Reeve has come to Vermont for the summer as once last chance to breathe and be himself before he has to move home and start working for the family business. Reeve has no desire to work for his family, but he agreed in exchange for going to college across the country. So now he is trying to live for himself and enjoy these few months before his life changes. As part of that, Reeve joins a hookup app, where he meets Oz. The two men have a hot night together and immediate chemistry, but neither man expects it to turn into more.
When Reeve gets a job at Vino & Veritas bookstore and wine bar, he is shocked to find that Oz works there as well. The two men quickly build a friendship and a great connection. When Oz finds himself in need of a boyfriend to come with him to his sister’s wedding, Reeve agrees to be his date, even though it means weeks of pretending to be together in front of Oz’s family. As the men spend more time together, the pretend relationship begins to turn into more and both men are falling for one another. But Reeve is still committed to leaving Vermont at the end of the summer and doesn’t see any way for that to change. Now that the men have moved from friendship to love, they must figure out if there is any chance for a future together.
Unforgettable is a new installment in the Vino & Veritas collection, a set of standalone stories that take place in the wine bar and bookstore and are part of the World of True North universe. It’s been several months since the last batch of these were released, so I enjoyed getting back into this world. This story has a pretty classic set up, but Marley Valentine gives it some original elements that help to bring it to life. Reeve and Oz have great chemistry from the start and their first encounter is very steamy. When they meet each other again at work, the connection is clear, but both men think things are best left as friends. So there is a nice bit of a friends-to-lovers vibe here, though it is obvious these guys are into each other pretty much right away. They find they share an unusual bond in that both men are dealing with overly controlling parents who want to run their lives. In Oz’s case, he has a loving family, but he struggles as he tries to forge his own path, despite their disappointment in his choices. For Reeve, his family is wealthy and expects him to toe the line, and he has agreed to join the family business because he can’t bear to disappoint them. So there is a nice set up here with a real connection between the men that enhances the sexual chemistry that they feel.
I also enjoyed the fake relationship dynamic and there is a nice bit of twist in that the wedding is weeks (months?) away, so the men spend a lot of time with Oz’s family pretending to be together. Often with this set up, the event is so soon, the men aren’t really together before whatever situation they must appear at together. But here, we see Reeve and Oz really getting to know one another and building something that feels very real together.
The conflict here comes when both men are falling for each other, but Reeve has to leave at the end of the summer. I think this is where the great set up doesn’t quite carry through with enough development. We are told that Oz’s family gives him such a hard time about his job and dating that he needs to fake a boyfriend for the wedding. Yet we see him spend lots of time with his parents and siblings who seem almost completely loving and supportive. It made it hard to understand why he felt the need to fake a boyfriend and lie to his family, when we see almost nothing other than a caring and lovely group. For Reeve’s part, he insists he must return home to work for the family business, but we get next to no information on the backstory. His parents are completely absent from the book and we never even see a conversation or phone call between them and Reeve. We are told that he agreed to work for them, but virtually nothing else about the situation. So when the whole set up and conflict revolves around this imperative that he return home, I needed some scaffolding within the story to really support and explain what was going on.
Despite some issues, I really enjoyed the connection between Oz and Reeve. They have great chemistry and a surprisingly sweet relationship that grows nicely throughout the book.