Sullivan, Sophie. A Guide to Being Just Friends. Jansen Brothers #3. St. Martin’s Press, 2023. 336 pp . ISBN 9781250624208. $16.99
This is a fairly stand-alone novel, last in a series about three wealthy brothers. I started reading it, was bored by it, dropped it after 40 pages, and went back to finish it and had to start over because I couldn’t recall a single detail.
The oldest Jansen, Wes, has sworn off love, and in the opposite of a meet-cute, accuses Hailey of being Hayden, his missing date, when they cross paths in the coffee shop where he is being stood up. Hailey is new to town and fresh off the Hollywood craft services circuit, recovering from an emotional abusive relationship and has started her own salad in a cup to go business right next door to a popular bakeshop. She quickly ends up in the inner circle of the Jansen brothers and their loves, and she and Wes agree to forgive and embark on a friendship. He helps her with technical and social media part of marketing, while she encourages his artistic talents. They cook, play video games, watch romance comedies and sci-fi thrillers and fall in love, denying it until a drunken kiss obliterates their friendship. Some angsting follows, they decide to make a go of it until something ruins it and they have to break up, have an epiphany, and get back together.
Something fell flat for me in this romance novel. The bones are there and the writing is solid (except for calling a path cutely paved, what does that even mean?), but I think it just seemed two-dimensional, from Hailey’s absent and obsessed with one another parents, to a kid from the community center with two doctor parents who are never around, who jumps in to become Hailey’s delivery boy, to the mysterious falling out with the Jansen brother’s mean father (maybe alluded to in other books in the series?) to the fast, fiercely loyal friendships and quick resolution. Maybe it’s that in spite of the title and a brief foray into Wes’s sketches of their inside jokes, a guide to just being friends isn’t delivered.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #AGuideToJustBeingFriends from #NetGalley