Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 6 hours, 30 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
Cole Sullivan has recently moved back to his hometown of Coral Pointe, Florida, to rehab an old hotel into a thriving business with four of his long-time friends from college. It’s been about a year, and their Coral Pointe Inn and Shore Thing excursions business is doing well. Unfortunately, Cole is looking for his forever man and is caught in a rut with Drake, a former high school boyfriend who treated him as disposable then, and is doing the same thing now.
Aiden Rafferty returned to Coral Pointe three years ago with the funds and know-how to help his father update their family brewery and bring in more business. He’d left following his mother’s death when it became clear that his dad wasn’t interested in bringing Aiden in as a partner or letting him take over the business. During those eight years away, Aiden married a woman, learned the restaurant and brewing business inside out, and came home at the end of his marriage. The Coral Pointe gossip brigade–known as the Walkie-Talkies–has condemned Aiden as a bad son, because his stubborn father STILL won’t let him take part ownership of the business. Instead of waiting for his dad to change his mind, Aiden took his capital and skills and invested in a derelict warehouse, developing SandBar Brewing and beach bar, where he serves his own brews, alongside those from Rafferty’s Brewing company. Aiden’s terrified he’ll lose his dad, too, without ever having the chance to properly reconcile.
Aiden has witnessed Drake’s poor treatment of Cole first hand over the past year. SandBar is a common meeting point for the couple, or for Drake and the other men he sees since he insists they aren’t “exclusive.” Honestly, Drake’s emotionally abusive of Cole and Aiden’s not cool with it at all. He befriended Cole on nights Drake stood him up at the bar, and they’ve even started running together some mornings. So, Aiden does the unimaginable when Drake comes in one night with his young “boyfriend” on his arm–deliberately making a fuss to draw the attention of everyone in the bar and further humiliate Cole: Aiden pretends to be Cole’s new man, despite not being gay. It’s preposterous, but the fire this lights in Cole can’t be dimmed. Their growing friendship soon kicks into high gear, igniting attraction Aiden had only begun to experience for kind, sweet Cole.
But there are other forces at work in Coral Pointe, and the Walkie Talkies can’t help sowing discord and distress.
This is a great start to a fun and breezy beach lovers series. The fake boyfriend trope was well written and engaging with super-awesome characters, Cole and Aiden. They are decent men being treated indecently, by both family and neighbors. I loved how each man had to assert their own strength, and support one another’s emotional health and wellness. Their romance is incendiary. Aiden is a compassionate partner taking on a lot of new roles in the bedroom to keep Cole from reflecting on the damage Drake caused. He’s not sad about it; sex with Cole is amazing in ways he’d not predicted.
I’m reviewing the audiobook version of this novel, with narration by Kirt Graves, and it was absolutely a treat. I enjoyed the voice characterization of the many characters, and the emotive qualities that really translated the fears, elation, and embarrassment for both Cole and Aiden. I’ve listened to it multiple times, and would continue to replay it for sheer enjoyment. Cole’s appreciation for Aiden could have been a one-note situation, a quid pro quo, but the subplots and family dynamics helped make this a layered story. The vulnerability both men feel–with each other and with their families–is very clearly present in the audio. I would gladly read on to learn all about Cole’s business partners and besties, and how they fall into love in Coral Pointe.