After heartache and betrayal, Bram Larkspur finds himself in Garnet Run, a sleepy little town full of personality. Renting a house on Casper Road is a treat when he meets his neighbors and learns about the annual Halloween decorating contest. Bram also finds out that his neighbor across the street, Zachary Glass, has won six years running. And after an acrimonious first meeting, Bram vows to win the competition this year, despite not having a competitive bone in his body.
Zachary is steadied by his very meticulous routine, loves all things horror, and will do anything it takes to win the competition again this year. In a fit of pique, he does something to one of Bram’s decorations that begins a prank war. Things are mostly harmless, and the two men converse more than not. The more they get to know each other, the more they connect. Though Zachary and Bram appear to be complete opposites in every way, they find a friendship that only grows.
One kiss changes everything, and though the prank war is still going on, the pair decides to team up for the decorating competition and on another project. Neither man expected to find love, but their connection is undeniable .But even though everything is going great, Zachary has past hurts that haunt him, and he makes a choice that could end their growing relationship.
This is the fourth book set in Parrish’s fictional town of Garnet Run, and it works completely fine as a standalone. I haven’t read any of the others, though it was clear from the secondary characters whose stories have come before. But I wasn’t lost or confused, so I can confidently say you could start here if you wish.
This is a story about opposites attracting, and Parrish makes it work. Bram was raised in a carefree way, has a large and loving family, and though he was hurt immeasurably by people he trusted, he still wants to see the good in everyone. Horror scares him completely, and he enjoys nature and going with the flow. Zachary, on the other hand, had a fairly traumatic childhood, both from dealing with bullies and a tragic loss, and has structured his life completely. He expects people to leave, as that’s been his only experience, and he loves all things horror. The MCs are even physically opposites. On the surface, these two guys shouldn’t work together. But they do.
What I really liked about these two men was how they helped each other step outside of their comfort zones. They aren’t exactly enemies to start—the title calling them rivals fits best—but they quickly develop a friendship that eases into something more. The attraction is there from the start, but these two men are friends first. I really loved the way they communicated throughout most of this story, and how Zachary tried to open Bram’s mind about horror, and how Zachary sees the genre isn’t something I would have considered before. Bram, conversely, gets Zachary to loosen his tight hold on his routine and schedule, but without ever pushing too far.
Now, this story’s major conflict isn’t the rivalry, nor is it their differences. All of that builds into their relationship. Instead, the major conflict between them is a major miscommunication that pushes them apart for a time. I saw it coming a mile away, both because it’s a category romance, and I was expecting some formulaic plot points, but also because Zachary past experiences have him thinking a certain way so that he would never even consider Bram’s view being different. He also reads as neurodivergent in a way that Zachary thinks he’s communicating things clearly, but Bram is perceiving it as something different. In that way, the miscommunication made sense, and the communication between them to clear it up was really nice. But I also had trouble with Bram’s response to the whole thing. Yes, he’d been hurt before, and badly. However, up until that point, he seemed to really understand Zachary, so I was hoping that despite his gut response, he would have pushed for more clarification.
All in all though, I enjoyed this book. There’s a lightness and humor to it that carried throughout the story, as well as great MCs who were well fleshed out. On top of that, I enjoyed the secondary characters and their interactions. It’s a fun cast of characters who really add to the overall atmosphere and world building. If this sounds appealing to you, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to pick this one up.