[A quick note: This is the first in an ongoing series. The cover caught my eye, and I was immediately interested. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. It’s on the longer side, but it’s a lot of fun, and the length gives plenty of time to develop the characters. I can’t wait to read the second book.]
When Nick returns home after eight years in the military, his long term girlfriend dumps him. No one liked her anyway. He turns to his lifelong best friend, Noel. Together, they create a ruse. Their plan? Make both of their ex’s jealous. Suddenly, the whole town thinks Nick and Noel are dating. Now they’re forced to confront new feelings and a budding passion that neither can deny.
I had so much fun reading this one! There are tons of favorite tropes like fake relationship, forced proximity, friends to lovers, and more. I put all my other reads on hold to power through it. There was a lot more angst than I expected. I don’t usually gravitate towards friends to lovers. I was nervous about it. No need to worry! It’s one of the best friends to lovers trope I’ve read! It was done really well. And there was a bit of spice, too! Hello!
I believe the reason friends to lovers worked here, for me, personally, was because Nick is gone for eight years. He’s in the military, and even though he keeps in touch with his best friend, Noel, his coming back is like an awakening. Suddenly, they’re noticing things about each other they never noticed before. Mainly, the fact that they are sexually attracted to each other.
Everything kicks off with a kiss. While they’re at the bar, Noel spontaneously kisses Nick to make his ex jealous. It just happens. Suddenly, they’re kissing, and they’re liking it (secretly, obviously, they’d never admit it!). That single kiss awakens tons of heat between them. They break apart and brush it off. They act like it was nothing.
But…the damage is done! Now the whole town thinks they’re dating. Instead of denying it, they continue the ruse. A large portion of the book is spent denying each other. I love the angst this creates.
The other fun thing this book offers is the music aspect. Music is what ties Nick and Noel together. They’ve spent their entire lives making playlists for each other to define/describe/and cope with situations. It’s fun to see how music is the bridge that always connects them.
Noel’s character arc was solid. She loses her parents when she’s young. Because of that, she has decided she will never do a serious relationship. No kids. No family. No marriage. It’s her feelings for Nick, and even Nick himself, that helps her heal. This adds a bit of forbidden relationship aspects.
In terms of plot, there’s plenty of stuff going on. Nick is settling into his new life and job. Noel is grappling with the loss of her parents; it comes full swing when she’s asked to participate in a commemorative concert ten years after their death. And then there’s her best friend’s wedding. Her best friend is getting married on Xmas eve, and one of the bridesmaids is Noel’s mortal enemy (Nick’s ex). This creates TONS of tension outside of the romantic tension.
This wasn’t your typical feel-good holiday book. It’s got a happily ever after, and a solid character arc, but it wasn’t super holiday focused. Everything takes place to the backdrop of the holidays, but the holidays didn’t feel front-and-center. That’s okay!! It still gave me plenty of holiday vibes and I had tons of fun reading it.
𝐌𝐘 𝐑𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆: 𝟒/𝟓⭐️