Desert Isle Keeper
My Favorite Half-Night Stand
For anyone tangled up in the world of modern dating, with its proliferation of apps, matches, and potential creeps, My Favorite Half-Night Stand should be an amusing and enjoyable book. Christina Lauren manages to create a story that is a little bit friends-to-lovers, a little bit mistaken identity, and fully enjoyable.
Millie and Reid are two professors at UC Santa Barbara and two parts of a five-person friendship group. While they’re both close with the other three guys – Chris, Ed, and Alex – there’s always been another level to the friendship between Millie and Reid. They’re best friends. But platonic ones. Millie’s the only girl in the group and has avoided hooking up with any of them over years of lunches, dinner parties, and inside jokes.
That changes on the night of their latest dinner party, held in honor of Reid’s becoming a tenured professor. After a few glasses of wine, Millie is watching Reid’s physique a little more avidly than usual, and when he offers to drive her home, things turn amorous. Although sleeping together feels like a natural next step in their relationship, Millie and Reid agree afterward that it was a one-time thing and shouldn’t change anything about their friendship.
In the meantime, the rest of the gang has started to focus on the problem of getting dates for this year’s commencement ceremony. While none of them have a real problem finding partners, they’ve all avoided serious relationships for some time. Prompted by Ed, they make a group decision to challenge themselves and join a dating app. Millie and Reid, who have been surprisingly successful at returning to a platonic friendship, are fully on board with this. Despite their night together, they have no intentions of jumping into a relationship with each other.
I was impressed by how on-the-mark the story was about the difficulty of setting up a dating profile. While Millie is smart enough to see – and correct – problems in the guys’ profiles, she has trouble doing a good job with her own, and it results in a bunch of sub-par matches for her. Wanting a do-over but slightly embarrassed about it, Millie creates a new profile using her middle name and sets out to be more honest and less vague, even if that makes her uncomfortable.
Happily, Millie is much more successful as Catherine M., waking up to multiple good matches the morning after she creates the account. And as it happens, one of those matches is Reid! She sends him a quick message as Catherine, making a joke about Monopoly and some other references which should clue him in to the fact that it’s her. Thinking it’s a funny coincidence, she goes off to work and out to lunch with the gang… at which point she hears Reid talking about the app and realizes he doesn’t know she’s Catherine. Not only that, he and the guys are speculating that Catherine is actually ugly because her profile picture is a black-and-white artsy pic of her face turned away.
Some combination of frustration with those comments, and jealousy over the way Reid was so focused on a different match with an attractive blonde named Daisy, propels Millie back to the keyboard. And after another failed attempt to use inside jokes to clue him in to her identity, Millie starts to correspond with Reid for real. She opens up to him about struggles in her life that she has trouble sharing in person. This gets Reid seriously interested in Catherine, while at the same time he’s coping with unacknowledged feelings for his friend Millie, and messaging Daisy. Can you see how this gets messy once everything comes out?
There are a lot of things I loved about this book, but I think the big three would be the supporting characters, the portrayal of online dating, and Millie’s emotional growth. I’ll start by talking about the supporting characters, Chris, Ed, and Alex. I was amazed by how fully they were drawn; I could easily write a paragraph about each of them, describing their personalities, dating histories, and the roles they play in the friendship group. They manage to be simultaneously supportive and hilarious and are clearly imperfect enough to be real people. They also all have their own lives developing off-page, so they don’t just feel like friendly characters waiting in the wings for their own books. I’m honestly not sure that I’ve ever read a better guy-friendship-group than this.
As far as the online dating scene goes, I’ll admit that I’m in my twenties and have been a part of it myself at various times. Certainly, I’ve watched a lot of my own friends deal with it, with good and bad results. The difficulty of setting up a profile is very real, as is the combination of excitement and disappointment in reviewing matches. It’s also very common to be talking to multiple people, especially when you’re new to a site, so Reid talking to both Daisy and Catherine for most of the book felt normal. I think online dating is playing an increasingly large role in many people’s real-life love stories, and I the authors do a great job of reflecting the reality of it here.
Finally, let’s talk about Millie and Reid as characters. Reid is pretty perfect, and well-rounded without being boring. He’s devoted to his work but also knows there’s more to life. He has a supportive family and is comfortable talking about his feelings. Millie on the other hand, while fun and a great friend to help you out in a time of need, is not good at leaning on people. Her mother died when she was twelve, and in the aftermath her family sort of closed up emotionally. Her father didn’t know how to talk to his teenage daughter about boy problems, or friend drama, and her six-year-old sister was turning to Millie for emotional support she just didn’t know how to give. Over time, Millie adapted to avoid talking about those kinds of things, which is actually why Reid has doubts about starting a relationship with real-life Millie. He’s interested in finding someone who can be a full partner for him, and he’s not sure Millie is capable of engaging with people on that deeper level.
Underneath any confusing issues about online deception and sleeping with a friend, My Favorite Half-Night Stand offers a clear, good reason for Reid to doubt the success of his and Millie’s relationship, which is fully addressed by the time they get to happily-ever-after. As a bonus to this great love story you get to enjoy the hijinks of their hilarious friendship group. My favorite parts of this book were actually texting conversations between the gang where they would tease and joke with each other. Although I wish this was the first in a series so I could revisit them all again, I suppose I can be satisfied with one stellar standalone.