Release Date: October 9, 2018
Received From: Review requested by the author
Hunter and Derek are at a fork in the road…
At their friend Justin’s funeral, once-best-friends Derek and Hunter meet again almost four years after their monumental falling out. Hunter kissed Derek, and Derek freaked out and chose a college on the other side of the country.
If they had a choice, both of them would walk away and never see the other again. Except Justin has given them a mission: an epic road trip to scatter his ashes all over the Midwest, complete with cryptic notes, new friends, and a whole lot of sexual tension. Can Derek and Hunter finish Justin’s road trip without ripping each other’s heads—or clothes—off?
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: road trip, forced proximity, friends to lovers
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, fat character (secondary), coming of age, coming out
WARNINGS: death, cancer mention, vomiting, anti-queer, ableism, slurs, internalized homophobia, mental illness (anxiety, panic attacks), anti-ace language (using “virgin” as a joke), homophobic family, cissexism/trans exclusionary language (“queer and trans people”)
When I received an email from the author asking if I would like a review copy of their book, I didn’t know what to expect. On the surface, it has a bunch of fun tropes–road trips, forced proximity, and a loose version of friends to lovers! But, from the blurb, it’s clear that the tension between our two main characters is alive and well, which makes one wonder how you could possibly see the characters together after just a week in each other’s company.
Luckily for us, Valencourt pulls it off.
The book starts off with Justin’s funeral, which is where Hunter and Derek see each other for the first time in years. And suddenly, they’re being sent on a road trip by Justin, along with Justin’s girlfriend Paige and Justin’s other friend Jaimie (nonbinary secondary character; they/them). The angst is there from the get-go and it seems likely that the boys could go the whole trip ignoring each other or tossing barbs around. But while this happens at first, it’s soon made obvious how much they miss each other, and how easily memories about Justin and their childhood can bring them back together. It’s a sweet, sometimes painful, journey of watching these two boys relearn each other over the week, as well as learn about themselves. (In Derek’s case, finally accepting that he’s gay.)
While the moment of explosion was evident from a mile away, especially once Derek gets the call about being accepted into the program he applied to, Hunter’s naivete was almost painful to read. Once they hook up and admit they have feelings for each other, he throws his whole self into planning things for their future while Derek is lost in thoughts of what to do. It’s easy to empathize with both characters in this situation–with Derek’s desire to take the fellowship and get the guy, and with Hunter’s refusal to push himself into the closet with Derek so his parents don’t cut him off. It’s an incredibly difficult situation and one that it sucks to see resolved the way it is in the moment.
But eventually, the boys figure it out, and the last few chapters were just a joy to read! I particularly enjoyed the Epilogue that took place over a year later, where the four friends are together again on another trip, and Derek and Hunter are making their relationship and careers work without the help of Derek’s parents and living out and proud.
Also, I really loved both Paige and Jaimie and what we got to learn about the two of them from the story, despite never getting their points of view. I would love to get books about the two of them in the future!
C.M. Valencourt is a new m/m romance author. They started devouring queer fiction when they still had to smuggle it into their parents’ Catholic household, and dreamed of writing books about queer people finding love ever since. They like figure skating, ghost hunting shows, and Carly Rae Jepsen. You can find out more about their books and learn about upcoming releases at cmvalencourt.com.