Lauren Blakely’s Full Package is a sexy, fun friends-to-lovers romance that provided a reading break I had no idea I needed. Its characters are normal and their relationship evolves in a fairly uncomplicated manner without a lot of the chaos and angst that have been present in some of my most recent reads. But please don’t mistake normal for boring or unoriginal, because Full Package is delightfully entertaining and cleverly written. It’s just that there are no billionaires, womanizers, tortured childhoods, revenge plots, overblown drama or unrealistic characterizations, and the normalcy was unexpected and refreshing. While I enjoy many of the more exaggerated romance tropes and will no doubt read them again soon, Full Package provides a welcome change of pace with its charming characters and relatable storyline while not skimping on the sexual heat and sigh-worthy romance. It’s a truly satisfying read that proves that everyday stories and people are just as pleasurable and emotionally nourishing.
Chase Summers is an exceptionally intelligent emergency room doctor who has just returned to New York City after spending a year working with Doctors Without Borders in Africa. (I know I said normal, but this is romancelandia where normal heroes are still extremely attractive, charismatic, and successful.) Finding a place to live has proven quite a challenge as New York real estate lives up to its reputation of being the most expensive and difficult to navigate in the country. Chase is tired of his lengthy commute to work and living with his older brother, and agrees to temporarily live with his best friend’s little sister, Josie Hammer, who recently found herself without a roommate. He and Josie have known each other for years and have their own affable relationship outside of their connection through her brother, but she is still and will always be his best friend’s little sister.
Josie owns her own bakery, and she’s hardworking and committed to seeing it succeed. Chase moving in with her provides a needed relief from the financial strain of a two-bedroom apartment while also having the added benefit of a roommate who is an easygoing and trusted companion. She also has a built-in and eager volunteer to evaluate her new recipes and menu items; therefore, the living situation appears ideal and seemingly uncomplicated for both her and Chase.
New York City apartments are notoriously small, and the close quarters and significant time together make Chase realize – or at least acknowledge – that he’s very attracted to Josie. He’s actually felt far more than just friendly towards her for years but has never allowed himself to recognize his feelings. He’s always been able to keep her in the Little Sister/Friend Box but co-habitation tests his ability to control his emotions and desire. As they grow even closer through the power of a domestic life together, he finds his willpower increasingly tested, especially when he gets an inkling that Josie might feel the same. He’s extremely conflicted, because he would never want to disappoint Josie’s brother or damage their relationship, and he also does not want to risk losing Josie if they become lovers. Of course, love and attraction rarely bend to the “shoulds” of the human psyche and his new living situation evolves from a great but simple idea to a potential life-altering decision.
Full Package is told almost exclusively through Chase’s point of view, but Ms. Blakely cleverly gives us Josie’s voice intermittently throughout the book by including her test recipes as they make appearances in the story. Every few chapters, the reader is treated to a recipe that subtly communicates Josie’s thoughts and feelings through its title and within its cooking directions. This is delectably different and amusing, and I found myself eagerly awaiting the next installment in Josie’s baking endeavors. I assume they are also useable recipes, so there’s an opportunity to bring Full Package to life outside its pages.
Because of the single point of view, the reader gets to know Chase far better than Josie, and he is funny, charming, smart and just plain nice. He’s such a good guy that you cannot help but root for him to get his girl and feel a little jealous (of her!) when he does. He over-analyzes the situation with Josie and the concept of dating his best friend’s sister and his turmoil-riddled thoughts can get stuck on repeat, but it’s forgivable and sweet considering how much he truly values and respects his relationships. It’s also admirable that he can actually out-think his penis – at least for a little longer than most romance heroes.
Ms. Blakely is known to write spicy books, and Josie and Chase have undeniable sexual chemistry built through their witty banter and efforts to deny their mutual attraction. The resulting sexual tension is substantial and their eventual giving in to their desire is hot. Full Package might steer clear of fantasy and excess, but it is truly a Romance and truly romantic. Sometimes we need a book that feels a little more like real life but still allows us to believe that love can conquer all, and Full Package does just this. It is normal in the very best way possible.