Rating: 4 stars
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Jules Evans has been in love with his brother’s best friend, Erik Osouf, since he was a teen. He knows he doesn’t stand a chance with Erik, however, as the man is gorgeous, sweet, and way out of his league. Jules also has severe social anxiety, which makes interacting with people individually or in groups difficult. Erik has always been so patient and understanding with Jules, but Jules can’t imagine it makes him a particularly appealing partner. There is also the matter of Stef, Jules’ brother, who has made it clear he thinks anything happening between them is a bad idea. Fortunately for Jules’ tender heart, Erik moved to Arizona after college and so they don’t see each other often.
Erik left town to get away from his dysfunctional family. After his parents died, Erik’s brothers were always at each other’s throats and the stress was too much for Erik. Now, however, it’s been 14 years and Erik is ready for a change. When an opportunity comes up for Erik to buy into a business in Seattle and return home, he takes it. It means more time with his best friend, Stef, but it also means more time with Jules. Erik has been crushing on Jules for years and, after a drunken confession that Jules doesn’t remember, Erik knows his feelings are reciprocated. Erik finds everything about Jules so appealing and he would love to share his feelings, but he too worries about what Stef will say.
As Jules and Erik end up spending more time together, not only does their friendship continue to grow stronger, but the attraction and emotions between them grows as well. The men finally can’t help but act on their feelings, but both are worried about Stef’s reaction. But as Erik and Jules fall harder for each other, they need to figure out how to share the truth about their feelings so they can find their happy ending together.
Choose Me is the third book in Beck Grey’s Love in the Pacific Northwest series. The books feature a group of friends who appear in each other’s books, and we know Jules as Quinn’s best friend from Embrace Me. You will miss some of the character connections and backstory if you start here, but I do think you could follow Jules and Erik’s relationship without too much trouble without reading the other books.
I love a “best friend’s brother” story and Grey does a nice job establishing the feelings between Jules and Erik. Even though they have seen each other only intermittently over the past 14 years, they have still been in each other’s orbits due to their connection to Stef. Grey really helped me to believe these guys have been pining for one another all these years and they have an easy move from friends to lovers. Both of these guys are sweet and lovely. Erik is a described as a “cinnamon roll Viking” and he is all huge and hulking and gorgeous. But he is also so caring and gentle and goes out of his way for everyone. Jules feels so self conscious about his social anxiety and it just makes it worse, often sending him spiraling. Erik is there to support Jules, to help him through his episodes, and to be his protector when needed. I don’t know enough about Jules’ condition to say how accurately it is portrayed, but from my viewpoint, it feels well developed and really helps give us a sense of both Jules and Erik as characters. I also liked that Erik has some of his own emotional issues to work through and that Jules is there for him. It gives some nice balance to their dynamic, showing that while Jules has a lot he struggles with, he is also able to be a supportive partner to Erik. I liked these guys together and found them an appealing pair.
Things move very smoothly for Jules and Erik in terms of reconnecting and building their relationship and most of the story is just watching the two of them fall in love. The conflict here comes with Stef, who has expressed his disapproval of a relationship between them to both men in the past. They guys are wary about getting together in the first place, and then afraid to tell Stef once they do. Jules and Erik are worried about impacting not only their own relationship with Stef, but also negatively affecting the other’s connection with him as well. I’m going to admit, I needed to feel a more solid reasoning behind why these guys are so wary of Stef’s reaction for the whole conflict to ride on this issue. Yes, he told them at one point long ago he was against their relationship. But honestly, these are grown men who are about 33 and 36 years old. I know Stef is protective over Jules, but it is not like he is a kid. Does a 30+ year old man need his brother’s permission for who he dates? Why do either of these guys think it is reasonable that Stef gets an opinion and that they should give up on love between them because Stef might not like it? Not to mention, neither of them think to even talk to Stef about it, to share their feelings with him or try to sort it out. They just avoid the situation and let it impact their chance at happiness until they finally give in, so I did find that somewhat frustrating. I can go for this sort of plot device, but I needed more of a foundation to justify the idea that Stef would feel strongly enough to want to keep them apart and that Jules and Erik would let him.
Despite that issue, I found this one a sweet and easy romance and I really enjoyed Jules and Erik as a couple. This series has a nice supporting cast and it’s fun seeing the characters cross over into each other’s books. The next installment is Stef’s story (I’ll be reviewing it here soon), so I am eager to continue on with the series.