Eric Yoo isn’t happy. Six months have just been flushed down the drain by the jerk, Stackler, who has brought in an account that, by rights, should have been Eric’s. Six months of getting to know one of the owners of the new up and coming media app, Gigi, for nothing. Six months of going out of his way, getting to know the company, everything, and it’s gone. Now, for that extra finishing touch, Eric’s being asked to work with Todd Ellis on the new campaign.
Todd is everything Eric can’t stand. He’s messy, he’s loud, he’s all inspiration and whim. He’s awkward and self-conscious until the moment when he’s pitching something he’s proud of, and then Eric can’t take his eyes off the way Todd smiles, the sound of his voice, the way he moves his hands… When Todd suggests that he and Eric pretend to be a couple — since the Gigi company is all made of couples and families — in order to win them over, Eric reluctantly agrees. Surely he can pretend to be Todd’s boyfriend for a quick weekend. It can’t be that hard, right? Just … don’t kiss him. Don’t touch him. Don’t laugh at his jokes, or return his smile, and, most importantly, don’t fall in love with him.
Todd, who has been obsessing over every small expression on Eric’s face for the two years he’s known him, isn’t certain if it’s brilliant or bonkers to have suggested this plan. If it works, they land the account and pull one over on Stackler. If it doesn’t work … well, at least he’ll have had his chance to touch Eric, even if it’s all just pretend.
Todd is someone who puts everything into his work, leaving none for himself. All of his passion, all of his energy is directed outwards. It makes him a great friend and a brilliant artist who can put together campaigns that give the client more than they even knew they wanted. Unfortunately, it leaves Todd himself somewhere behind. He hasn’t changed his wardrobe for almost thirty years, he hasn’t cut his hair in almost as long. It also leaves him forever comparing himself to others, knowing his clothes, his weight, his lack of fitness and confidence can’t match up to Eric’s — or even Stackler’s — which makes him shy away, afraid of putting himself out there.
Eric is, well, he’s lonely. He lives by routine and order, he finds pleasure in control and knowing what’s expected of him so that he can prepare and rise to the challenge. Surprises leave him feeling flat-footed, which has him reacting rather than acting, which leads to feeling foolish, which he hates. So when Eric first proposes the plan, he says no. Instantly. But given a chance to think, given a chance to weigh the pros and the cons, he finds the idea worth considering … for the job, of course.
There are some honestly cute moments in this story, such as the two men lying in bed, face-to-face, discussing with solemn deliberation how their second kiss should go. It shouldn’t be too planned or rehearsed; it should be longer than the first, more passionate. They discuss it like they’re ordering off a menu, even as they stare into each other’s eyes, breaths apart. It’s adorable.
But, while the relationship is the strength of this book, the story isn’t. While I get a sense of Todd and Todd’s work, I have no idea what Eric does or why he’s considered to be good at it. Todd brings out ideas, puts together storyboards and presentations. All I know about Eric, all I know he’s good at, is yoga and being on the phone. Eric is up against and being compared to Stackler — one of them gets the account, the other doesn’t — but the two men have nothing to do with one another, and in the end, where Eric must finally show himself to be worth notice, prove himself as a person of skill and value, Stackler shits the bed and Eric gets the pat on the head without having done anything to deserve it.
The book is well written and I liked Eric as a character. The romance and relationship with Todd is charming, but the absent plot, conflict, or purpose — beyond getting the two together — left me feeling very lukewarm about this book. The ending, especially, just had me shrugging. For a rivals to lovers story, this is worth the read. Just be aware that that’s all this really is.