And Then You
Grade : A

After being totally wowed by Briar Prescott’s Until You, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next book in the series – and I’m delighted to report that And Then You is every bit as good as its predecessor. Funny, sexy, emotional and heartbreaking, it’s a beautifully written slow-burn romance full of luscious sexual tension and feels that will make you laugh and make you want to cry. I read it in one sitting – it’s just that good.

We met Stephen Hartley – Steph – in Until You. He’s Jude’s best friend and even from his brief appearances in that story, it was clear his life is a total mess – that he’s a total mess. Flaky. Unreliable. Impulsive. Disaster. All are words frequently used to describe him, and Steph doesn’t disagree. He is all those things. He doesn’t have many friends, his life is pretty directionless, he doesn’t do emotion or commitment and frequently finds himself in trouble – but, eh, he’s a fuck-up so what do people expect? Nobody ever questions or looks beyond a smile, so that’s what he shows to everyone around him; he’s the epitome of the smart-mouthed, happy-go-lucky airhead who cares for nothing and nobody and is quite content to go through life that way, thank you very much.

Former Olympic swimmer Quinn Henris is, in Steph’s opinion “annoyingly perfect and perfectly annoying”. They know each other through mutual friends, so they have to tolerate each other’s presence occasionally, and they always rub each other the wrong way. When the story begins, Steph has just arrived – late – to a family wedding and doesn’t manage to sneak in as unobtrusively as he’d hoped, sidling into the pew next to – dammit – Quinn, and things only get worse from there. At the reception, it’s impossible to avoid the sneaky glances and whispers about his “tragic family”, so he decides it’s time to get roaring drunk.

When he wakes up, naked, his head pounding, in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room, Steph isn’t surprised. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last, and he just can’t bring himself to care – his instinct for self-preservation disappeared years ago. He has to acknowledge, however, that he’s woken up in worse places. He’s alone, but sees some clothes (for him, he hopes) laid out on the dresser, so he drags himself out of bed and into the shower. Afterwards, he contemplates just sneaking out – but that’s not really an option without his wallet, phone or keys, so he’s making his way down the stairs when he hears sounds coming from what he assumes is the kitchen – and is totally unprepared to find himself facing three people he doesn’t know… and Quinn.

Completely unfazed (because, well, he’s Quinn) Quinn introduces Steph to his parents and his sister, who seem, miraculously, pleased to meet him. The penny doesn’t really drop until after Quinn’s mother invites Steph on their upcoming family vacation – Quinn’s family think he and Steph are a couple. And not only that, but they think they’ve been ‘together’ for a while now. Um…

Realising he’s at least partly to blame for the misconception – appearing freshly-showered and dishevelled in Quinn’s kitchen, wearing Quinn’s clothes and having obviously spent the night, not to mention letting his mouth run away with him about weddings – Steph reluctantly agrees to go along with the fake-relationship thing for the duration of the visit. After all, it’s only a week, right?

But during that week, Steph and Quinn start to see each other a little differently. Quinn begins to realise that there’s a lot more to Steph than meets the eye, to become suspicious of the constant, calculated deflection that forms so much of their conversation, to understand how Steph uses smiles and sarcasm and good-natured self-deprecation to stop people looking further than the messed-up, irreverant façade. And by the end of the week, Quinn’s sure it is a façade. At the same time, Steph sees a different side of Quinn, a man who is less reserved, who is kind and clever and funny, a man who loves – and is loved by – his family, a man he could actually… like. Even more terrifyingly, he’s a man Steph could actually envisage himself being honest with. But – no. After this week, they’ll go back to seeing each other only occasionally and to annoying the hell out of each other. It’ll be best for both of them – Quinn especially.

Steph and Quinn are chalk and cheese in so many ways, yet they’re both keeping secrets about things that have made them cautious about trusting people. Despite being a total wreck, Steph is adorable; most of the book is written in his PoV and it’s smart, snarky, sharp and very funny. But he’s also hurting so much and covering up so much pain that it sometimes hurts to read, especially when he talks himself down, or puts on his ‘dumb Steph’ act, or choses to deflect attention from himself by using biting sarcasm and words chosen deliberately to wound. Readers witness the terrible tragedy, almost a decade earlier, that has driven Steph to wall himself off and reinvent himself as a brainless party-boy who hides behind lies and sarcasm when things get too real – although, as in the previous book, we’re not privy to the full extent of what happened until much later in the story.

There’s a lot more to Quinn than Steph would credit him with, too. He’s unflappable and dependable, he’s warm and charming and funny, his dry sense of humour providing perfect, witty comebacks that show he can absolutely hold his own in a verbal sparring match with Steph. Realising that so much of what Steph shows to the world is not who he really is has Quinn thoroughly intrigued, desperately attracted and, more than anything, wanting to make sure Steph is okay. So he sets out to make space for himself, a little bit at a time, in Steph’s life. He’s persistent, but not in an obnoxious way; he’s there for Steph when he needs him, he supports him but doesn’t smother him or push him too hard for answers, hoping Steph will open up to him when he’s ready. Equally importantly, he doesn’t step back from letting Steph know when he’s angry with him – which Steph really needs, to see that someone cares enough for him to be mad at him.

And Then You is a fantastic read and an absolutely gorgeous romance. The two leads are complex and three-dimensional, and their chemistry is intense – there are moments of longing that are palpable and moments when the sexual tension smoulders so much it’s a wonder my Kindle didn’t start to melt. The sex scenes are well-written and are very much integral to the story; they’re emotional and intimate, and I liked how thoughtful Quinn is, and the way he takes care of Steph – whose sexual experience has so far been solely about getting off and getting out. Steph really doesn’t understand why Quinn is interested in actually getting to know him – which is truly heartbreaking, as he’s clearly someone with a lot to offer – and fights him every step of the way, which makes Quinn’s quiet persistence and consideration even lovelier to read.

Briar Prescott has another winner on her hands with And Then You. I said in my review of Until You that her prose is insightful and romantic in the best of ways, emotional without being sappy – and I honestly can’t find a better way of describing it. She’s one of the few authors I can think of who writes banter that is genuinely smart, witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny – and then she’ll turn on a sixpence and produce some punch-in-the-gut feels that will have you tearing up. I loved it and am happy to make space for it on my keeper shelf. I’m sure it’ll find a home on yours, too.

Reviewed by Caz Owens

Grade: A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 15, 2023

Publication Date: 11/2023

Recent Comments …

  1. I read Ulrich’s book several years ago,it was excellent. American Experience on PBS did an adaptation of the book, it…

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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