Vance has been in love with his best friend, Harden, for as long as he can remember. The two guys tell each other everything—well, Vance hasn’t told Harden he’s in love with him and he hasn’t told Harden he’s a virgin. And, maybe Vance doesn’t know that Harden has feelings for him as well. But other than that, they know everything about each other. Then Harden offers to help Vance have one less thing to take to college—his virginity.
Harden’s father is the governor and plans to run for president, where Vance’s father is way less prominent and Vance is attending the private high school on scholarship. The guys fiercely protect their friendship and when they become intimate, the need to be together all of the time completely takes over. But there are swimming meets to win and parents to appease and Vance and Harden find themselves sneaking around. Until Harden won’t hide anymore and wants to come out, but that could pose the greatest risk of all.
Best friends to lovers, a virgin hero, bi-awakening, competitive swimmers, and some dirty talk is what you can expect to find when you open the pages of J.R. Gray’s newest novel, The Friendship Equation. The strength of this novel is the relationship between Vance and Harden and the closeness they share and the heat they ignite when they are together.
The guys claim to know everything about each other, but it’s soon clear that is not fully the case. The initial conversation when Harden finds out that Vance is a virgin is a little awkward, but once Harden offers to help Vance with that, I felt the tension and chemistry between the two of them through every page.
While the relationship and the chemistry were the highlight for me and easy to get lost in, some of the larger details of the story were off for me in pulling this all together. The guys are seniors in high school, but they often came off as older. Their interactions with their parents were a reminder of their age, with Harden’s father a central figure in both of their lives, and his father was a more difficult character to pin down. He was presented one way to start, then he flipped, and then he flipped again, and there weren’t enough story details there to ground his quick changes in behavior. The governor and their house also seemed incredibly accessible with no staff mentioned and those bringing food delivery having easy access to the door, and he felt like the governor in name only. The guys are also described as having “hard” “raw” sex hours before swim meets and that also didn’t fit in with the competitive nature and dedication to their swim times we were told they have.
Harden’s POV is not offered and not enough of his character came out through Vance. There were many moments where Vance didn’t know what Harden was thinking or he was unsure of their relationship, which then made Harden’s motives and choices unclear to me at times.
The scenes where Vance and Harden were alone together let their connection come through and were well written for the intensity of their bond. If you are looking for erotic scenes between the best of friends and can overlook some larger details, this would then be a good book to take a look at.