After I got over the heartbreaking angst that came before the HEA, and reveled in the syrupy sweetness of the epilogue, I only had one major complaint with River Jaymes’ The Backup Boyfriend
: it was over. Every other thing about this book was a study in pure perfection – perfect characters, perfect plot, perfect pacing, perfect dialogue, and a perfectly believable gay-for-you romance that left me wanting more. The Backup Boyfriend
is set two months after Dr. Alec Johnson finds himself on the wrong side of one of the most awkward “it’s not you, it’s me” conversations in history. His ex-boyfriend and business partner, Dr. Tyler Hall, has moved on with a sexy new guy, but Alec still remains lonely and alone, mourning the loss of the man he thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. In an attempt to shake things up a bit, Alec impulsively decides to buy himself a motorcycle he doesn’t know how to ride or care for. It’s not the smartest decision he’s ever made.
Within a few hours of battling a testy carburetor and a fickle kick starter, Alec admits defeat and limps into Adams’ Vintage Motors for help. There, he meets Dylan Booth, the shop’s rough-and-tumble and oh-so-hetero owner. Despite Dylan’s initial reluctance, an unlikely friendship starts to develop between the mechanic and the humanitarian. And, when Dylan
masterminds a plan to attend a party masquerading as Alec’s new boyfriend in order to help him save face with Tyler, Alec has no choice but to go along with the charade. Only, it turns out that not all those longing glances and casual touches are just for show…
Anyone who read my status updates while I was reading this book knows that I fell hard
for both of these endearing and incredibly sexy characters. Dylan’s hard body and big-mouth hooked me immediately; I fell in lust with him over that first handshake (who knew rough hands and motor oil could be such a turn on?!), and slid headlong into love with him when he uttered the words, “sex swing.” But his appeal wasn’t just his spectacular muscles and mouthy comebacks. Dylan had a surprisingly sensitive soul and a protective streak that extended not only to those he cares about, but to complete strangers as well. I also loved that Dylan was so comfortable in his own skin and took his changing understanding of himself (mostly) in stride. It was some majorly sexy stuff.
As much as I loved Dylan’s darker past and blue-collar appeal, Alec’s intelligence, humility, wry humour, and easy domesticity was just as hard to resist. You add in the fact that the man’s a doctor who gave up dozens of more prestigious specialties to work with the homeless and my heart didn’t stand a chance. Also, Alec can talk nerdy to me any day of the week - I will probably never think of Da Vinci and the Vitruvian Man the same way ever again (and I am A-okay with that)!
Together, Alec and Dylan had the most amazing chemistry. When they meet for the first time, something just… clicked (despite the fact that both men were determined to keep things platonic). And then there was The Look. It was like one of those perfectly written Hollywood moments where everything stops and the music recedes, and all that’s left is Dylan and Alec looking into each other’s eyes and feeling those first fluttering of lust and confusion. My god. It was electric.
I understand that gay-for-you romances aren’t every reader’s cup of MM tea because the plotlines can often border on the ludicrous or the gay character can come across a bit like a predator, but I thought Ms. Jaymes hit exactly the right note with The Backup Boyfriend
. There was something about the ease with which Dylan accepted the physical aspects of the relationship but fought the more emotional ties, and the way that Alec was determined to suppress any romantic feelings for Dylan in order to preserve the friendship, that washed away these traditional criticisms. I loved the raw intensity of their reactions to one another, as well as their struggles to communicate, and thought that their relationship missteps felt entirely natural to their characters. So bravo, Ms. Jaymes!
I also thought that both Noah and Tyler were strong secondary characters. For obvious reasons, readers are made to dislike Tyler at the beginning of The Backup Boyfriend
(let’s be real, friends always pick sides in a breakup and bringing his new boy toy to Alec’s house to pick up his stuff was a Grade A douche move on Tyler’s part). However, Tyler’s character started to redeem himself a little at the end, and the hints about a greater motivation for the breakup has me intrigued. Still, Noah was hands down my favourite of the two. He was consistently hilarious, a little over-the-top, and plenty dramatic, but Ms. Jaymes never let him become a caricature. I appreciated that he (metaphorically) bitch-slapped his best friends with tough love when it was needed, and that he held reservations about Dylan’s sudden fluid sexuality. Given the circumstances, his reactions always felt organic and true to his character. Even though I know it’s going to make me ugly cry over his and Rick’s relationship, I can’t wait to read about Noah’s happily ever after.
As one of the best books I’ve read all year, it’s hard to believe that The Backup Boyfriend
is Ms. Jaymes’ first full-length novel. I gave this book 5 very
enthusiastic stars and am left wondering what the heck I will do when her next work surpasses its awesomeness. Do you think if I ask really, really
nicely Goodreads will loan me a 6th star?!
Verdict: I highly recommend this book for anyone with a romantic soul and an appreciation for perfectly plotted gay-for-you arcs. My advice, though, is to read it slowly – you’ll want to savour every last adorable, butterfly-inducing, tear-jerking moment it had to offer.
PS: This book gave me my new favourite term: “oh-holy-shit-gasm.” Epic.