In every romance there are two great moments: The first is when the hero realizes they’re in love (check: Preston is in love with Art and has been since college) and the second when they do an over-the-top, romantic gesture to sweep their one true love off their feet. Preston — please call him PK — isn’t so good at those. For a birthday, he once gave a girlfriend a car organizer because she always complained about losing things in her car. For a boyfriend, he got him a sparkling water machine (and while they broke up, the ex in question still uses it, thank you! He even posts pictures on his Instagram of new flavor combinations he’s made.) So PK is good at giving gifts. Just not great at romantic gestures.
When Art, PK’s best friend and forever crush, shows up at his apartment in the middle of one rainy night, upset over their breakup with Roman, PK is delighted. Roman wasn’t good enough for Art, didn’t know them the way PK does, didn’t treat them right. And now PK can. He can prove to Art that he’s the better boyfriend choice. He’ll listen and be the best friend ever — because only a creep would make a move on poor Art right now, and PK’s no creep. He also doesn’t want to be the rebound. So he’ll wallow in his unrequited feelings and try to figure out what the hell he’s going to do about them.
One night, when Art asks him to clean the bathroom, PK starts building up a story in his head. He’s been a writer off and on, and he gets this idea of two men living together, one of them being madly in love with the other, saying all the things that PK can’t say and finally getting the person he loves to love him back. Soon, a few pages turns into a handful of scenes, and then a half finished book, and finally, an actual book. A book about PK and Art — with details changed, of course, and a lot of creative alterations to events — and PK’s heart bared and open.
And when Art falls in love with his book? Calls PK’s character their book boyfriend? Surely it’s Art’s way of telling PK that they know he wrote the book, and that they’re in love with PK, too. So PK decides to do a grand, romantic gesture and let everyone know how he feels about Art. There’s a reason such grand, sweeping, all-encompassing romantic gestures work in movies and books. Because that’s how the author wrote them. But real life can be much more complicated.
Book Boyfriend is so, so, so good. And it’s the sort of book that I think will either work wonderfully for you, or not as well, depending on how you feel about PK. Let me explain. Preston Harrington the Third — PK — is one of the most voice-heavy characters I’ve read in a very long time. His personality is right there in your face the whole time, and I think you’ll either learn to love him, or grow very tired of him. He’s lazy. He’s selfish. He’s self-centered, thoughtless, smug, and walks that very fine line between obnoxious and earnest. His thoughts about how Art should have known he was the better choice than Roman, about how much better a boyfriend he’d be than Roman, can grate with the entitlement.
But when you look beyond that, you can see how some of this indifference is self-protection. PK doesn’t want to be hurt, mocked, or made fun of. When it’s revealed he wrote a book, everyone is surprised. Him? How did he write a book about romance? What do you mean PK has feelings? Does he even know what feelings are? Several times he’s hurt, once or twice quite badly, and he lets it slide. He feels the hurt and internalizes it and keeps moving on. For all PK’s flaws — and there are many — he is an honestly kind and good person who is so much in love, but who thinks that romance is what he’s seen on TV and what he’s read in books.
PK wants to be the book boyfriend, the unobtainable and unreal creation that makes Art swoon. He wants to say only what will make Art happy, do things that will make Art happy, and save the day for Art. Because that’s what romance is. It’s Mr Darcy sweeping in to fix all of Lizzie’s problems. It’s a grand gesture in front of all of their friends to show them how much Art means to him! It’s not about cleaning the bathroom. Or letting Art have friends make a mess in the living room. It’s not new towels, bringing lunch, or watching TV. That’s not what romance is, right?
There’s the Art in PK’s head, and the Art in front of him. The Art in front of him has sour moments, moody moments, moments where they’re obviously laughing at PK and not with him. It’s clear that Art, too, has unrequited feelings — small, subtle moments that PK doesn’t notice, too lost in his own world — and it’s also clear that they sometimes look down on PK. They’re smart, quick witted, an extrovert to PK’s introvert, and occasionally cruel. There are also moments where Art is fragile and vulnerable, afraid to take the easy compassion PK offers … and yet needing it at the same time.
Their relationship, the good and the bad, the romantic and the antagonistic, feel very real. These two have known each other since college and take each other for granted. They lean on each other, they lash out at one another, and they so obviously love one another. Every relationship in this book — PK and his work friend, PK and Wade (a childhood friend), PK and his parents, even Art and their brother and Art and their parents — is just wonderful. None of them are perfect. All of them have moments where they cause pain or anger or hurt, and bless PK and his self absorption for missing most of the amused glances cast his way, all of them have moments of forgiveness, too. Of people doing the work, of reaching out, asking for help or friendship or even just a moment of comfort.
This is such a good book, and PK is surprisingly charming. The only complaint I have is that this book is a standalone because I honestly wanted to spend more time with PK, Art, PK’s parents, and even Wade. Do yourself a favor, read this book!