Roan Parrish continues to produce incredibly beautiful, incredibly lovable romances, and this Harlequin Special Edition does everything that I love about the line – focus in on small-town romance and everyday relationships writ large with a lovely portrait of two men coming together and finding real love with each other.
Chainsaw carver and whittler Bramble – Bram – Larkspur has moved to Casper Road to start afresh. One of five siblings, but accompanied only by his beloved golden retriever, Hemlock, he hopes Autumn will offer him a little bit of emotional healing after a bad break-up sent him reeling.
Architect Zachary Glass adores horror movies, is Jewish and has dealt with prejudice, and is so competitive he’s won Casper Road’s Halloween decorating contest for six years running. He doesn’t expect Bram to be the one to offer him competition this autumn. Yet competition is what Bram provides, even though Bram hates horror movies.
These two rivals immediately set about pranking one another, from glitter bombs in the mailbox to dumping paint on lawn statues. But can they go from rivals to lovers as October passes by? Some feral cats and a neighborhood of busybodies might have the answer to that one.
An easygoing romance with a lot of humor and pep, The Rivals of Casper Road works both because it allows its heroes to have childish moments of pique and because they grow out of those moments to reflect, pause, and find love. It’s easy to love Bram, who’s open and gregarious, but Zachary was my favorite character. He’s complex, layered, a little bitter and reluctant to trust. There are some good supporting players too.
The relationship is classic rivals-to-lovers, with some spicy and hungry longing that culminates in some frantic sex. I had some caveats about the relationship but I rooted for it and enjoyed it.
The way Parrish describes the natural world of this suburban wonderland is beautifully rich. You can smell fall’s nip in the air, and taste the pumpkin pie.
What keeps this from a full-on A is the fact that Bram and Zachary don’t seem to have a ton in common. Yes, this is a classic opposites-attract romance, but Zachary doesn’t like dogs, and Bram hates Halloween, and getting the two of them to the point where they can accept each other’s differences takes a very long time. Also, sometimes the characters’ childish behavior feels a little over the top (Bram hates scary things so much he runs away from a hayride intended for children). But if you’re looking for some lighthearted autumn entertainment, The Rivals of Casper Road is perfect.
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