Zack and Slater dated in high school and Zack thought that Slater was his future. Zack’s plan was to go to college, come back to their small town in California, and spend his life with Slater. But Slater had other plans and broke Zach’s heart.
Zack now lives in Chicago and thought he was building his media career, but he’s made some missteps. He was dating his boss, who he caught cheating on him, and Zach’s retaliation got him fired. Then Zack’s finds out that Ted Goode, Slater’s grandfather and the man that was like a father to Zack, has died and Zack finds himself heading back to California. Zack has managed to avoid Slater on every other trip back home, but he knows that won’t be possible this time.
Slater still looks as good as Zack remembers and, although Zack hasn’t gotten over his hurt and the men haven’t talked about anything, the men fall into an exes with benefits relationship. But it’s only a few days before Zack is returning to Chicago and the men keep telling themselves they will have each other out of their systems by then, but that doesn’t seem at all likely.
Clean Slate starts a new series by Isla Olsen featuring the Goode family in small town California. This is a town where the locals love to gossip and everyone makes it a point to know and broadcast everyone’s business. The prologue opens with Zack and Slater hooking up after not seeing each other for years. The chemistry was good between the two of them and it seemed to set the stage for a second chance relationship. The book then goes back six days and there the story fell apart for me and never recovered.
The starting point was that Slater’s grandfather died while in an intimate, playful moment with grandma and all of the details become town gossip. There is a town Facebook group and the comments are shown as part of the story. The head of the book club, where the participants get together to read “dirty” books, cancels the book club because she is sure that grandma got the idea from one of these books. Also, before the funeral even happened, there was a group comment with a resident asking to fill Ted’s vacancy on the Men’s Club board. This was all supposed to be funny and none of it was funny to me. At all.
Olsen has an earlier series, Love & Luck, where there is a large family and the family has a group chat. Here, we have the Goode family, another large family with siblings and cousins, and instead of the family chat, there is this Facebook group. It was a lot of the same and, for me, none of it was better.
After we know Zack and Slater hookup, we go back and see a bit of their lives. We don’t know why they broke up and we don’t find this out until much later in the book and the pacing was off for me. They are still attracted to each other and agree to spend time together while Zack is in town. They spend more and more time together, of course the town gossip is on fire, they continue making plans, and they talk about nothing. They don’t talk about their past and they don’t talk about their future and the combination didn’t work for me. There are lots of characters introduced, siblings and cousins and townspeople, and it was too many, felt chaotic, and didn’t give any time to get a feel for future characters in the series. Zack’s best friend is also a “best-selling indie author” that writes gay mystery novels and the commentary on the genre didn’t fit into this story for me either.
This book was a miss for me and if this is what is to be expected from the Goode family and the townspeople, I can’t see myself continuing on.