All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Just Friends by Holly McCulloch

on August 4, 2021

Just Friends
Holly McCulloch
Transworld Digital
2020, 304p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: It’s easy to put someone in the friend zone. But what happens if you change your mind?

Bea isn’t happy. Desperate for a change, she looks to her friends for inspiration. Every single one of them is paired off, perhaps that’s what she needs too.

So, she starts dating again. But everywhere she goes – amid the hilarious and scarring dates – there’s Peter. Good old, oddball Peter, her closest friend from university. He’s always been firmly in the friend zone but something’s happened lately – he seems taller, more handsome and suddenly making him smile is Bea’s favourite thing.

But how can Bea possibly risk their friendship? And how do you even go about taking someone out of the friend zone? What if Bea and Peter were only ever meant to be just friends…

I don’t know if lockdown 5.0 is getting to me but all I’ve wanted to read recently, is romance. I’ve tried a few other books here and there and have tossed them aside after a handful of pages – they seem to require much more effort than I have to give right now, brain-power wise. I spent a lot of the day I read this scrolling the depths of Borrow Box, my library’s digital borrowing platform, trying to find books that might fit the bill for what I was looking for.

This was almost exactly what I was after, save for one thing.

Bea is about 30-odd, stuck in a job that she doesn’t love and puts not much effort into. She also has a bit of a side business but she doesn’t devote enough time to that either to really develop it into something. She’s just been maid of honour for one of her best friends and decides to throw herself into dating again, jumping on apps to try and find someone. But she can’t even really get to the stage of wanting a second date. Her friends say she gives up too easily and that she needs to give things time to develop but Bea thinks that if she’s not interested, she’s not interested. No point forcing it.

Bea’s friend wants her to look to Peter – Bea’s friend from university. But Bea made the mistake of dating a really good friend before and when it ended, she lost not only her boyfriend but her best friend too. So she refuses to think of Peter as anything other than a friend….even though he’s looking very good these days. He’s grown into his height and found a look that works for him. And Peter is a steady, constant in Bea’s life no matter what is happening and how busy things get in their social circle. He’s always there when she needs him, ready to help her with a business plan or offer up his place when it’s Bea’s turn to host their social games night and her own apartment is not suitable. Peter is her best friend (or one of them) and thanks to the suggestions of others, Bea finds herself having different…thoughts, about Peter. But it doesn’t matter. She won’t act on them because they’re friends and she couldn’t bear to ruin that. And anyway, he’s not into her….

This was cute. It had the vibe I was after. I actually quite liked Bea as a character and I enjoyed that she had an unusual job that she managed to turn into something else and an interesting side hustle that she was trying to build. She’s been friends with some of the same people since university and although their lives get busy, they still try to connect pretty regularly. Some of her friends are getting married, others are falling pregnant and that’s definitely making Bea look at her life and her choices and realise that she’s stuck in a bit of rut. She needs to take control of her life, both professionally and personally. The dating is a bid to take control of the personal aspect, to put herself out there and try and find someone that she might connect with. The thing is, Bea has been overlooking the obvious for quite some time now.

I’m usually more of an enemies to lovers than friends to lovers person. Enemies to lovers generally involves a bit more angst and I do like my romance angsty. But a good friends to lovers can work for me too and I really liked the character of Peter in this book. He’s just such a sweet person who is always there when Bea needs something. It’s pretty obvious that he’s super keen on her but Bea is completely oblivious to this and has always had him firmly in the friend zone. However something makes her see him in a different way and from then on, her thoughts run rampant about the possibility of Peter – even though her prior experience makes her determined to keep him at arms length. She couldn’t bear not to be friends with him so she doesn’t want to run the risk of anything going wrong.

The only thing that would’ve made this better is a few more scenes between Peter and Bea to give the reader an idea of how they might work out as a couple. This is a book where everything only happens on the last page, which isn’t my favourite because it doesn’t give you a chance to see the main character and the love interest actually interact as such. Just an extra couple of scenes would’ve elevated it for me. Some people prefer that best left to the imagination I guess, but I always want to see them working things out as a couple or heading towards being a couple. And after the dreams Bea has, at least one sexy scene might’ve been nice!

But I enjoyed this. It was cute and definitely fit into the category of things I want to read right now.

7/10

Book #130 of 2021


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