Rating: 4.5 stars
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Julian and Parker have been best friends since they were kids. The pair are inseparable and mean everything to one another. They truly love each other and have a bond unlike many others. For Julian, however, it is more than friendship — he has be in love with Parker forever. However, Parker is straight and getting married to his long-time, on again/off again girlfriend, Erin. That is why Julian is determined to put on a brave front, support Parker through his wedding weekend, and then head off to a secluded cabin to nurse his broken heart. Julian knows that it is time to put aside that little glimmer of hope and accept that Parker is not meant to be his.
When Erin ends up leaving Parker at the altar, however, it shakes things up for both men. While Parker knows he should be sad, there is a part of him that is relieved not to be marrying Erin. It seemed safe and easy and the two are good friends, but Parker can see there was never the passion they should have had for one another. Erin is not his person; that is and has always been Julian. So when Julian brings Parker with him to Aster Valley to get away after the breakup, it is a chance for Parker to reassess what he wants for his future. Not only that, but he comes to realize that the reason he has always felt so strongly for Julian is not just friendship, but romantic love and attraction.
The men begin to explore the feelings they have for one another and it is amazing for both of them. Spending time with Parker just affirms for Julian that Parker is the love of his life. The idea of being with Parker is a dream come true, and Julian can hardly believe it when Parker lets him know how he is feeling. But Julian has spent a lifetime hoping for something he thought he could never have with Parker. Parker and Erin have broken up before and always gotten back together. Julian isn’t sure he can risk his heart when Parker may change his mind, especially so soon after the cancelled wedding. But while it may have taken Parker some time to realize what he wanted, he has never been more sure than about his love for Julian. Now, he just has to convince the man that the two of them are meant to be together forever.
Thick as Thieves is the fourth book in Lucy Lennox’s Aster Valley series and this is definitely one of my favorites so far. I think the story stands alone just fine if you haven’t read the series. The side characters do cross over briefly here, with Mikey and Tiller playing the biggest role, but you won’t have trouble starting here (though I love this series and I think it’s worth starting at the beginning).
This one is full on friends-to-lovers with an unbelievable sweetness and sexiness combined. Lennox does such a wonderful job establishing this relationship between Julian and Parker so that even at the start, I had no question about how intensely these men feel about one another. There is just this energy between them, this sense of being most happy and content when they are with one another. So even as the story takes place over a very short period (and things progress quite quickly for the men), I could believe that the lifetime bond they had between them was enough to build that foundation. Parker and Julian are so sweet and loving and doting on each other, even when they still think of one another as nothing but friends. And then there is this lovely moment when they realize that they want each other — and can have each other — and things just explode between them. The heat is just intense and they are super sexy as they are almost giddy in their excitement to be together, but also wild with lust for one another. There is not a whole lot that happens here plot-wise, as much of the book is watching things bloom between Parker and Julian, but Lennox makes it work on the strength of this really lovely relationship and I was all in for them.
The conflict here is really that both men have fallen into these patterns that they are now trying to break, and it takes some time to sort of wrap their heads about this new awareness. For Parker, he grew up with awful parents and a lack of stability that has left him needing to be grounded and connected and willing to do anything for those he loves. So he got into this routine with Erin where she kept coming back to him and he would be there for her. He thought it was love, thought this was what he should expect out of a relationship, and it isn’t until Erin calls things off with the wedding that he begins to realize they should have had more. It is like this light comes on, not just about his feelings for Julian, but also this understanding that what he has been feeling for Erin is nothing like what he has always felt for his best friend. For Julian, he has been hiding his love for Parker his whole life, always accepting they would never be together, that Erin would always come first. So even as Parker explains that he never felt for Erin like he feels for Julian, Julian can’t help but worry. It is all set up nicely with enough conflict to keep the story moving, and a chance for these men to really think about their lives and their feelings, but also not too much angst or drama. This story is really about the love between these two men and how they begin to explore their new relationship.
As I mentioned, we get to see some of the other Aster Valley gang here, which I always enjoy, and I particularly liked Mikey here as the one who sort of gets to the meat of it all and helps sort these guys out. At the end of the book there is a link to a freebie featuring one of the side characters that plays a small role here (I’ll admit I was hoping we would get a full story, but I’m excited to read the short). I’m not sure what is next for Aster Valley, but I’m hoping for more books as I really like this group of friends and this little ski town.