Mountain Topped

⭐⭐⭐⭐BookBub GoodReads Amazon
BookBub GoodReads Amazon

I went into this book with mixed yet good expectations. I honestly don’t know why but based on the blurb and the reviews I read I felt a lot of my triggers might not be in here. To be fair some of them were but the book is still good. I wanted to finish it while I read it. It was an entertaining read and I’m glad I read this book.

Firstly I did read a book by one of these authors previously. Wasn’t a fan. Thankfully I had zero clue this book was even written by two authors and once I noticed I still didn’t remember until after I was done with it.

There are a lot of good things about this book. The pacing was good. It didn’t feel too draggy until the end of the book. The awkward bits made sense for the characters. And I honestly only remember one point at the end where I really wanted to put the book down but that was short-lived. The characters were also well-developed. It was just easy to fall into this story as it was also low on the annoying angst and had the type of tension on the bearable end of the angst scale.

I loved Aldis, he was the most well-rounded of the characters for a number of reasons. On the angst scale, he likes Bowen, but he picks up on the connection between Bowen and his supposedly straight bestie Hawthorne rather quickly. He realises that if he encourages them to push on and see things he might end up being cut out of the deal but despite his insecurities, he helps them. And his insecurities don’t just go away. They live and breathe on still thus providing a certain personal tension for him to overcome instead of the tension of the relationship ending variety. There are a million and one ways to have tension and drama and conflict without that centring around one character potentially dooming the relationship. This book proves that a hundred times over.

Bowen, is probably the least developed but still a good character. His need to have both men and the frightening thought he might not have either is believable. The readers know this isn’t going to happen but the journey it takes for him to get there, just like Aldis, is where the tension and interest lie. It is again possible to have readers know it’s not going to end bad and still have fully developed and complex characters that make the journey to the happy ending worth it. Bumps in the road doesn’t mean forced drama/conflict just to amp up tensions that can arise from everyday scenarios. The book and the blurb read like he’s the central point of the plot but the book itself doesn’t entirely read that way. Overall a good character and definitely good for laughs.

Hawthorne had the biggest character arch. It was fun to see him come into his own. Through the entire bi, but not so bi awakening (more on this later) he is a confused emotional mess, yet he still goes forward into new territory despite that. It made the uncertainty and confusion of his character that much more interesting that he didn’t run and hide from it. Again, running away or ruining a good thing doesn’t have to be the go-to for angst and this book didn’t do that with Hawthorne either which was another reason this book was great.

Basically, it wasn’t a smooth ride to the happy ending yet it still managed to avoid most of the garden variety, overdramatized, often forced and unnecessary tension and angst in most romances. This is a book with three people, in a relationship, with zero, and I repeat zero of the love triangle drama that I hate. Any of the jealous tension didn’t breathe in the breakup the relationship realm. It instead lived in the self-discovery realm and that was because it was Hawthorne that felt it so it made sense cause liking guys was entirely new to him.

All the good stuff aside the book still gets four stars. Firstly the blurb hints that the book is mostly about Bowen and his fantasy to be with two guys. This is the catalyst for the book so it deserves to be on the blurb. However, the idea that the more time he spends with Aldis the more he likes him isn’t portrayed because after the random hookup he avoids the gym to avoid seeing Aldis. Then within the next week, I think Aldis is going rock climbing with Hawthorne which the blurb does allude to. Them bonding. But Aldis and Bowen didn’t spend nearly enough time for him to start to have feelings for him beforehand.

He starts to have feelings for him while they embark on the journey of the three of them together. And it was also one of the weird things that he was in love with Hawthorne who only recently started liking guys but was falling in love with Aldis. What was the point of him not fully giving into it, if he then has an argument about how kissing Hawthorne would make the love too real and that was why he wouldn’t do it? So he doesn’t love Hawthorne either.

Considering how the book was going, and how much they drilled home Bowen wanted both of them and was hoping the other two would want each other too, him being all weird about his feelings was an odd line to take. This was what he wanted more than the other two. He was the only one who didn’t really have or need a reason to hold back. Worrying it might fail, here for that. But this holding back of feelings for no real reason seemed the exact opposite of a guy who’s listening to podcast about polyamory and amorous relationships.

On that note, Hawthorne is the one going through self-discovery. The not kissing thing reads until the short disagreement, entirely from him not having the guts to kiss Bowen. This makes so much sense. Yet somehow there’s some sort of switch where he gets the confidence and Bowen is avoiding the kiss. I dunno when this happened. The whole idea is that Bowen wants both and rightly so wouldn’t force it until Hawthorne is ready, and when he is would willingly give it back. None of the almost kisses read like they were Bowen’s fault and, honestly, they shouldn’t have. So when Hawthorne gets mad it just didn’t make sense on both angles. That Bowen was the one refusing something he wanted, and that Hawthorne was perceiving that Aldis getting all the hugs and affection meant that Bowen didn’t want to give it to him.

