Review: The Friend (It's Just Us Here #1) by Christopher X. Sullivan

An asexual man meets a male model... and slowly falls in love.

Mark, the model, has not been challenged in his life and is emotionally withdrawn. He returns to Chicago in the hopes of reconnecting with his college friends, but everyone has moved on without him, starting families and growing up.

Chris, the writer, is socially awkward and introverted. He actively tries to be as invisible as possible.

The two men meet one day in Chris' favorite park and strike up a friendship. Since this is written as a romance, you probably have a pretty good idea where the story goes from there.

You'd be wrong. (Well... and kinda right.)

I'm Chris and this is my story. It's not a traditional romance. This is my version of a Happily Ever After, which means Mark and I became great friends... and that's it.

Mark and I end this first installment of my self-portrait in a Queer Platonic Relationship. There was cuddling and emotional closeness, but nothing remotely sexual... at least not to my mind. Mark obviously wanted more and he would eventually get it, but this book, Book One of It's Just Us Here, would have been my perfect, ideal romance.

If you need banging and crazy monkey sex to keep your interest in a story, then jump in at Book Four of this self-portrait (The Lover). Otherwise, come along for the ride and meet the man who would sweep me off my feet, Mark Wolff, one of the top ten most self-absorbed men in the whole world.

[NOTE: This book is a 95,000 word romantic self-portrait featuring the beginnings of a queer relationship. It the first book of a trilogy, which is itself part of a larger trilogy. Low heat... for now. I don't think we need trigger warnings for this book, but future installments might warrant them. Maybe that can serve as enough of a warning? Warning: this book if full of life.]

I admit that the thought of starting this really long and really ambitious autobiography was intimidating. I had hesitated over The Book of Beginnings which is the skeleton of a planned 10 volume omnibus, but I didn’t just want the outline. If I was going to attempt this behemoth, I wanted every word, every detail, and not just a chapter here or a snippet there. Actual books were on the horizon, and I was going to wait and see.

So I waited… and I wasn’t disappointed.

To be honest, you might think this is a weird story - an odd, self indulgent endeavor and maybe it is, but it’s also so very quirky and funny and real.

Chris is kinda a loner. He’s regimented, particular, and very sure in how he lives his life, planning out every minute detail. All was smooth sailing until one day, that very safe and reliable routine is interrupted by a force of nature named Mark.

Now Mark is probably one of the biggest extroverts ever. He certainly bamboozles his way into Chris’s life and somehow slowly, they become nigh inseparable. Mark is the complete opposite of Chris and with the best intentions (sometimes with benign selfish intent), he irrevocably turns his and Chris’s life upside down.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the main caveat of this story which may matter to some and not at all to others. Chris is asexual, and how he interprets and interacts and responds to Mark is all colored by this. Inevitably and not surprisingly, this provides some pretty great entertainment when coupled with each of Chris and Mark’s own array of special personal neuroses.

This made me smile, this made me laugh, this made me emote. Who knew I'd find such entertainment in bickering over bed sheets, the merits of proper underwear, making bacon, and buying the suit of all suits?

For further disclosure, I don’t think it’s a secret that I like established couples, and though Chris and Mark aren’t established yet here, the fact that this is a true story just appealed all the more to me. I also have absolutely no problem with the day in and day out mundanity of coupled life. I don't always need drama and angst and these two have plenty of unintentional shenanigans that kept me on my toes.

So that’s a long winded way of me saying that this first volume is all about how Chris and Mark meet, how their friendship starts, and how this ends with them on the cusp of realizing that possibly, probably, feelings might have developed and that love is just around the corner.

This is 400+ pages long and most who know me know I try to avoid anything over 200 pages if I can help it. All I’m saying is that despite the lack of romance, despite no smexy, what is promised ahead makes me look forward to the next 9 tomes!! If that doesn’t properly say how I felt about this, then I don’t know what will!

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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