If you know me at all, you know I love a good friends-to-lovers trope (not as much as enemies-to-lovers, but we need to change it up every so often). When two people aren’t looking for love and are so drawn to each other that they can’t stay apart…those are the kinds of stories I want to read. I’d been seeing Sophie Sullivan’s name popping up lately, too, so A Guide to Being Just Friends, which is the third book in a series but also a standalone in its own right, looked like exactly the story I was looking for.
Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.
Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lacklustre first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.
When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behaviour, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.
What could possibly go wrong?
When I’m picking up this kind of book, I know what I’m signing up for—a friends-to-lovers slow burn where you’re (mentally) yelling at the characters to just get together already because they would just be so much happier if they told each other how they felt. And this totally ended up fitting the bill. There were a few things that made it harder for me to connect with this particular set. of people, but that could be a me thing.
What didn’t work for me
The third-book effect: This is the third book in a series, and though it is supposed to be a standalone and the love story between the two main characters doesn’t require any previous knowledge, there is a lot of time spent with Wes’s brothers and their girlfriends—and they were the characters in the earlier two stories. It didn’t mean that it was hard to follow or anything, but I definitely felt like I was missing out on a lot of the secondary plotlines and the many, many references to those books.
Hailey: Honestly, there was just something about her I didn’t like or didn’t connect with. I found her to be so stuck on needing to. do everything by herself, as though she had something to prove, and I’m not sure there was enough in her backstory to tell me why she was like that. I felt like she was having the same thoughts and conversations over and over again (mostly when it came to her business) that I got over it fairly quickly. That being said, I didn’t dislike her relationship with Wes.
What I liked
The writing: Sophie Sullivan has a nice, relaxed style of writing that kept me in the story. Everything flowed nicely, and the many side characters were well-developed—I felt like I was part of the world she created.
The slow burn: It’s not a surprise that it takes a long time for Wes and Hailey to get together—and the pacing was very well thought out. You didn’t have to wait until the end of the book to finally get what you wanted from them, but you got that will they/won’t they magic that I love in stories like this. I was reading other reviews that said they didn’t see the chemistry between these two characters, and I have to disagree there; I knew why they were drawn to each other. It made sense to me.
The brothers: Though I didn’t read the other two books in the series, I love the relationship between Wes and his brothers. I like that you get snippets of them just hanging out together and that they support each other and drive each other nuts like brothers often do. I can agree that it’s a little too idealistic (like they can’t all be this perfect), but I just liked that Wes’s support here was them and not friends or some other dynamic.
“All this time, he’d through he needed a girlfriend, but what he really needed was a girl friend. The best of both worlds.” —Sophie Sullivan, A Guide to Being Just Friends
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.