At age 15, Marlon and Reed were closeted gay teens who developed an online friendship. The pair were extremely close for four years, sharing their secrets and fears with one another. However, they lost touch in college and haven’t seen each other in 15 years. Marlon now works as a model, traveling the country for his shoots, while Reed also travels for his job as a writer. Both men have those restless feet that have them on the road much more than at home, and both love their nomadic and free lifestyles.
When Reed wanders into a bar in New Orleans, he is shocked to run into Marlon. Despite the years between them, the men are thrilled to reconnect and the bond they shared seems as strong as ever. On top of that, there is an attraction that flares, and the men have a steamy hot encounter. Reed and Marlon vow that they are not going to lose touch once again, and they begin to keep in regular contact. However, both men travel so much and are rarely in one place for long, so often months go by between opportunities to see one another in person. But when they can, the men meet up in a common city, and both their close friendship and their sexual chemistry continue to grow.
Marlon and Reed start out as nothing but friends with super-hot benefits. But as the months go by, both realize that their feelings may have changed. But with both of them on the road so much, they barely have time to see one another. And neither is sure if the other is ready for their relationship to move from friendship to romance. However, the bond between them has continued to grow and neither can imagine their lives without the other. Now, they must both take a chance and share their feelings if they want to build a future as more than friends.
I really loved this sexy, warm, and low-angst friends-to-lovers story by K.M. Neuhold. The book starts with a prologue that shows teenage Marlon and Reed chatting late at night via the computer, sharing some of their hopes and fears as closeted kids who are dying to get out into the world. It works well to really establish that bond that the two shared as teens, allowing the transition to feel very natural into the connection they have as adults. Even though we are only with them briefly before their long separation, I found I had no trouble believing in or understanding that bond they formed during such a formative period in their lives, and why they were so easily able to rekindle it even after time apart.
Both men have always had a sense of wanderlust, finding themselves restless when they stay in once place too long. As hot guys who travel the country for their jobs, they have a freedom to explore new places, try new things, and fall into bed with whomever they want. The men are kindred spirits in that way, so both are content at first to just see each other when they can, share some fiery hookups, and then continue traveling on. As time passes, however, they slowly realize it is more than just friendship between them, and the struggle for both is how they could manage a life together, and if the other one shares their feelings. It is all explored well, with relatively low angst, but still nice depth to the situation. Marlon and Reed are super hot together and have a strong sexual connection. But they are also best friends who support and encourage one another, and each makes a big life change with the confidence the other gives them. FWIW, the men do sleep with other people for part of the book (including a threesome with both of them), which I think feels perfectly natural for the story. They start out as just friends, so for a while they continue to have other hookups, as well as discuss their sex lives with each other.
I particularly enjoyed the epistolary nature of the book, as we get to see the men chatting via text frequently. Even though they are apart more than they are together, the connection really comes through and I loved the dynamic between them.
If you are a friend-to-lovers fan, I feel like this story is a must read. It is so warm and sexy and Neuhold really builds the connection between them so nicely. I just loved it and can highly recommend.
P.S. While this book is a standalone, we do see some cameos from the Heathen’s Ink gang when Marlon and Reed get tattoos, which should be fun for fans of that series.