For the past five or so years, Alexander has had a crush on his roommate and best friend, Rafael. Well, more than a crush. He’s head over heels in love with Rafael, who has zero interest in him, or relationships of any kind. All Rafael wants is to hook up three or four times a week with someone fun, and work on his art. Alexander can only watch from the sidelines, helping out with art supplies and cheerleading, and trying to tell himself it doesn’t break his heart a little more each time when Rafael goes out to meet his latest hookup.
When one of Alexander’s exes comes back into the picture, it’s Rafael’s turn to play cheerleader and try to get Alexander out there and on a date. But Alexander isn’t sure he can. One, he’s in love with Rafael, and two, he’s terribly insecure about his ability to be a good boyfriend. His past few attempts at sex were uninspiring, and he’s not even that good at kissing.
Fortunately, Rafael has a cure for that.
This is the third book in the Geek Ink series, which doesn’t need to be read in any order, and it’s my least favorite of the three I’ve read. In the first book, Geek Tattoo, which I loved, the characters were filled with charisma, common sense, and communication. All three of which felt like they were missing from this book. It’s been five years for Alexander as he pines over Rafael, comparing every one of his few dates against Rafael, judging every potential boyfriend against Rafael, and … saying nothing. He’s quite content with the co-dependent relationship he and Rafael have, where he supports his friend, lives with his friend, is all-but the best boyfriend in the world minus the sex. Which he doesn’t mind Rafael getting elsewhere.
And this is apparently a known fact to everyone but Rafael. Rafael doesn’t want to, in his words, change to suit a potential partner. It’s his way or nothing, and so far it’s been a lot of nothing, in large part because Rafael sticks to hookups so there’s never a need to change. He never has to consider another person — who they are or what they might want. Rafael just wants to read his sci-fi and work on his art, and he has no desire for anyone to get in the way of that. Alexander enables this, and the two of them have a wonderful relationship as far as Rafael is concerned. His only thoughts with the idea of Alexander dating is that someone might get in the way of what he has with Alexander. Not that Alexander might be happy, or find someone … but that Rafael might be inconvenienced.
Alexander is clearly not into Davis, not at all, but Rafael keeps pushing and pushing to get the two of them together. For … reasons? It’s never really explained why he wants Alexander to meet up with Davis. The only reason Davis exists, and the only reason Rafael pushes the date is so Alexander and Rafael can have a conversation about Alexander’s insecurity with how well he kisses, all so that Rafael can suggest that Alexander practice with him.
It really feels like the plot was written with no clear idea about the characters involved. Alexander and Rafael are never really all that defined, for me, as far as who they really are. They’re the expected bundle of insecure and horny. They’re both nice guys who have friends (who root for them) and that’s kind of it. And don’t worry about Davis; he’s just a giant plot thread that goes nowhere and kind of just dangles listlessly in the middle of the book. He’s treated like crap by Alexander (who only has eyes for Rafael) and then never mentioned again.
Now, this is a low-to-zero angst series with a guaranteed HEA, but after the previous two books, I kind of expected a bit more out of this story. It just felt kind of aimless. The plotting just isn’t there. The characterization isn’t there, and the I didn’t think the writing was as strong as it was in the first two books. Flashbacks are just shoved in the story with a “I”m suddenly reminded” and have nothing to do with the story whatsoever. The lack of communication isn’t my favorite trope and it’s in full flower here. After the first two books, it’s a little disappointing to see it so clumsily handled here. Every time either Alexander or Rafael even think about talking to one another … nothing happens. It’s not even a third party getting in the way, it’s just an absence of effort or thought, and boy did I get tired of it.
This book never gelled, for me. It felt like two half-stories, maybe three, squished together to make one, and the overall effect came across as contrived and insincere. Definitely read the first book, but this one is a hard pass from me.