After reading the blurb for Kris Ripper’s Book Boyfriend, I was looking forward to reading a slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance about a somewhat hapless writer who has been in love with his best friend forever, who ends up pouring out his feelings on paper because he’s too scared to say them out loud. Well, that last part is largely true – but the romance and the love interest character are basically relegated to the background while the PoV character stumbles his way through life and into becoming a best-selling author through lots of inner monologues which, while they can be very funny, are also chaotic and rambling.
PK Harrington (who works as an assistant editor at an unnamed publishing house) is called to the lobby of his apartment building one evening to find his best friend and former roomie Art standing there, bedraggled (it’s raining) and looking very upset. Art has just broken up with their boyfriend – about which PK is secretly delighted, thinking that maybe, finally, this is his chance with Art, who he’s been in love with ever since they shared a drunken kiss one time when they were at college. PK offers Art his spare room for as long as he needs it (which he hopes will be forever), and before long, Art has properly moved back in.
PK is thrilled, obviously, but still terrified about telling Art he loves them, so instead, PK starts writing down a few ideas about how Art makes him feel – and soon those ideas have grown into an entire book based loosely around how he and Art met, the things they’ve done together and PK’s undying love for them. PK shows the manuscript to a friend at work, she loves it, takes it to her boss, who also loves it, and suddenly, he has a book deal. But he daren’t tell Art, because he’s sure Art will recognise that the book is basically about them and how PK feels about them, and starts to see it as the sort of grand romantic gesture Art professes to love and that happen in romance novels all the time – right?
Even though the book I read wasn’t the book I was expecting to read, I liked a lot about it. It’s funny and quirky, and very meta in the way it looks at how publishing works and the sorts of problems authors face. (And I totally agree on the author’s stance on the Grand Gesture!) I liked PK for the most part; he’s self-absorbed and clueless and basically needs to grow up (he’s, like, twenty-six but he reads, like, you know, much younger) but he’s endearing, and his stream of consciousness monologuing can be oddly relatable. On the other hand, it can be quite distracting; some of his inner ramblings are SO tangential and jumbled up that I found myself skimming them to get back to the point – and the story.
Art, as I’ve said, is really a secondary character, and we never get to know much about them other than their taste in nail-polish and books. Even though they move in with PK at the beginning of the book, the two of them have very little time together on the page, and they have zero chemistry; I had no idea why PK was so desperately in love with Art, and no idea of their feelings towards PK. There IS an HFN here, but it’s last-minute and unsatisfying.
I liked Wade, a childhood frenemy of PK’s – he’s snarky and really doesn’t give a shit; although I liked him less in the last third of the book when he lectures PK about what he’s done wrong, not only when he’s at a real low, but in a way that comes across as a bit preachy. And Art doesn’t exactly cover themself in glory, either, sometimes disparaing or belittling PK, and, at one point, ghosting him for weeks.
Being in PK’s head is both fun and exhausting, but I was please that, towards the end, he tries hard to understand what went wrong and works to put it right, learning to really listen and to talk meaningfully. Book Boyfriend isn’t a bad book by any means – but if you’re looking for a romance filled with chemistry and longing, you won’t find those things here, and that’s ultimately why I can’t quite give it a recommendation.