To Have It All
To Have it All is a charming friends-to-lovers romance in which a man in his late thirties suddenly finds himself having to make major life changes and revise his plans for the future in the wake of tragedy. It’s a fairly quick read, coming in at a little over 200 pages, but the characters are well-rounded, the story is compelling and I devoured it in one sitting.
Brett Thompson and Jordan Butler met when they were in high school and have been best friends ever since. Now in their late thirties, they’re settled in their work lives (Brett is a pharmacist, Jordan co-owns a bakery) and although romantic partners (and not so romantic ones) have come and gone, their friendship hasn’t wavered. Although they’ve occasionally felt the odd flare of attraction for each other – they tried kissing a couple of times years before, but ended up giggling uncontrollably – they dismissed it, and decided they’re better as friends.
Things change drastically however, when Brett’s sister Tessa and her husband are killed in a car accident. Brett’s older brother Jared swoops in and takes charge, telling Brett that he will need to move into Tessa’s house to take care of her four children – who range in age from ten to two – at least for the rest of the school year. Jared and his wife have three children of their own and are prepared to buy a bigger house to accommodate Ethan, Tommy, Drew and Lizzie, but they can’t do that immediately. Still shocked and grieving, Brett realises his brother’s right and agrees. It wouldn’t be right to just uproot the kids from the only home they’ve ever known right away, so he moves in with them… and doesn’t really know what’s hit him. Going from Uncle Brett who saw them once or twice a week to a full-time dad is something Brett is completely unprepared to handle; not only had he never envisioned having kids, he’s someone who likes things to be ‘just so’, and dealing with the organised chaos that comes with young children (and as any parent will know, ‘organised’ is a relative term!) means he’s going to need to push his boundaries and make adjustments he’d never even thought about.
Exhausted, grieving, worried about the kids and about whether he’s doing the right thing, Brett turns to Jordan for help when he’s at his lowest ebb. Jordan is absolutely prepared to be there for Brett and the kids – but is surprised when Brett tells him he needs more than a shoulder to lean on.
This is one of the best friends-to-lovers romances I’ve come across in a while. The relationship between Brett and Jordan is set up so well that the fact they love one another is never in doubt, and the evolution of that affection and caring into something romantic feels completely natural. There’s no lightning strike, no “OMG he’s gorgeous” moment; their romance blossoms quietly, their love for one another strengthening as their lives mesh together so easily and so well that they almost don’t notice it. Their honesty and the lack of drama and silly misunderstandings make this a refreshingly mature romance.
The grief in the story is handled very well also. The tragedy is acknowledged, but the book isn’t mired down in misery and while the author does a great job of showing the pain and devastation Brett and the children are experiencing, she also shows how they start to heal and to pick up the reins of their lives again. There are moments of sadness and poignancy, as one would expect, but there’s tenderness, warmth and humour, too, and I especially appreciated that we were given a glimpse into the lives of Tessa and her family before the accident, which made them feel real and not just like a plot device in order to bring the two principals together through tragedy.
Brett and Jordan are engaging, relatable characters, and I loved watching them build the family they’d never thought to have. To Have It All is a lovely, poignant story about overcoming heartbreak and loss and moving forward to find joy and a new normal. I’m happy to recommend it.