Max Moody is a man in crisis. About a year ago, his longtime partner decided he wanted to break up, but still call Max for sex…whenever. Max has been holding out hope that this arrangement can bring a reconciliation, though he’s beginning to understand that’s only a pipe dream. As an HR underling, Max is also unsatisfied, especially since he’s mostly firing people and collecting their abandoned desk plants at a downsizing ad agency. And, Paige, his perpetually indecisive childhood bestie, has just announced that she’s getting married and needs Max to be her best man. Max is both jealous and flabbergasted; he’s not a ‘stylish gay’ with any sense of flair or fashion. “Moody” isn’t only a surname when it comes to Max.
Unfortunately, Paige’s soon-to-be brother-in-law Chasten is also gay, and he is standing up as best man for his brother, Austin. Chasten is all the fabulous that Max lacks, with connections to Beautiful People and Great Locations. He’s clearly outshining Max in the Best Man Competition happening in Max’s mind. Paige and Max have deep roots, and Max’s ideas play on that nostalgia, but don’t work as a wedding shower plan. Plus, Max and Chasten had an awkward and unsatisfying “almost” hook-up before getting introduced in their roles. Chasten has sworn Max to secrecy over this one episode, but Max harbors an unrequited attraction for Chasten–and it’s further proof that Max will never find a forever love like the one Chasten desperately wants to find as well.
As Chasten and Max spend time together playing out their roles for the wedding, the attraction between them grows until Max can’t ignore it anymore. And, his indignation that even Chasten, who Max sees as the epitome of an awesome partner, keeps getting the run-around gives Max the gumption to stand up for himself at work, in his life, and even against Paige’s casual passive-aggressiveness.
Best Men is a quiet and tender book about discovering how to fight for one’s dreams, even when everything seems hopeless. Max’s desires have gone unmet for a long time. He doesn’t know how to advocate for himself, or that he’s even worthy of love. His passion project of saving abandoned plants turns into a healing experience, and a point of pride when he’s pretty much at his lowest. I really enjoyed how Chasten is a pseudo-foe, by virtue of his pleasing nature, to be the best support he can for Paige and, by extension, Austin. Chasten’s growing affection for Max stems from a feeling of kindred spirits, both hopeless romantics who can’t seem to find a worthy partner.
I enjoyed this book a lot and found myself getting immersed in Max’s character to the point I heard Max’s voice in my head as I read. He’s snarky, sad, awkward, and blunt, all of which made him sympathetic (and a little pathetic). His redemption comes fast and furious and just in time to (maybe) not ruin Paige’s wedding.
There is enough humor to keep the story from getting too maudlin, though it’s definitely a delicate balance. This isn’t a breezy read. Max goes through a lot of soul searching and deep emotional work before he finds his happy ending. This story is highly recommend for readers who want a character they can wallow with for a scorching NYC summer before the Labor Day love arrives.