Through a series of stops and starts, Cayo begins to trust Ben and the two move forward learning to depend on their feelings for each other. Then all hell breaks loose on the job front throwing suspicion on Ben as a corporate leaker and putting his license to practice law in jeopardy. Someone is feeding evidence against Ben’s client to Cayo and putting both men in danger. The mystery element is done really well. However, the bad guy makes a few moves that seem a bit over the top to me. The real problem for me, though, is that he didn’t seem to follow through on the threats he made to Cayo near the end of the novel. Still, the entire plot thread is consistent and interesting, despite the weak resolution.
The real strength of this novel lies in the romance. This is a story that addresses coming out and coming to terms with one’s sexuality. Ben admits that Cayo is not the first man he’s looked at, but definitely the first he loves. Their romance is quite lovely to watch unfold. Cayo’s emotions take quite a realistic arc while he struggles to completely accept that Ben won’t up and decide to leave him for a woman—once more breaking his heart. I do wish that the authors had given us more information on the confrontation that broke up their friendship initially. Perhaps this was covered in another novel, since there are side characters in the current book whose story has already been told. Still, this is not part of a series and to me that means we should get the whole backstory, especially since that situation is the crux of Cayo’s reluctance to trust Ben’s current feelings.
What He really Wants is a friends to lovers romance that has a great side mystery element making it fast paced and emotionally intense. I enjoyed reading these new-to-me authors and will look for more work by them in the future.