A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Operation Danny…that’s all bartender and recent college graduate, Julian Hallowell has had on his mind the past year. Julian may have no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he definitely knows he‘s in love with the boy next door: the next door down the hall to be exact, housing his roommate and used textbook store owner Danny Wallace.
While Julian has done his level best to make Danny fall for him, all his hard work has been in vain. Danny doesn’t seem to view Julian as anything other than a roommate and friend. So when new guy in town Andy Baker asks him out on a date, Julian can’t think of a good reason to say no.
Instead, he institutes a Reverse Operation Danny plan, which he’s positive will purge all thoughts of love and lust for his roomie out of his head. He’s ready to move on and start looking for his next Mr. Right, and Andy just might fit the bill. But has he given up too soon?
As You Are is the third published novel by Ethan Day, who has quickly secured a place in my reading heart as one of my favorite authors. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have put Ethan up on some kind of author pedestal because of the yumminess that is Dreaming of You (reviewed here), one of my favorite books of this past year. I was actually a little scared to read this one; I mean, how could he top that book in my mind, and was it a fluke? What would happen if AYA turned out to be a big ol’ bomb and that pedestal would crumble, taking Ethan with it? I didn’t know if I could handle it. I was terrified that my fears were founded when I started it — it kinda threw me off guard with its bold cheekiness — but it grew on me as I continued through, and by the end, I loved it. I should have just trusted that all would be well. Light, hilarious and wonderful with fully-fleshed characters and a quick pace, I laughed — a lot — I cried, I got angry for Julian.
Ethan has a way with writing normal, flawed and quirky characters — characters that I inevitably fall in love with — and AYA is no exception. Narrated first-person by uber-sassy Julian, he had me in the second paragraph by mentioning his love of Miracle Whip. 🙂 When we first meet Julian, he is telling us a little about himself and his seamlessly never-ending search for true love and The One. He had hoped that Danny, his roommate of a little over a year, would be The One, but after months of fruitlessly trying to get Danny’s attention, Julian has changed direction and is now trying hard to be as bitchy to him as possible in an effort to flush Danny out of his system. To help with this, he agrees to a date with Andy, a man who he met at the club where Julian tends bar. Perhaps Andy is The One? Things get interesting when it appears Danny may have some interest after all and everything comes to a head before the week is out.
Once again I find a character that I want to be friends with, who seems very real to me, and that is Julian. Poor Julian; all he wants is to fall in love and find The One, but it’s a challenge for him, especially since he set his sights on “walking hard-on “ Danny. There are so many aspects of Julian’s personality that I found endearing: how feisty and bitchy he is, how he adores his mother, how his mouth gets away from him sometimes as he speaks before thinking (or speaks what he’s thinking), how he has a thing for smells (more on that later), how he can never find his keys. A chain smoker banished to the “smokers’ sill” in their apartment, smoking is as much of his character as his bitchiness and huge heart.
Like the story itself, Danny grew on me and by the end, I liked him very much. I started out having some problems with his character and how he treated Julian, but then I came to understand that part of that is in response to Julian himself and the whole “Reverse Operation Danny” thing. The story is told in current day and in flashbacks to scenes of note over the last year as the tale progressed, and as we got to see pre-ROD interaction, I could see how kind and sweet he was. I wanted to throttle him at several times, but overall, I hoped he and Julian would work out and I found myself rooting for them. In saying all of this, though, my single niggle with the book is that I didn’t get to know him as well as I would have liked, and definitely not was well as Julian.
Secondary cast include Gabby, Julian’s best friend who knows him better than anyone, who happily calls him on all of his bullshit, and who Julian meets for lunch every week day. Gabby, who is also a heavy smoker and quite sassy, comes from a “long line of Irish Catholic alcoholics” so she can easily drink three martinis at lunch each day and go back to work. Other characters include Delilah, Julian’s divorced, PFLAG-active mother who visits often and who has kind of adopted Danny as a second son. I think she wants them together as much as Julian does. Realtor Andy as Julian’s possible love interest and Brad, Gabby’s clueless boyfriend, round out the cast.
I found AYA to be very sensual; sensual, as in literally about the physical senses. There is a lot of emphasis on tastes, sounds, touches and especially smells. Soap, sweat, musk, deodorant, cologne, books (a major aphrodisiac for Julian “I don’t know why, but I always get extremely aroused in bookstores and libraries. I love the smell of books.”), newly-detailed car, “scent and sights of all the sweaty beefcake” all make for a sensual feast that Julian has difficulty navigating around, especially since most them make him incredibly horny.
There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that my partner stopped asking me what was so funny and just shook her head as I read. And snickered. And guffawed. Standouts include a touch football game early in the book and a dinner party where all of the characters are together in one room.
All-in-all a wonderful, hilarious story with fabulous characters that I highly recommend to fans of the author, to lovers of romantic comedies, and to anyone looking for a pick-me-up read. Well done.