Desert Isle Keeper
Like Lovers Do
I love a good vacation romance and Like Lovers Do features some of my favorite plot points, so this book sounded like it would be catnip for me. And it was. If you enjoy friends-to-lovers romances, this is a great one.
Dr. Nicole (Nic) Allen is finishing up her residency at Johns Hopkins and soon will head down to Durham for a prestigious sports medicine fellowship. During her three years in Baltimore, she has had the perfect landlord, roommate, and friend, Benjamin Van Mont. Though he struck out on his own in the financial industry, Ben comes from a prominent medical family and he understands Nic’s work world and the pressures she faces. From the opening chapters, it’s clear that the two are good friends and as Nic has worked her way up to becoming Chief Resident and is now earning her fellowship spot, Ben is one of her biggest cheerleaders.
When hospital politics throw Nic’s job prospects sideways, Ben comes up with an idea. He is expected to go to a getaway with some of his friends on Martha’s Vineyard but he has an uncomfortable problem. An ex of his plans to be there, and she wants him back. This woman dumped Ben when he announced plans to start his own business, but now that he has succeeded and obviously won’t be living in poverty, she wants him back.
Nic agrees to go on the beach trip as Ben’s fake girlfriend, and he plans to do everything he can to help her keep the job of her dreams. Since we’re all romance readers here, we know this fake romance is going to turn real. Ms. Livesay handles that dynamic near perfectly, and that’s one of the many reasons I loved this book. While the chemistry between Nic and Ben is obvious from the beginning, their struggles over what acting upon it could do to their friendship feel very real. They clearly value their friendship, and watching them communicate (and sometimes miscommunicate) their way into a relationship was amazing. Both are intelligent, deeply likable people and I really wanted them to succeed and be happy together.
Parts of this book are light-hearted; the flirty conversations between Nic and Ben are great fun, and so many of their scenes together are incredibly sexy. However, Ms. Livesay weaves some more serious themes into the story as well, and much of this book deals with how our expectations in life come from our reactions to our upbringing. Ben’s parents were largely absent and he wants that family-centered household that he didn’t have. On the other hand, Nic grew up with a struggling single mother and she is determined to let nothing stand in the way of her career aspirations. So, where can these two fit into one another’s lives? That question keeps being posed and wrestled with throughout the story, and since it’s one I’ve dealt with in my life as well, I could really feel for the characters as they tried to imagine what a relationship could look like.
As Nic meets Ben’s friends, issues of class and race also come into the discussion. Ben grew up in a wealthy family, and this circle of friends is both white and rich. Financially, they inhabit a completely different world from Nic. In addition, since Nic is Black, she encounters attitudes ranging from welcoming to ignorant to downright malicious. The author very skillfully shows some of the ways casual racism, both intentional and otherwise, creeps into daily life and as I saw things from Nic’s point of view, it made me think quite a bit. There’s at least one character who is obviously trying to be racist, but for most in the book, just as with many of us in real life, there are also a lot of unexamined assumptions in our lives that need to be picked apart so we can do better.
While I’ve talked about Nic and Ben, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Nic’s closest circle of friends from college. Though this book is part of the Girls Trip series, we see only a few glimpses of the annual trips Nic takes with her dearest friends. However, they are present in various ways throughout the story and the author does a great job of showing how their love and support have sustained Nic, rather than just throwing in characters as obvious sequel bait.
Like Lovers Do is a sweet, sexy romance and it’s the breath of fresh air that I needed this year. Do some of the plot threads wrap up a little too neatly and easily? Yes. Do I care? No. I was way too busy enjoying the book, and if you’re looking for a happy escape of a story, I recommend picking this one up.