Christian came to the pub to drown his broken heart in alcohol. What else was he supposed to do when his boyfriend of a whole year, Andrew, broke up with him just because his flaky ex-wife hinted she wanted him back? And on the eve before they were meant to escape to Italy for three weeks of sun-drenched fun, no less? Well on his way to oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, Christian is surprised when Trip, Andrew’s life-long best friend and a jet-setting fashion photographer, finds him at the pub. The only thing more surprising than the black eye Trip’s sporting is the fact that Andrew gave it to him. Christian never really cared to know Trip; in his mind, Trip was second only to Andrew’s ex in the “fair weather friend” category. But when Trip discovers the Italian travel plans, he suggests the two of them go together. Considering the enormity of Andrew’s callousness, what better payback could there be than his best friend and his ex absconding to Italy together?
Of course, nothing is that simple. It takes no time at all for Christian and Trip to acknowledge and act on their physical attraction. It takes only slightly more time for both of them to realize that they actually enjoy one another’s company. Christian learns not only that Trip wants to be more than a fashion photographer, he has the vision and the skill to capture truly stunning photographs. Trip learns that Christian isn’t just a drone in a monkey suit, but a man who loves with his whole heart; Trip suddenly wonders if he can prove that he, too, is worthy of a love like that. After little more than a week of burning up the sheets, not a few serious discussions about where they are in their lives, and a little sightseeing thrown in, Christian and Trip realize they don’t want their connection to end when their vacation does. But out of an abundance of caution, Christian attempts to address an elephant neither one of them knew was in the room: what if their chemistry is purely circumstantial? Or they realize that Christian is just on the rebound and Trip is the unwitting rebound guy? Things go downhill fast when Andrew gets involved. Is there any way Christian and Trip can get back to that happy place?
Brindisi Bedfellows is a contemporary romance first published in 2007 by Jamie Craig. Our main characters are a pair of gay men from England who go on holiday to Italy where they immediately discover incredible sexual compatibility and slowly discover the ways their similar-but-different relationships with Andrew both push them together and pull them apart. The idea of Christian and Trip getting together has a definite instalove/revenge fucking vibe from the very beginning, so I got to hang on every interaction hoping for A Moment when they would realize they wanted more than just sex. There is also a delightful opposites-attract theme. Christian is the clean-cut, nine-to-five office worker who’s devastated his long-term relationship with Andrew just ended. Trip travels the world photographing conventionally beautiful people for the exclusive fashion world. They barely knew each other before this trip and most everything they knew was filtered through Andrew, a very problematic character in his own right. The Andrew filter therefore sets up a variation on the enemies-to-lovers vibe, too. Instead of actual enemies, though, they’re more like rivals in the hierarchy of Andrew’s social circle. I loved the way their connection to Andrew pulls them together—they both want to get back at the man for ruining a perfectly good relationship with Christian to go back to his toxic ex-wife. The flipside is that Trip has a secret that could threaten to put the kibosh on any attempts at a vacation fling.
One of my favorite aspects of this story is how, despite all the copious copulation Christian and Trip engage in, they still manage to start building a real relationship. In hindsight, it seems too simplistic to say the story focuses on how sexually compatible these two are. I think the number of times there is explicit sexual content is maybe two or three (a blowjob at the beginning, and a full scene toward the end); the rest is more or less foreplay that fades to black. Yet the way the characters talk about how much time they spend in the hotel rather than out exploring Italy, and Trip’s very clear intent to get Christian some Italian ass while they’re there clearly framed my reading of their relationship as physical first. All that said, I was thrilled at how these two reacted to potentially problematic scenarios. Like when Trip has to grapple with the fact that Christian looked at Trip’s photography portfolio behind his back. Or what to do when Christian learns what Trip’s secret is—especially when it’s not Trip who reveals that secret. And especially when they’ve returned to England with their path forward as a couple severely in question. I was delighted that these characters don’t resort to melodrama, but mostly talk through what the problem is and what the options are. Watching the characters have blunt discussions about their experiences, expectations, and emotions instead of flying off the handle helped me see them as being committed to building something real.
Overall, I thought this was a fabulous read. The chapters flow easily from one to the next, with Christian and Trip’s feelings for each other growing the longer they spend in Italy. Even with ample intimacy, both on page and alluded to, I thought the most compelling part of the story was the way these two connect verbally and emotionally with each other. After reading about their intense experiences almost falling in love in Italy, I thoroughly enjoyed the tremendous tension they faced as they tried to figure out if and how they could continue a relationship when not on vacation. I think this is a perfect beach read and readers who like character-driven stories with a lot of spice will surely enjoy this book.