Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for my complimentary ARC; all opinions provided are my own.
Before having Josephine I’d forgotten that breastfeeding—especially in the middle of the night—offers the opportunity to binge read (and eat lots of bad things in the name of staying awake, but that’s another matter altogether and best not explored at the moment because #survivalmode).
The facts are that Josephine has been a greedy little nighttime piglet and since having her on the 10th I’ve read at least four books. The first of them was Jill Shalvis’s Almost Just Friends, a magnetic women’s fic book that I couldn’t wait to keep reading despite the fact that I was running on probably three hours of sleep or less for three days in a row.
EMT Piper has spent her life taking care of people: the injured people she encounters at her job and her two younger siblings whom she basically raised after their parents died. Now’s her chance to leave Wildstone and pursue her own dreams…until her siblings show back up with a boatload of secrets between them and a sexy stranger named Camden moves in next door (relatively speaking).
As a person who isn’t too keen on confrontation, family drama plots sometimes stress me out. But Shalvis handles it deftly here: I love how she sketches the complicated dynamics between family members, showing how even the most well-intentioned person can make mistakes and also keep trying to be better. There’s room for both squabbles and forgiveness in families and Shalvis’s portrayal of that in Almost Just Friends moves me.
Those family secrets are also balanced by the relationship between Piper and Camden, which is all things lovely despite/because of the baggage each of them is dragging. It’s a relationship that’s based on mutual respect and attraction and fear-that-turns-into-bravery, all things that I find really sexy in real life and in romance novels. The banter between them and the other characters shines, offering another source of levity and warmth for the (extremely tired and maybe a little grumpy) reader.
And a big hurray! to Shalvis for increasingly including diverse characters and themes in her books, something that I think sets her apart from a lot of white “mainstream” romance novelists. Almost Just Friends features a gay secondary romance that’s maybe as heart-stirring as the primary.
On a basic level, I really enjoyed Almost Just Friends. I also felt grateful that this was the first book I reached for after Josephine: it satisfied me, touched me, and offered me some respite from the more immediate physical realities of newborn life, and none of those things are to be taken lightly.
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