Ashley, Allison. The Roommate Pact. Harlequin, 2023. 400 pp. ISBN 9780778334248 $18.99
Firefighter Graham and nurse Claire are roommates with a joking agreement to embark on a friends with benefits relationship if they are still single at forty; as soon as they voice the option, they suddenly start to notice just how attractive the other is. She’s determined not to fall for a first responder whose life is constantly on the line. When Graham breaks a leg in a minor climbing accident and needs companion care, Claire realizes she cares more than she thought. Voiceless due to getting intubated, she starts sleeping in his bed since he can’t call out if he needs something. Their early communication after the accident is by notes and texts while his voice heals, and then Graham begins unburdening his thoughts and feelings to what he believes to be a defunct email address of Claire’s.
Tension ratchets up when Claire washing Graham’s hair becomes a sensual experience ,and again when he decides to help her with her dating profile. When she brings him to see his parents, there is Just!One!Bed! and of course she gets along perfectly with his well-meaning, match-making parents–and even becomes friendly with his dog. They do consummate the relationship, but the nitty gritty after the hot makeout sessions is left off the page.
Chapters alternate points of view, and Graham’s heartfelt emails are swoon-worthy. The story is well-plotted and well-paced with good character development and sensory writing. This takes place in the same universe as Would You Rather–Claire is the one who tricks Noah and Mia into confessing their feelings, and Graham and Claire’s chemistry is palpable there; and although Noah and Mia appear in The Roommate Pact, it does work as a stand-alone interconnected novel rather than part of a series. Overall, this is a solid hurt/comfort romance with a very satisfying slow burn of friends falling in love.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheRoommate Pact from #NetGalley through the author’s publicist.
Allison Ashley. Would You Rather. Harlequin, 2022. 336 pp. ISBN 9780778386490 $15.99
Noah would do anything for his best friend Mia, who is on a list for a kidney transplant. They have an prankfest at work, as well as an ongoing game of “Would you rather…?” and are equally comfortable with silence together. He’s a commercial design commercial design, and she’s the administrative assistant at his firm, but longs for a career as a pediatric dietician. Her illness and schedule of infusions, doctor’s appointments and hospitalizations (and ensuing medical bills) have kept her from pursuing her degree–and, from pursing Noah. They had a moment in college, but decided not to risk their friendship. Other issues: she’s on a two -year communication hiatus from her family, who betrayed her; he’s still coming to terms with the death of the older brother he adored.
When Mia wins a scholarship for non-traditional returning college students, she can’t accept for risk of losing her excellent health insurance if she has to drop hours at work to go back to school. Noah nearly immediately proposes, willing to give up two years of his life until Mia either completes her program or gets a transplant and goes on Medicaid. They intend to keep their insurance fraud a secret, but someone else who wants to be partner in the firm overhears and begins blackmailing Noah. They move in together, maintaining separate beds until things slowly amp up: they have to kiss when they marry, then they have to kiss at a family get-together, then a friend needs to crash after drinking too much at game night, and there’s only one bed; they go camping with friends and there’s only one bed. And then she accidentally sees him naked when he accidentally leaves the bathroom door open while he showers…
The details of Mia’s chronic illness felt real and complete. Things I didn’t love: Claire tries to manipulate them into confessing their feelings, in college and again at her birthday dinner. Noah tells Mia to unsubscribe to some fact and inspiration sites after sharing facts and quotes with him–and she agrees. There are a LOT of lies and deception in this book. And, all that buildup, and the door closes before we get the witness the consummation of decades of love and longing. No discussion of consent, protection, or STI screening, either.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #WouldYouRather from #NetGalley