Months after a bad breakup, Lane is still struggling to find someone to connect with when his best friend suggests he tries an anonymous hookup. Sexual spontaneity has not been one of Lane’s fortes, but with nothing to lose, he decides to give it a try. Surprisingly, Lane finds it easy to be confident and suave when there is no pressure to impress and no expectations of a continuing relationship. In fact, the first eligible guy he hits on not only accepts the proposal, but enthusiastically plays along. What ensues is a night of perfect passion and a mind blowing orgasm that leaves Lane thankful for his friend’s suggestion and a bit wistful that real relationships can’t be that easy. But Lane is determined to make good on his promise for a true hookup, and so with just a smidge of regret, he leaves his nameless one-night stand in the hotel room.
Of course, nothing could have prepared Lane to run into that same one-night stand mere days later when they’re picking up their dogs from doggy daycare. When the staff mentions how much fun their dogs have together, it is a no-brainer for the humans to set up a doggy playdate. And why let all the dogs have all the fun? Both men agree to continue the same hook-up conditions: no names, no real details. But that doesn’t stop them from learning a lot about each other–like their shared love of classic literature, mutual appreciation of beer, and complimentary gardening habits. Not to mention sexual chemistry that has them hitting the sheets almost every night. They spend so much time together, they resort to giving each other pseudonyms. As the days turn into weeks, their connection grows. Sometimes, they are so content with one another’s company, sex doesn’t ever come up. But paradise can’t last forever. When Lane’s professional life intertwines with that of his love interest, Lane is convinced the carefree fun is over and that his new flame is astoundingly out of his league. A run-in with Lane’s emotionally abusive ex adds fuel to the fire and it takes some no-nonsense hard talk from his best friend to make Lane realize the only thing really preventing a happily ever after is himself.
The Anonymous Hookup is a sweet, cozy novella from author Jax Calder. The story is told in first-person perspective with Lane as the narrator. I thought he was a marvelous, dimensional character. Lane is a high school English teacher who loves what he does and has a series of interesting hobbies that I thought made him feel more relatable. Even better, many of these interests served as bridges to connect him to his love interest. The flirting when Lane first propositioned his would-be one-night stand was a delightful combination of corny and horny, with both men riffing off the concept of “thirsty” as a euphemism for sexual interest.
I really enjoyed how easy it was for me to roll with the series of unlikely events that kept bringing Lane and his lover together. After an amazing hookup, they discovered their dogs go to the same daycare. This allowed them to continue their apparently casual sexual relationship. Both men entered their liaison full of enthusiastic consent and it was all just good fun with no strings attached. As they spent more time together, they found out more and more of their hobbies aligned, as did their tastes in food and entertainment. It was built like the perfect romance, but I was often reminded that Lane was trying to keep this anonymous, all because of his bad breakup with an ex.
When it started to become pretty clear these two were more committed to each other than a random hookup, Lane began to get nervous. The low-key angst of Lane gradually feeling more and more like this perfect relationship was going to end really scratched my angst itch. Lane’s brain was saying he wasn’t ready for a relationship after how poorly his last one ended, and when he learned just how powerful his “temporary” partner was, Lane started to have feelings of inadequacy. Overall, I thought this struck a great balance between “need to suspend disbelief” and “big dose of reality” in the story. It allowed me to really get into how well these two opposites-attract types were, while keeping them just shy of being saccharinely sweet and perfect.
Of course, ultimately there is some conflict and it was so easy to see how Lane’s lover was hurt by Lane’s request to be “pretend boyfriends” despite their weeks-long affair. Yet Lane’s own insecurities and the fact that they were still playing with the idea of hookup, or at least had not had a real conversation about what they wanted from their relationship going forward, make Lane’s own reaction understandable. I especially liked that there is this mixup in terminology (i.e. boyfriend vs. pretend boyfriend), but the delicious angst of it gets addressed almost immediately. For these two oh-so-compatible characters, I thought it worked out well to have them confront this misunderstanding and work through it then-and-there. It certainly added some drama without stealing the momentum of the very good thing Lane and his partner had going for them.
Overall, this was a fabulous read. This is a great story for anyone looking for a steamy-but-tender kind of relationship, or for readers who love effortless chemistry between the romantic leads. I thought the characters were relatable and enjoyable and the tone of the story was mostly light, with a touch of angst that really highlighted how hard and fast Lane and his partner fall for each other.