Heat Factor: This one’s a proper slooow burn: no sex, barely even kisses
Character Chemistry: heavily centered on PK’s pining for Art
Plot: PK’s been in love with his best friend since college, and just when he thinks that Art will finally realize PK’s the boyfriend they’ve always wanted, Art’s dismissive comments crush PK into writing the perfect boyfriend into a romance novel
Overall: This one’s for readers who like single-protagonist personal growth arcs, super slow burns, and personal accountability
Well, did I ever identify with PK! Whether he’s correct in his interpretations or not, PK is getting a lot of feedback from the people closest to him that he’s too shallow to understand romance or feelings, much less to articulate anything about them. For example, when PK is arguing with Art about his ability to romance people, Art returns:
“I know you don’t get it. This is probably why both of us are single: I want too much romance and you don’t even know what romance is.” There was this horrible pause, this break in his words, almost like he was going to say more but decided it wasn’t worth it. That I wasn’t worth it. “Anyway, I need to get some stuff done. Goodnight.”
And that…was it. He just walked out. Away. Down the hall. Whatever. Leaving me with You don’t even know what romance is echoing in my head.
Also, when he gives his work bestie his manuscript, her first reaction is that there’s no way PK wrote this “achingly lovely” story:
“You really think it’s okay?” I asked, my voice small, like a little kid begging for approval.
“I sent it to Adams. Oh my god, she’s going to kill me when she finds out you wrote it. Shit. I told her it was some random, which to be fair, I thought was true, because I didn’t think…not gonna lie, I didn’t think you had the emotional depth for something like this.” Pause. “Sorry.”
And then his childhood frenemy tells him:
“I don’t mean to insult you, Preston, but it honestly never occurred to me that you were perceptive enough to notice complex interpersonal dynamics.”
So basically PK is just trying really hard, but he’s also a little bit self-absorbed (But also, he’s 26, okay? Like. Duh.) and incredibly socially awkward. And he’s just trying to protect himself from getting hurt. And of course, when it comes to the point, he’s the one who has to grovel, but we’re starting from this place where it feels like nobody thinks very highly of him, so it’s easy to see why:
- He decides he has something to prove, and
- He doesn’t feel like there’s a safe space for sharing his feelings
As a result, this story is very much centered on PK. There’s not a ton of dialogue or extensive scenes that develop other characters in this narrative. PK is constantly thinking about proving that he can be romantic, how he should share that he’s gotten a book deal for a romance novel (based on his own life), and if it’s the right time to share his feelings with Art. That’s not to say that Art doesn’t also grow over the course of the story or that the two don’t grow together. (If we’re considering Ingrid’s metric.) Part of the reason that things go awry for PK is because Art has clearly stated that they want the huge romance gestures of fiction, but they have to realize that what’s beautiful in fiction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in real life. And together, PK and Art need to figure out how to be vulnerable and honest with each other. They’re reconnecting as roommates again (excellent forced proximity situation) after Art’s former relationship had contributed to a lengthy separation, which creates excellent groundwork for their romantic relationship, but they need to tip the scales into the romantic connection. There’s a lot on the line for them personally, is what I’m saying.
Readers who enjoy a grovel will get a lengthy one here. And readers who like protagonists to be held accountable for their actions will likely enjoy the dark moment. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the dark moment. On the one hand, I definitely appreciate the thoughtful execution of PK taking ownership of his actions and apologizing without expectation of forgiveness or even a reply because it hangs on his realization that doing anything else is putting unasked for responsibility on Art. It’s a level of personal accountability that doesn’t always occur in romance novels. On the other hand, I’d almost prefer an irrationality-based dark moment because the idea that one party can simply walk away for months without a single word, that a valued relationship can be completely abandoned without at least an attempt at a conversation, doesn’t inspire me with warm fuzzies after they finally make up and move on. I’m also not huge on the third-party-intervention to push the relationship back on track, though there are definitely times when someone saying “personal accountability, hello” is a good thing. Bottom line: YMMV depending on how you like a grovel to go.
The last thing I’ll touch on in this review is Ripper’s voice. This is another YMMV thing because it’s definitely an extremely conversational style, as if PK is telling this story to the reader. I really liked it. I felt like I was PK’s friend or somebody he sat next to at the bar and just poured his guts out to. It was fun, almost light-hearted, even as there’s a lot of heavy stuff being processed. Ripper has a unique way of letting us see PK’s values, even as he expresses things in an entirely relatable (for my demographic anyway) manner:
Actually, I wished he liked me more than he liked Roman. Which he should have, because bros before gender-neutral-in-no-way-sex-shaming hos, right? But in the bro vs ho battle, I’d lost hard.
And there are several nods to romance readers (not totally surprising for a meta romance story), which is fun. But I can see some readers not being as into the stream-of-consciousness narrative. (Though that makes me think of English class and Faulkner, which was not my fave – it’s not like that, it’s much more coherent. To me, anyway.) Anyway, Ripper has a way with words – no doubt about it.
SO! If you’d like to read a really emotional story in which the protagonist makes mistakes but everyone is, at the end of the day, responsible for their own behavior, this journey might very well work for you.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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