Just a Boyfriend by Sariah Wilson was a sweet and fun read but probably not the most memorable of stories. The characters are likeable and there are some heavier themes which add a little depth but while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
Ian “Bash” Sebastian and Ember Carlson were high school sweethearts…until their single parents got married. With one thorny twist of fate, a secret young crush went from on fire to off-limits. What could a new stepbrother do but bail? Now, after almost four years, Bash has returned to Seattle, and he’s back in Ember’s orbit at End of the Line. EOL is the go-to college for second-chance scholarships. But what about love?
Sure, the old hurts are there. So is the attraction—and it’s more magnetic than ever. Still, they’re adults now, levelheaded and just fine with the friend thing. If only to make family dinners less awkward. But when they agree to start dating other people, moving on threatens to bring them closer together than ever.
Is it time to admit their past to their parents? Even trickier, their hope for the future? Because Ember and Bash deserve a love story of their own. With all their defenses down, can they make it a happy ever after?
Sariah Wilson’s books are a fairly recent discovery for me and while this is only the second one I’ve read I will definitely be checking out her others as I very much enjoyed it.
This probably falls under the category of stepbrother romance although if you’re uncomfortable with that type of story I’d argue that it’s more of a second chance at love story as the main characters were in a relationship before their parents even met each other let alone got married. It was only as a result of their parent’s whirlwind romance that Bash and Ember went their separate ways, not seeing or speaking to each other for over three years until they’re reunited at EOL college.
Ember and Bash are very likeable characters and I love how the story (including the flashbacks to when they first met) are told from both points of view. It really gives you a chance to get to know them and how they feel. It is a little frustrating at times knowing how crazy they are about each other and how one honest conversation about how they feel could solve a whole lot of confusion and angst but given their family situation they’re doing the best they can with what they know.
It is quite a sweet and funny read and I did love the relationship between Bash and Ember. There is lots of funny banter and teasing (they’re both very competitive) but what I loved most is how well they know each other and how they’re there when the other needs them and neither of them has it easy. As well as the light and the fun there are also some heavier themes running through the story including drug addiction, abandonment, depression and cancer. I’m not entirely convinced the author covers them the way she should (and I would argue not all are necessary) but it does give the story a little more depth.
Given the characters are in college this probably fits into the new adult category but it reads a little on the young side. There is plenty of chemistry between Ember and Bash, and more than one heavy make out session but there’s no actual sex or for that matter bad language (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a good or bad thing). I also felt the character sometimes acted younger (and more inexperienced) than their age particularly when you consider everything they’ve gone through.
As far as secondary characters go, these were a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them were central to the story and I thought were very well rounded and believable, others I thought we could have done without as their role seemed to be to make a very obvious point. My biggest gripe however was probably with the parents. I’m not sure if it’s what the author intended but wow they really annoyed me with how selfish and controlling they were. Ember’s mother uses the cancer card to guilt trip Ember into doing whatever she wants and she’s completely oblivious to how she really feels. Bash’s father puts way too much responsibility on Bash and seems to completely completely reverse his opinion on Bash’s mother at one point. It did not make sense to me although I think I was mostly just annoyed that they put a stop to Bash and Ember’s relationship by running off and getting married after three weeks of dating and deciding they wanted everyone to be a big happy family.
Overall therefore I’d rate this as an enjoyable read but I’m not sure I’d consider it to be a memorable one. If you’re looking for a cute contemporary romance without an R Rating this may be right up your street.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.