The first few times it happens Hawthorne clearly says to himself why can’t he do it? Once that’s placed in readers head any form of jealousy or unease after will stem from the same place. If there was a switch it wasn’t explicitly said by Hawthorne or shown by him getting past his fear and actively and obviously trying to get that kiss. It was one of the moments the weird angst in romances snuck its ugly head in.

The other thing is that Hawthorne usually halfway figured out his confusion before talking it out or admitting it and moving past it. In one instance, about the same affection with the kissing scene, it reads like he’s jealous again, even though the kiss has happened now, of Bowen and Aldis. Readers can guestimate this isn’t the case but it’s in first person, so we don’t have outside stimuli to prove otherwise. He treats Aldis bad and then figures out what the problem is while they have a mini dispute. Usually he would sit on it a bit and come to a minor but not full solution but this felt like forced drama to get him to say he was in love with Aldis, just like the kiss thing was used to get Bowen to admit he loved Hawthorne. Both definitely felt like the angst/tension of romance where if it isn’t dramatic, it’s not worth it, whereas the rest of the book had the tension and conflict without a forced declaration.

The last irritance where Hawthorne is concerned is his ex, Jess. It’s supposed to be a bi awakening, but it doesn’t read like that. This bit was definitely the biggest reason for the loss of star. There is a lot of talk about her being good on paper. Aldis even says the type of woman a straight man would desire. What? With all the different types of women out there in thriving relationships the idea that she was the ideal so he should’ve liked her was frustrating. And it kept coming back. Then there was talk about all the other women he dated and could never connect with. This theme kept coming back as well. At one point he said they didn’t make him hard just by looking at them or something to that effect like Bowen did. All of it led to his entire hetero life being a lie because now that he’s been awoken to bisexuality, he can see that perfect long-term life with Bowen and Aldis. It felt so wrong.

I would’ve respected the idea of his awakening more if he had seen that with a woman or even been married and it just didn’t work out. If it were insinuated that Hawthorne could have a meaningful relationship with a woman as well and just happened to be single at present that would’ve made the Bi awakening more believable. But it definitely drills home the point he couldn’t have any of this because what he needed was a man. It triggered me and did not fit the idea of what the book was selling. This is either his gay awakening or his bisexual awakening and the mere suggestion he couldn’t have this with a woman insinuates he’s all gay. It definitely didn’t fit the narrative and garnered a  negative reaction out of me.

Aldis, the only thing off about him was what he said during sex. All the sex scenes. It was supposed to come off as steamy and dirty talk, but it always felt awkwardly placed. It mostly gave ‘so you’re going to say that now?’ or ‘you want to talk about this now?’ vibes and made the otherwise really good, cause I loved them, sex scenes weird. His directness and forward qualities didn’t translate into the sex scenes well when he spoke. You could see what the authors were trying to do by having him be the driving force but it definitely felt too much like no one would ever say that normally, and def not under the specific circumstances. It almost took me out of the scenes, but they were too hot for it to work completely.

And even though the blurb is accurate to a degree it gave me Bowen is the driving force of this story. He is somewhat but it’s Aldis who understands things, pushes them in the right direction. Makes they see beyond the relationship norms of society and come to acceptance with what they have together. The book even starts with his perspective first. Even though the blurb isn’t technically wrong, a blurb written from Aldis’ perspective would’ve been infinitely more accurate to how the book played out.

At the end of the book, one of my biggest end-of-story peeves threatened to surface. The dreaded forced breakup stuff. It started off bad, but Aldis’ attitude at the time was a dream so the middle was smoothed over nicely, and the aftermath was still a bit eye-rolling but all in all did not piss me off because of how it played out.

That is the beauty of this book. I’ve pointed out quite a few things that in most books would completely derail the narrative but in this one, they aren’t hyper-focused on. Beyond the Hawthorne and women stuff, they fall nicely in places just enough to bother me but never overstepping enough to annoy the fuck out of me and, most importantly, did not take away from the plot of the story. Even when the ending took a deep dive into over-proclamations of love which I hate, it still didn’t go so far as to make me dislike the ending entirely. Especially when the one thing I wanted to happen, happened amongst all that mush. Seriously a good chunk of the end is all about how ‘I love you’, and ‘thankyou’, and ‘if it wasn’t for you’ stuff that it almost, no lie, lost another star but then the book ended before it could piss me off, so luck was on this story’s side.

If you want a funny, steamy, and a full rounded book where three people fall in love and make it work without the forced dramatics, this is that book. Trust me I strongly dislike that stuff and if you’ve read or listened to any of my reviews you know this. So if I say it’s surprisingly annoying-angst variety free, there’s a strong chance it is. I honestly loved this book, and it feels good to finally give a book more than two stars. It’s a solid four and a solid recommendation. This is how to write a love triangle that is not a love triangle and that made me stupidly happy.

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