Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 7 hours, 57 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

For Aubrey Barnes, the past few years have been filled with one disastrous upheaval after another, from losing his father and his mother’s declining health, to the loss of his first love and boyfriend of six years to their mutual friend the previous year. Now, living in the tiny flat above his family’s failing bookstore, the twenty-three-year old Aubrey clings to what little order and control he can find (even to the detriment of keeping his family legacy alive), so he’s less than thrilled when a film crew takes over his street and upends his routine. He definitely doesn’t want them bothering him about using his bookshop as a filming location and plans to let the location scout know in person.

However, when Aubrey gets to the set, he ends up steaming up the trailer of the stunning man he’s previously (and literally) run into. Horrified and mortified by his loss of control, Aubrey resolves to avoid the production team at all costs; however, when his employee forges his signature on a contract to approve filming, Aubrey’s forced to come to terms with his financial situation and decides to swallow his pride and apprehension and allow it—a task made far easier when his hookup, actor Blake Sinclair, makes his interest known. Aubrey can’t believe that someone as beautiful, confident, and interesting as Blake would be into a boring, failure like him, but as the charismatic actor is slated to go home in two weeks, he figures he should just enjoy himself. Yet, as they click so well and Blake helps Aubrey feel joyful again, Aubrey can’t help but dread the inevitable loss and crash. When reality intrudes, the pair must decide if they can trust that their connection is strong enough to survive the real world or if it was just a fantasy.

An Unexpected Kind of Love is a fluffy, entertaining, instalove story that is a mixed bag for me. It delights in its Notting Hill influence and is a romance within a slightly meta framing device as the movie being filmed is a romcom. It starts off pretty strong and revels in its tropes. Before falling so hard and quickly for Blake, Aubrey wasn’t a romance reader, so the narrative gets to point out tropes as he’s converted to a lover of the genre (as is right and proper) and remarks upon them as he experiences them. It’s fun and cheeky, and works well with the fact that the MCs fall in love within a few days. After the trailer blowjob, Blake sends Aubrey a bouquet, the two go on a magical all-night date, and then are off to spend a weekend together.

The hearts and flowers of it all is cute and easy to get swept up into, but the second half of the book falls a little flat for me; I needed more than just the flowery language. The conflicts come across as forced and the pair just don’t spend enough time together to show why they fall so hard, especially in Blake’s case as the story is told in first person from Aubrey’s POV. There is more closure and exploration into Aubrey’s relationship with his ex, Eli, than for the MCs. On the one hand, it makes sense as Aubrey’s main issue is that he can’t move on. He can’t make changes to the way his dad ran the shop and he can’t let go of Eli. Their eventual conversation is much needed and a highlight in the story, but also emphasizes how little intimate knowledge Blake and Aubrey share, especially for the quickness of the I love you’s.

Aubrey is a bit pretentious, judgmental, and self-involved, but he’s also a young man that feels stuck and like his life is already over. Running the family bookstore was supposed to happen eventually; he’s was supposed to finish his literature degree, write poems, and learn at his father’s side over the years. Instead, his father is gone, his mother’s unwell and unable to work, and he had to quit uni and run a shop with apparently no resources or business skills. Aubrey can be frustrating at times because the only thing he cares about is keeping his family shop open and taking care of his mom; yet he literally refuses to change anything or try anything—something he has been doing for years now. He beats himself up and compares his performance to his dad, but won’t do anything to help himself. But, it’s also understandable; the magnitude of his unpreparedness probably makes everything he’d need to do to succeed seem daunting. It seems easier to just let himself be overwhelmed by every new (and costly) issue he gets hit with.

Blake as a character is the typical perfect boyfriend/white knight. He’s hot, handy, confident without being a dick, smart, emotionally available, and literally everything Aubrey needs. It’s like Aubrey entered all his problems into a Build-A-Boyfriend machine—for every shortcoming or ailment of Aubrey’s, Blake is the antidote. He’s mostly an archetype, as what little interiority he has is a reflection of Aubrey’s interests and needs or fodder for plot conflict. He’s swoon worthy to sweep Aubrey out of his emotional doldrums and into can’t live without him love. During

Spoiler title
the inevitable second act breakup,
it suddenly comes out that Blake’s a closeted bisexual. Never mind all the PDA and the public grand gesture guaranteed to be videoed. Previously, Blake initiates a discussion about disclosure, but he’s totally cool not telling Aubrey that he’s closeted and had no intention of coming out? I guess since the two are so swept up in the joy of each other and Blake feels more incognito in the UK than in the US, he isn’t thinking? But his extreme reaction and the sharp turn make the disagreements they have seem to exist for Aubrey to do the introspection needed for his character arc and not as organic issues for the couple.

Although this is definitely more Aubrey’s journey and HEA, the story does what it sets out to do and makes me root for him to get it. This is definitely aided by Gary Furlong’s performance. It’s a certainty the narration helped keep me invested in the whirlwind affair. When Aubrey is sabotaging himself and his family’s store or being confronted with his lost love, I couldn’t help but feel his pain and paralysis as Furlong conveys Aubrey’s thoughts and feelings. Aubrey’s wonder and letting go, Blake’s heartfelt declaration about Aubrey’s as beautiful and intriguing, is made very tangible and tonally perfect for a romcom by Furlong.

While I may have not loved the story as much as I had hoped, there is fun to be had with An Unexpected Kind of Love. Aubrey’s best friend, Lily, is delightful and Blake and Aubrey are very aaaawww worthy ,so if you enjoy insta-love, grand gestures, shenanigans that should get you fired, and a pitch-perfect narration from a great performer, you may want to give the audiobook a listen.