Jonathan Hart has had a rough time these past seven years. His best friend, David O’Hara, left him behind with hardly a goodbye the morning after their one and only kiss. Jonathan’s feelings regarding David had been confusing, but David leaving sent him reeling. They were both 18 and due to leave for uni, but David took off for Australia, hoping to find his mother, who had abandoned him years prior. Jonathan remained in New Zealand, got his degree in literature, and has been working as a librarian and dancing instructor ever since. A few years back, Jonathan also became the guardian of his younger sibling, Savvy, after their parents’ sudden deaths. Now 25 years old, keeping their parents’ studio open and running helps Jonathan both keep their memory alive and make ends meet.
Jonathan and David are both active YouTubers with their own core audiences. It was startling for Jonathan to see his dearest friend and biggest regret become a sensation discussing classics and traveling to historical sites discoursing on epic love, while Jonathan’s channel is highly romance focused, with readings and interpretations filtered through Jonathan’s perspective. They’ve each been selected to compete in a 7-week challenge based around “love,” where they will have to pair up with each other to embody a weekly theme and hope to pass on to the next round. Jonathan’s terrified, honestly, about reconnecting with David, only to have the man abandon him again. Their teenage friendship had been tenuous, but as adults now, Jonathan sees his attraction for what it was, and he’s pined for David’s attention and affection for some time. David seems even more worldly and glamorous than he did back in school, and Jonathan feels quite out of place in David’s company.
But David will not allow Jonathan to escape him, not this time. David has built a whole life for himself; he had to when his parental relationships turned sour, but it’s still incomplete without the love of his life, his true mate in all senses of the word: Jonathan. David’s going to win him back, and win the challenge, if he can—David’s found family could truly use the windfall of the prize money. Jonathan recognizes that he doesn’t actually know David anymore, but their weekly visits help fill in the gaps and build tension that captivates their joint audiences, as well as the competition judges. As the field of competitors narrows, the stakes only become more dire, and Jonathan’s afraid to let David down, worried that doing so will mean an end to what’s building between them. And, another broken heart is not something Jonathan can survive, nor can he uproot Savvy to Australia, where David resides. So, better to tamp this all down before true feelings get caught in the mix. Unfortunately, Jonathan’s about seven years too late to stop his heart from finding its mate.
This is a sweet New Adult contemporary romance, told with interesting narrative that reads as lyrical. There are lots of vignettes describing the action, and insets from the dialogue of their respective YouTube posts. The competition is a predictable device for reuniting these two souls, but the end isn’t exactly as I’d anticipated, so that was a nice treat. I loved how David and Jonathan never forgot one another, and how their choices and chances all aligned to keep them ever mindful of one another, despite the long separation. Savvy’s own love journey mirrors the teen experience between Jonathan and David, to a degree, allowing Jonathan to visualize his own traumas and deal with them from the perspective of a grown adult. The way Jonathan and David dovetail into one another’s lives demonstrated a preordained connection, one they can’t deny without harming themselves in the process. It’s enough impetus for Jonathan to drive himself out from the rut he’s been sitting in for some time. We get lots of silly YouTuber humor and hijinks, but the discovering of love, and its acknowledgement, was all to the good. The ending is supremely happy.