Thursday, December 22, 2022

Roan Parrish - Better Than People

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.
Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.
Being with Jack—talking, waking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

Comment: This story seemed interesting, since it would feature animals and, done well, that can make the story even more appealing. I was curious to see how the author would do it.

In this story we meet Jack Matheson, he is still bitter about a fallout with a friend who stole his idea for a book. He is chilling out with his animals when a stumble during a walk makes him hurt his leg and now he has a cat and needs to rest. In order to not let his animals down, he uses the PetShare app so that someone else could take care of them, take them for walks and such since he can't walk.
Simon Burke is a shy, introverted young man who can't seem to function in a world where everyone needs to be assertive and social. He also doesn't have the support of his family, who believe he just doesn't try, except his grandmother, with whom he lives. He adores Jack's animals as soon as he meets them but to talk to Jack is another issue altogether. However, at some point they will have to exchange words...will Jack be able to understand and wait until Simon is ready to be comfortable and talk to him?

This was truly a cute and sweet story. I can see why some readers have said it's too slow, the author does take time to set up things, to let us know how vulnerable the characters are and why their paths would converge and they would hit it off. 

The story is told in alternate chapters, each focused on both main characters. This is not the first book by the author I try, so I was not surprised by the writing style and the structure of the story but, comparing to the other books by the author I had tried, I felt this was a bit "lighter" in the sense the conflict was mostly internal, related to the character's self thoughts and about the other guy, whereas the other books felt as if the issues were bigger than that.

 Jack hurts his leg and needs to rest but his main worries are still about the betrayal someone he considered a friend did. Probably his distracted thoughts made him unaware of where he was walking and that was why he hurt himself. I think Jack is a likable character, very unassuming at first but as the story progresses he does seem to become more assertive. He is also aware of what he wants and how to act on it, so when he feels Simon is someone he wants to know more, he definitely is the most determined of the two.

I think any reader would agree the main attention is Simon (apart from the cute pets). He is more than shy, he feels physical symptoms if forced to do something socially, such as public speaking. This has affected many of his choices, many of his steps and he even found a way to work from home so he doesn't have to interact as much with others. His family is not understanding and of course I loved how much he liked being with his grandmother, especially now his grandfather is gone.

The romance is slow, more on the cute side than anything else and starts with a deepening friendship between the two. At first the talk - as much as Simon was able - and message exchanges were solely about the animals but after a while they started to add more subjects and it was obvious they would be a good couple, since many of the things thy liked were similar. It was quite engaging to me to read about characters who had issues, especially Simon who is affected by things so many people don't even think about, but everyone is different, so this was a nice subject.

As expected, once things start to go well and the guys seem to be hitting it off without issues, something happens and they must deal with it. Most books have more or less elaborated plots or simple ones with other details but I think here things were a bit too simple and this did distract me a bit. Not all parts were always compelling and some others I just overlooked, like the intimate scenes, which weren't anything special to showcase their relationship (in my opinion).

I'd have liked to see more interactions with secondary characters but I confess I found it well done that Simon wasn't "cured" as simply as Jack's physical problem was. Things related to our mental state can take longer, aren't as easy to fix and while we can imagine improvements, it was just good to see them trusting one another. This was a cute novel, yes, but not outstanding for me.
Grade: 7/10

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