Luca McGrath is caught in a tug-of-war between two brothers. On one side is James Armstrong, his best friend, his first love, and someone who is both straight and engaged. Or at least, he was until, suddenly, James is having a bout of cold feet while, at the same time, deciding he may just be interested in Luca. On the other side is Dylan Armstrong, James’ older brother, who is gay, is single, and is absolutely determined to keep his baby brother from ruining his life. Luca knows he shouldn’t want to kiss James, knows he shouldn’t believe James when the man says he loves him, but these are words Luca’s wanted to hear forever. So why is he constantly thinking about Dylan?
This book, first in the Movie Magic Romances series, offers up a new take on Sabrina — a classic Bogart and Hepburn romantic comedy — with charm and humor, while staying faithful to the spirit of the inspiration. Luca grew up on the Armstrong estate, making pillow forts with James, tormenting Dylan with James, and in general, living his life orbiting James. Luca knew he was gay (in part thanks to spying on Dylan with his parade of boyfriends, arousing feelings in Luca no girl ever had), and knew that James … wasn’t. It didn’t stop him from holding that fairy tale love to his heart, and didn’t stop him from measuring all future boyfriends against James.
And they all lost. Now, back in Napa for a new job as a sous chef at a well-known restaurant, Luca is coming face-to-face with his fantasy, and James is … still everything he dreamed he was. Golden, glorious, and straight. Luca even likes Nila, James’ fiance. But when James smiles at him, flirts with him, kisses him, all of Luca’s powers of reason and intellect go right out the window. He wants James, he always has. Until Dylan.
Dylan is focused, driven, and absolutely determined to make everyone happy. He runs his mother’s company, takes care of the staff — with generous salaries, bonuses, and compensations — takes care of his friends, and is determined to take care of his brother, too. His brother who, Dylan believes with a certainty, is absolutely straight. It doesn’t help that he, himself, has had a crush on Luca for some time, and seeing the young man coming back after seven years, turning from his brother’s friend (and his chauffeur’s son) into the handsome, capable, and talented man he is now leaves Dylan on uncertain footing.
When an accident leaves James in the hospital, Dylan is left taking Luca to dinner and helping him find a place of his own. As the two spend time together, Dylan realizes that he may just be falling in love with Luca. But, the hard and unhappy truth is that Luca has always loved his brother, has always wanted his brother, and has never looked at Dylan that way. The more Dylan tries, the more it seems to backfire.
I am a sucker for retellings. Even knowing the story beats and the outcomes, I love seeing how a different person approaches the characters and the plot and, I have to say, I was honestly pleased with Lain’s interpretation. The comedy is there, and so is the witty dialogue. In a story like this one — with a love triangle and a story rife with misunderstandings — the main characters need to be fairly solid in order to keep my attention. I found Luca to be genuine and human and I very much felt the chemistry between him and Dylan. I had, shall we say, opinions about James, a man willing to cheat on his fiancé who, at the time, didn’t even know he was having second thoughts about the wedding, let alone his sexuality, and that’s a good thing. You’re supposed to have opinions about characters, good or bad. And I had plenty.
For me, the ending was a bit too perfect and a bit too rushed, for all the time taken in the rest of the book to develop the relationship and the characters, though some of that can be excused by Dylan’s love language being: “Let me buy you things. All the things. More things!” and Luca just wanting to be loved, but I did think the ending was the weakest part of the book. Not that that stopped me from thoroughly enjoying myself while I read it. If you like romcoms, classic movies, and slightly clueless billionaires trying to impress determined can-do characters, you should definitely give this book a go.