Ross has been in love with his brother’s best friend for pretty much forever. But even after Dan came out, Ross didn’t make a move. He’s relegated Dan to the friend box, and does his best to be a friend in return. But now Dan has moved back home to the small town in Queensland, Australia where they grew up, and Ross and Dan are spending a lot of time together.
Dan came out when he realized he was in love with Ross, but never thought Ross was interested. After a string of failed relationships, the last one of which left its mark, Dan comes home at his best friend’s urging. But even though his feelings for Ross haven’t changed, he refuses to do anything that could jeopardize his friendship with him, or worse, with Craig, his best friend and Ross’ brother.
But the fact of the matter is both men are better when the other is around. When brush fires rage through the area, Dan is called into action. The inherent danger causes the men to admit their feelings for one another. But that’s just the beginning as Dan and Ross fall in love and navigate their new life together.
This story was originally part of the When the Smoke Clears charity anthology. It has now been expanded into a full-length novel. I picked it up as soon as I saw it was brother’s best friend trope, which is one of my favorites. I was even more pleased to find mutual pining. Though this book wasn’t without a few small issues, I did enjoy it.
Told in alternating first person POV, we really get to know both characters well. The author did a great job of letting us into their heads and really seeing where they were both coming from, so their progression from friends to lovers really felt natural. Ross is the little brother, who always tagged along with Dan and Craig, but he never felt out of place. I loved Ross’ relationship with his brother as well. Dan had an equally good relationship with Craig, but a little more baggage from his time living in Brisbane and the relationships he’s had there. He needed to work through all of that to be in a place where he was ready to move forward into a romantic relationship. I particularly thought that Seymour did a good job showing how things were progressing between them, while also showing the reader what was holding Dan and Ross back from taking things in a new direction.
The romance here was all sweet with heat. Very low angst, with outside forces providing the only tension. It really worked for these guys. Even Dan’s internal debate and reasoning for why he slow to move forward wasn’t that big a point of contention, because he was actively working through it. The chemistry between the MCs sparked and sizzled, and moved everything forward nicely.
I will say that I had a couple of quibbles with this book. The first was Craig, Ross’ brother and Dan’s best friend. He knew exactly how both men felt about each other, and yet did nothing about that. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, had he told either man how the other felt about him, it would be breaking confidence. He’s a good guy with a big heart. But on the other hand, he’s watching the two people he cares about struggle and pine while knowing they want each other and does nothing about it. Craig is so supportive of them both, and thinks they’ve both made good choices in picking the other. So while I appreciate he didn’t spill anyone’s secrets, I felt a little disappointed that he didn’t drop bigger hints or flat out say something, earlier on. This was a frustration as it felt like a plot point to string Ross and Dan along, when in reality it was wasted time.
My other issues go hand in hand. As I mentioned, this was originally a short story that was expanded, and though I hadn’t read it in its short story form, there was a clear demarcation between the original and the new content, as we got repetitive and redundant information. It pulled me out of the story because it felt strange to get information, such as where Dan lived and when he moved back, when we already saw that happen as the book began. By the same token, the ending of the book seemed to drag pace wise. As much as I like seeing the MCs together and living their life after they’ve finally gotten to that point, the pacing slowed down too far and whole scenes felt somewhat unnecessary to me. It’s not easy to expand a story, and I think for the most part, Seymour handled it well. But there were definite places where it didn’t work as well for me, and therefore pulled me from the tale.
Overall, though, I really liked this book. Sweet with heat is right. If you’re looking for a low angst story about two men who were always meant to be together and they just had to get to the right point in their life, then this one is for you.