Rating: 4 stars
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Rafael Navarro and Étienne Galois have a problem: their attraction to one another could upset their roles as groomsmen for a wedding. Étienne is the best man, and Rafe is standing up on behalf of his sister. Falling for one another could make everything awkward at the wedding–if they don’t work out, that is.
Rafe adores his older sister, the woman who saved their family from disaster when their mom was killed suddenly. She kept their dad on track, even as mired in grief as he was. And Rafe still hasn’t stopped blaming himself for the accident that claimed his mom’s life. He believes he’s not worthy of a man as beautiful and talented as Étienne Galois, a famed photojournalist and survivor of the terrible Haitian earthquake. He’s just an uptight high school math teacher, after all. Both men have deep emotional scars, and while Étienne would live each day in celebration, Rafe is more careful, weighing each step to ensure he doesn’t mess up again.
This is a sweet and sensual romance, spotlighting two men of color who are immigrants in NYC. They cherish their families, their culture, and their struggles. They want to make sure that the wedding is the best ever, because their loved ones deserve their best. There is some initial conflict since Étienne seems to be flighty and Rafe fears he might not devote the kind of time Rafe believes is necessary to plan the epic bachelor party, or help out with the needs of the soon-to-be-wed. Étienne isn’t a fan of spreadsheets, but he’s willing to try things Rafe’s way–especially if it means the men get to spend more time together.
Their kiss last summer was an impetuous decision, and Rafe doesn’t do impetuous–because that hurts people. Or, so he believes. His father is a rock, however, and he forces Rafe to confront his personal cowardice–and to make peace when it’s needed. I really enjoyed the slow burn love story, especially once Rafe forgives himself for something that was never his fault. I loved the deep cultural roots, and the expansive love Étienne and Rafe have for their families. The parents were lovely, and their desire to see their sons find happiness was awesome.
If you enjoy contemporary stories, particularly those featuring immigrant families, this might be a good one to check out.