Mayor Leo McCaslin is a divorced father of twin tweens, after coming out later in his life. He’s always loved his hometown of Sourwood, NY, and hopes to keep it a haven for the residents, not a commuter-community for the greater NYC area. Leo’s facing re-election, and he wasn’t super worried about winning until a younger hook-up wrote a “tell-all” article that has some residents openly questioning his morals. Leo’s unexpectedly fierce competition is a pretty, wealthy young woman with adorable kids who puts up charming TikToks with her equally popular wife. Do the townsfolk care that she’s bankrolled by her father’s real estate development company, the same company chomping at the bit to develop a prime riverfront property Leo has earmarked for a park? Maybe not so much, to Leo’s great chagrin. His astute campaign manager insists that Leo needs to make himself more likable, that a steady beau would help salvage his image. Leo has only one person he knows will have his back: his best friend, Dusty.
Dusty has been a close confidante of Leo since their college days, and they talk regularly despite living on opposite sides of the country. Dusty’s job, living situation, and relationship all had a spectacular meltdown in the past 24 hours before Leo calls to beg him to come to Sourwood and be his temporary fake boyfriend. So, Dusty doesn’t have a good reason to say no. In fact, if he doesn’t live with Leo temporarily, Dusty might be sleeping in his truck. They come up with a plan for their backstory, but it’s nothing compared to the heat that begins to build based on their close friendship and natural camaraderie. Dusty may not be gay, like Leo, but he’s definitely in the “bi” area of the sexuality spectrum—he learned that while experimenting in some menage with a former girlfriend. This is news that blows Leo’s mind, because he’s always harbored a secret crush on Dusty, a sentiment he’d never imagined could be returned by his oldest and truest friend.
As all fake boyfriend plans go, this one is sure to be discovered at exactly the wrong time. However, it comes long after Leo and Dusty have given up the “fake” part and just been all and everything to one another for weeks. They are a team and united, whether Leo’s election crashes and burns, or not. I liked how Leo just floundered when he learned that Dusty has some experience with men. His jealousy, and frustration, that Dusty didn’t put the moves on him felt so real and awkward, despite the simmering passion. Dusty is as easy going as one could hope, and he pretty much charms the pants off the residents of Sourwood, with his tender recollections of a younger, hipper Leo. Dusty brings out Leo’s abandoned college rocker persona, once Leo decides he enjoys cutting loose a bit and having more fun in his life. The election drama is a good foil to the scorching love story erupting between these longtime friends. I loved both Leo and Dusty; they are good guys, and Leo’s family is sweet. Pacing is a bit better in this story than the first book in the Single Dads Club series, and the friends-to-lovers trope was definitely easier to pull off since the main characters both know each other so well.
If you like friends-to-lovers or fake boyfriend tropes, this is an entertaining read. It’s the second book in a series, but fully enjoyable on its own. Each book features a new single dad finding a soulmate, quickly turning the Single Dad’s Club into the Formerly-Single Dad’s Club. I like Sourwood, and I look forward to returning with another story soon.