Review: The Problem with Perfect by Philip William Stover (2023)

Heat Factor: It’s not a slow burn, it’s a no-sex burn

Character Chemistry: There were moments it could have been great, but it never really clicked

Plot: Ethan keeps compounding his problems by trying too hard to make everything how it should be, and Beau opens his eyes to how he wants it to be

Overall: I liked it fine, but readers will probably enjoy it more if they expect a single personal growth arc rather than a glorious romance

I picked up this ARC because the premise sounded fun (Twin stand-in, fake relationship forced proximity? Fun.), and it’s an M/M romance written by a man, something I like to prioritize when picking up books.

This story focuses on the trials and tribulations of Ethan, a man who has found himself producing a TV show all about lifestyle, climbing the network ranks with determination even though it was never the trajectory he envisioned his life taking. After discovering Chase, an absolutely gorgeous himbo, he realized his lifestyle design ideas could gain much greater reach if he were the brains behind the beauty on TV, so he has been telling himself that if he just jumps through all the hoops and gets to the top, he’ll gain a greater mouthpiece and more widespread recognition for queer people and queer issues. He’s being altruistic, people. 

The only trouble is, he’s boxed both himself and Chase into corners: himself by selling out to sponsors in order to gain that greater following, and Chase by generally ignoring his personhood because he’s turned into a complete diva. And so Chase bolts for greener pastures, leaving Ethan in the lurch just as the most important moments for both the show and Ethan’s career converge at Pride. 

Now, you might think that the actor in breach of contract by running off would be at fault, but no, he’s such a live wire that everybody expects Ethan to be accountable for him rather than for Chase to be accountable for himself. With this in mind, Ethan panics, drives to the New York wilderness, and begs Chase’s twin brother to stand in for him in order to keep the ball rolling (much preferable to Ethan’s head). 

Beau is his own kind of mess, and he has a growth arc of his own that we discover as he reveals more of himself to Ethan over time, but his rock bottom preceded the beginning of the book, so he’s already had an opportunity to get himself right, so… he’s kind of perfect. Kind, thoughtful, patient, understanding, a fabulous communicator, an amazing (vegan) chef, politically engaged… There’s just not much to grapple with where Beau is concerned. On the one hand, this is good because Ethan’s drama is enough to carry the whole book, but on the other hand, it makes the the narrative less engaging (as a romance) because the single-POV is simply telling us Ethan’s story rather than ramping up tension to create a compelling romantic narrative for both Ethan and Beau. The moments of romantic tension, when they occurred, didn’t do much for me because I never became fully invested in Beau or in wanting them to JUST DO IT ALREADY! Which is what a really solid slow burn is able to achieve. 

Where I really connected with this book was actually with Ethan’s journey (at least until things went full romance novel drama toward the end). Ethan has found himself running in the rat race, competing to get to the top for some unclear victory that will never actually arrive because he will never be done running. He is both extremely self-aware that he might not actually want the life that he’s created for himself and in denial about leaving because of all the stories he’s told himself and time he’s put in over the years. He can’t just implode his whole life because Beau steps in and really forces him to confront the choices he’s making (just…a string of really questionable decisions) in order to save a show that no longer aligns with his values or his personal desires. He has to see this through and then he’ll be able to take a step back and think about things. Except that all those terrible decisions he’s been making are forcing him to make the next choice and the next until he’s not even the one running his own life anymore. This aspect of the book was marvelously executed. 

I have to say also that the secondary characters rounded out the book nicely. They’re fun to read, diverse, and with their own clear personalities. Really, the construction of this book is extremely solid, and I had fun reading it. It just didn’t thrill me.  

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.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Opposites Attract

Lumberjack Energy

M/M Romances

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s