Marlee Medford just got dumped. Yes, things have become ho-hum in her longtime relationship, but she was two days away from walking down the aisle with the man she thought was her forever when he called it off. Convincing herself that they’d be able to reignite their spark once the wedding craziness settled? That was easy. Suddenly finding herself without a fiancé? Not so much. Marlee needs to regain control of her life, and a weekend away with her friends is a solid first step.
One of Denver’s best up-and-coming chefs, perpetual bachelor Eli Howard, isn’t into serious relationships—especially the kind that ends in marriage. As if to prove his point that they aren’t worth the trouble, the wedding he was supposed to be catering just fell apart. Feeling oddly protective of the jilted bride—his little sister’s best friend—his weekend plans now involve a trip to Sin City with her group of friends. But it looks like he had a bit too much fun in Vegas when he wakes up married… wedding night included.
Marlee’s attempts at getting her life back together are failing miserably. Her ex-fiancé is taking the house, her chihuahua is intent on a love affair with Eli’s sneakers, and she’s now accidentally hitched to the guy who can't even say the word marriage. With their quickie annulment denied, Eli and Marlee just have to hang tight until the divorce goes through. It’s just a little divorce amongst friends, what’s the worst that could happen?
The Main Characters.
Marlee is a grown woman with a sizeable trust fund and a tiny purse-sized dog. I do not know how the author made me like her, but by god, she really did.
All right, that’s a lie. I know exactly how the author made me like Marlee. When her main source of money dries up abruptly, Marlee doesn’t cry about it, and she doesn’t accept the handout she’s immediately offered. It’s very clear that Marlee has never really had to work for her money before, but she jumps straight into the concept, determined to earn her own way. Marlee might be a trust fund kid, but when the chips are down, she decides she’s going to make it work, and she doesn’t waver once from that idea.
It was a very nice change to read a book where the heroine is monied and the hero is not. Eli isn’t doing badly for himself, especially considering he’s a world-class chef, but it’s very clear that he’s spent much of his life working hard to get to where he is — and he definitely doesn’t have the sort of net worth that Marlee does. Similar to Marlee, Eli has stubbornly decided not to take any handouts to achieve his goals, and the fact that his success is so hard-won makes him instantly likeable. He might not be a billionaire, but he’s instantly willing to share what he has when Marlee hits a rough spot, especially given their longstanding friendship.
The Big Keyword: Friends to Lovers.
I am an absolute sucker for friends to lovers romances. It has been my experience that it is very difficult to find good friends to lovers romances, though — it’s the sort of keyword that authors like to tack on without fully contemplating what it means. “My characters meet and like each other, and slowly jump into a romance — that’s friends to lovers, right?”
This was a perfect, bonafide friends to lovers romance. I’m so pleased to have found it. The two main characters met and connected long before the book began. There’s never been any nearly-dating between them, no one-night stands or “we don’t talk about that.” I got to watch their friendship blossom into a romance in real-time, and that is basically everything I’m here to see.
While there wasn't a lot of focus on Eli and Marlee's past together, their present-day friendship was both very convincing and just the right approach to hit my "friends to lovers" sweet spot. It’s very clear that they have a history, and that they genuinely care about one another for reasons that transcend basic sexual attraction. When Marlee first gets dumped and all her friends arrive to help, Eli’s first instinct is to cook her a fantastic breakfast — because that’s what he’s good at. This was the moment I utterly melted, and my affection for this book only progressed from there.
There are times the two main characters come into conflict, of course, but the hard edges are filed off these interactions specifically because it’s so clear how much they care about one another the whole time. For most of the book, I’m rooting for Marlee and Eli to overcome their problems together, rather than groaning about how they clearly don’t actually care enough to talk to each other. There’s no huffy flouncing away when things get tough, and I can’t recall a single instance where either character ever assumed the worst about the other. I really like that — it mirrors some of the more healthy relationships I’ve seen in real life, without removing any of the interesting sense of conflict.
The Big Misunderstanding.
I will admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of how the big misunderstanding near the end of the book happens. It was the first time in the entire book that I found myself frustrated with the two main characters for refusing to talk to one another about something which they obviously should have done. My caveat here is that many parts of this big misunderstanding were so hilariously executed that I instantly forgave the author the contrivance. A little bit (or a lot) of humor can solve many ills.
Fie, You Villain!
The villains in this book, such as they were, were mostly people looking after their own interests, or trying to look after Marlee’s interests without her permission. Marlee’s ex-fiancée and her parents felt very realistic — they weren’t moustache-twirling villains for the sake of being villains, though I often wanted to see Marlee’s fiancée punched in the face for his (possibly intentional) obliviousness to how his actions hurt the people around him. I have known people exactly like him in real life, so he hit a lot of the right notes to make me throw up my hands and growl.
Laugh Out Loud.
This book was laugh out loud funny. I say this, of course, because I laughed out loud multiple times. I don’t want to spoil anything, but keep your eye on Babushka. She won’t fail to disappoint.
Get Your Popcorn!
I read this book in one sitting. It was light and fluffy, and for all that the writing is fantastic, it never took itself too seriously. It was exactly what I needed to unwind from a very long week, and I finished it feeling perfectly satisfied.
Why It's On the Bookshelf.
This was probably my favorite friends to lovers read in a long time — so long that I can’t remember if I’ve ever read a better one. I expect I’ll come back to reread it every once in a while, whenever I get the hankering. If you like friends to lovers, I hope you’ll enjoy it too!