Heat Factor: They start so shy but it doesn’t take long for the waistcoats to come way, way off
Character Chemistry: It’s all shy and tender
Plot: Richard loses his job right before Christmas and goes to stay with Tobias, his best friend who he’s never met in person
Overall: It’s a super soft one, folks
An epistolary romance where all the epistolary part of the romance happens before the book starts, this is an extremely soft story featuring two trans men who have been corresponding for six years but have never met until Richard finds himself homeless and jobless thanks to his boss’s terrible (and selfish) life choices.
Tobias of course invites Richard to stay as long as he likes, and at the very least they can spend Christmas and celebrate the new year together at Tobias’s house upstate. I felt like Ottoman set the perfect tone for the uncertainty of meeting a person who feels like an old friend but what happens when the relationship changes as it inevitably must when people who have never seen each other meet in person for the first time?
It’s extremely gentle, with really no plot to speak of, and lots of cozy wintery feels. There are points in the story that could lead to some character-driven conflict or angst, and there’s Richard’s worry about scary things lurking in the woods, but nothing is teased out past an introduction. Even the “what does our relationship look like now” back and forth between Richard and Tobias is so low key I feel like low key is maybe overstating things. It’s also all from Richard’s POV, although the story is told in 3rd person. Tobias is more opaque, but given the length of the story, I wasn’t dissatisfied with that choice on Ottoman’s part.
I will note that readers who want a really strong HEA probably won’t be satisfied. When I finished, I was reminded of K.J. Charles’s comment on The Henchmen of Zenda having “a non-heteronormative HFN,” though the ending of this story is really nothing like the ending of Zenda. Maybe call it a non-heternormative HEA?
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