When Royce moved to Oregon from Australia, he met Tanner, who immediately gave him the nickname Roo. The two were inseparable throughout high school and a lot of people thought they were dating. Tanner cared for and protected Roo during his frequent epileptic seizures and Roo has been in love with Tanner for years. When Roo went back to Australia for brain surgery, he thought it would be a good time to try life without being so dependent on Tanner, but he never got over him and five years later, Roo returns.
Tanner loves living in the small town in Oregon, but dyslexia makes reading and test taking difficult and he doesn’t want to ask for help to pass the firefighter exam. Tanner’s life changed the day Roo went back to Australia and nothing feels the same since he has been gone. Tanner never questioned his relationship with Roo and always dated women, but seeing Roo again has him questioning everything. He’s drawn to Roo in ways he can’t explain yet, but he does know that being without Roo again is unimaginable and he’ll need to reevaluate everything in order to get Roo to stay forever.
Just Friends starts the Never Just Friends series and this story is about the friendship between Tanner and Roo that turns into more. Roo had a difficult time as a teen as the seizures from his epilepsy increased in frequency. He became something for the townspeople to gossip about, but Tanner was always there to protect him and take care of him and Roo has been in love with Tanner for years. It’s been five years since the men have seen each other and, although they have kept in touch, it’s not the same as seeing each other every day.
Tanner liked his close friendship with Roo and it destroyed him when Roo moved away. He didn’t care that people thought they were dating, but Tanner never thought about Roo like that. Now that Roo is back, Tanner is trying to sort through the complicated feelings he has when he looks at Roo.
The book is character driven and relationship focused with the men becoming more than friends. It was great to see that Tanner took his time in examining his feelings, but the book overall was slow for me. Childhood friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes and, while it was clear that Tanner and Roo belonged together, this story was too familiar and moved at a slower and predictable pace.
Roo’s epilepsy was given page time, but Tanner’s dyslexia issues were not given the same treatment. Tanner has problems reading, which impact him finding a job and he won’t ask for help. His supportive parents know he has trouble reading, but nothing was ever done about it and since it wasn’t explained why it was never dealt with, I didn’t understand this at all. The men have a close group of friends and when they come out as a couple, there is some drama with one of their friends that never sees closure. I would say that more could be seen on this in a future book in the series, but here it was sudden and out of place and just felt off and unfinished.
Tanner and Roo have a few internal obstacles to overcome to get their HEA, but it’s clear from the start they belong together. Just Friends is a recognizable, low-angst story of two close friends finding everything they need in one another for a lifetime.