Self Preservation by Ethan Day

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Davis always assumed they would wind up back together, until Jack calls and invites Davis to his wedding to Tadd Austin, a prominent architect in Chicago. Jack’s only known Tadd for two weeks, so whatever Jack feels for Tadd couldn’t possibly compare to what he shared with Davis. There’s no way in hell Davis can stand by and watch the life he always expected to get back slip away to some guy Jack barely knows. Tadd Austin, indeed…more like Toad Ass-ton, Davis thinks.

With his best friend, fashion designer Deseree Wildwood in tow, Davis has to shed his sweet, guy-next-door persona, and re-vamp his image into a self-confident, hot piece of eye candy. He’s going to the wedding with only one goal in mind: to do whatever it takes to win back Jack. The Toad is toast!

Once in Chicago, Davis discovers it isn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Not only is Tadd very un-Toad-like, but a mysterious British playboy named Alex Parker manages to interject himself into the mix. Only true love will survive as the tug of war ensues in this Bermuda love triangle from hell.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I read this book during a fairly difficult and busy period in my life and as a result, it took me longer than usual to finish it and the experience was broken up long periods of no time for reading. So, it may well be that had things been a little calmer I would have enjoyed the book more. I did like it but it didn’t wow me.  In part, I think that’s because of what’s been going on with me and in part it’s because the story didn’t follow the usual romantic trajectory and I spent a fair bit of the book confused as to who I should be rooting for to end up with Davis.

The set up is very “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (a movie I actually love even though it doesn’t have a happy ending – which just goes to prove there is an exception to every rule.  Also: Rupert Everett.  And one of the best movie lines ever: “There won’t be sex. But, by God, there’ll be dancing.”  But, I digress…) except that Davis and Jack didn’t make a “get married at 30 pact” and were in fact each other’s first loves and had dated for four years.  Davis has not moved on from his relationship with Jack.  He has been kind of waiting around hoping Jack would come back to him. Or something.  The thing is, it has been SIX years since they split up.  That length of time did kind of make Davis a little pathetic (even though I liked him) and it made it a little difficult to believe he could move on from Jack anytime soon.

I wasn’t sure at first whether Jack was a good guy or a user.  I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to want Davis and Jack to end up together.  I wasn’t sure where Alex fit into the picture.  By the time I figured it out, the book was nearly over.  This might well be a feature for some readers but it was a bug for me. *Spoiler* (highlight to read)  Jack was a good guy.  Alex is the hero – although most of the first half or more of the book is all about Jack and Davis (including significant flashbacks) and there’s nowhere near enough of Alex for me to really buy the HEA *end spoiler*.

The writing was entertaining but it wasn’t the farce I had been expecting – there is far more pathos than that.  I liked the friendship between Davis and Deseree and I would have loved to have had more time spent with Alex who remained fairly mysterious.  I think that while the book does have a HEA, it is best categorised as LGBTQ fiction rather than romance – as I think the story is more about Davis’ journey than a relationship between 2 people.   As it was, I went in expecting a traditional (if lighthearted) romantic arc and when I didn’t get that, I spent so much time being confused, it was difficult to enjoy what was actually there as fully as I might otherwise have done.

I liked all of the characters and the writing style was easy to read and I felt the connection between the various couples.  The resolution was too fast for me, especially considering how long Davis had been treading water, but I’d definitely read this author again.

Grade: C

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