Title: Between You and Me
Author: Willa Okati
Publisher: Changeling Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (93 pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Review Summary: Two men who have known each other for half their lives try to negotiate their new normal. Would it be a disaster or the best move they ever made? Is it real or is it Memorex?
Quiet, reserved Daniel admits to being a “serial monogamist”. He’s holding out for a hero and waiting for his one and only. Someone who gets his jokes and has his back. Someone who’s looking for forever.
Ian, Daniel’s closest friend, is…not a monogamist. He lives his life to the fullest in a whirlwind of whiskey, celebration, and seduction, falling in love at least once a week. No one can help falling in love with Ian when he turns his charm on them.
Except Daniel. He’d do anything for Ian except get tangled up in the sheets or hearts. Everything changes when you mix friendship with romance. Take a chance on losing his best friend? No thanks. Ian? He thought he agreed, and he was looking forward to spending the rest of his life enthralled by discovering one new passion after another.
Only somehow, when neither of them were looking, Daniel stole Ian’s heart, and Ian stole Daniel’s, tucking it in his pocket for safekeeping. Now he’s pinning that heart on his sleeve and going after what he wants. Who he wants. Who he loves, and who he knows, deep down, has always been in love with him too. Not that it’s exactly easy to change everything they thought they knew about themselves and each other, or to update their dreams. But they’re both smart enough to know when you can and can’t fight fate — and to understand when someone who makes you laugh and shows you what love really means is something worth fighting for.
Between you and me? Theirs is a love story that was only waiting to happen.
Willa Okati is a writer that some readers are ambivalent about, but so far I’ve liked many of her books, so when the plot of Between You and Me caught my eye I thought I would give it a try.
I love stories that feature best friends turned lovers and for me Daniel and Ian had the right stuff. They met in university and that was the start of a beautiful friendship. Fifteen years later they were in their mid thirties, with heart-breaker and jet setter Ian travelling all over the world as part of his job to find amazing one-of-a-kind treasures for clients. A side benefit was that his travels were an ideal source of candidates for his one night stands. Daniel was a librarian who lived in a small town, a shy, reserved man, but Ian knew that he was not the man he appeared to be on the surface – he was quite the opposite. Daniel’s only addiction other than Ian 🙂 appeared to be excellent coffee. Although their careers were so different, whenever Ian came to town to check up on Daniel it was as if they had never been away from each other because they fit together so well.
Each chapter starts with a quote from one of the MCs and this one from Ian is at the beginning of the story, which sets the context:
“Love isn’t complicated. Not unless people make it complicated. Unfortunately, that happens more often than it doesn’t.
But every now and then, Lady Luck tips her hand in a man’s favor, and it’s easy. Or easier. The trick there is knowing the difference.”
The story spans only 24 hours in the protagonists’ lives although the author provided enough of their back stories so the reader could understand their triggers, differences, how and why their relationship changed, their realization that they had, without really noticing it, fallen in love with each other and the reason for the timing. Ian had his work cut out to convince Daniel about his intentions since Daniel knew his manwhore ways so well. He had to put on his A game and make him believe that he was for real and not just looking for a convenient bed partner for the night because he had an itch he wanted scratched.
Daniel and his ex, an ophthalmologist, had broken up by text message (I guess social media is now being used for everything) 🙂 but he wasn’t that upset about being dumped, he was more annoyed by his boyfriend’s communication method. Ian who always seemed to know when Daniel needed him, showed up shortly after to console his friend. However, something was different this time because that was not the main reason he had driven into town in his flashy red convertible. Ian wanted Daniel in his life in a different role. He had acknowledged to himself that he was in love with the man who meant the world to him and he was sure that Daniel loved him in return, but would his friend ever admit to deeper feelings about Ian?
Ian was opportunistic and it was therefore not difficult to understand why Daniel did not believe that he could be sincere about his declaration of love. The main thrust of the plot was Ian’s challenge to convince Daniel about his honest and sincere intentions. Both characters were well drawn and Daniel was not shy about making his needs and concerns clear and put Ian on notice that he was on to him.
The rain was like another character in the book as it fell during the important parts of the story and ranged from light mist, drizzle, to downpours and really helped to set the atmosphere and the intensity. Sex on a beach in the rain is very romantic but beware of the sand which is insidious. 🙂
There was a bit of over the top prose which detracted a little from my enjoyment of the story. I won’t bore you with quotes but as an experienced writer I would have thought that this was something that Willa could easily avoid.
What made this book enjoyable for me and transcended the few problems I had were the characters and the equality of their relationship. The fact that they knew everything about each other didn’t make the romance less exciting or passionate – it made it more real, and in this case it provided some amusing moments. Here’s some funny dialogue when Daniel talked about Kevin, his ex:
“Seriously. An ophthalmologist?”
“Hey, now. It’s a respectable profession, and Mother would have been so proud if I’d brought home a doctor.”
“You’re imagining what the sex was like, aren’t you?”
Ian almost kept a straight face. “No.”
“Liar.” Daniel’s lips quirked. “I can hear you thinking. ‘Is it better this way or this way? First slide or second slide?’”
“Oh God.” Ian covered his face in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal unmanly—well, he wouldn’t take kindly to hearing them described as giggles ……
“I think he needed stronger glasses, to be honest. He had trouble finding my mouth.”
“On a scale of one to ten, one being jalapeno and ten being—”
“He was oatmeal.”
Ian’s empathy leavened the dismay of his cringe. “Tell me you’re joking.”
“Would that I were, but unfortunately no. Lukewarm oatmeal. No salt—”
Willa Okati is a very good writer most of the time and I enjoy her characters. I thought that Ian and Daniel were a couple of her best MCs outside of Eli and Zane from And Call Me in the Morning. The complexity of changing a long friendship into a sexual relationship was not minimized; both men realized that if this didn’t work out they would lose the most important person in their lives for good. To find out that they were in love with each other after so many years as friends, while exhilarating, was also sobering and scary especially for Daniel who wondered how this would work with Ian’s travel schedule and the availability of easy sex on the road. I think that these and other relevant issues were handled well by the author and there was no attempt to sugar coat what could be real problems in their partnership. Between You and Me: The title was appropriate because other than the two MCs the only other character in the book was Daniel’s boss Minnie who had a small role, but she was as three dimensional as the protagonists.