REVIEW: The Best Man’s Problem by Sera Taíno
He can’t forget the kiss he shared with the best man.
But is he the best man for him?
His sister’s wedding isn’t the ideal place for Rafael Navarro to reconnect with the man he kissed in a moment of reckless abandon. But it’s impossible to avoid best man Étienne Galois! The gorgeous Haitian photographer hasn’t forgotten the intimate moment they shared, even if Rafi is the most maddening person he’s ever met. Can the two find common ground, proving opposites not only attract—they can become lovers for life?
Dear Ms Taino,
Although this is book two in The Navarros series, I think people who haven’t read the first one, “A Delicious Dilemma” will do just fine. In that book, Val and Philip fell in love and here Val’s brother Rafi and Philip’s best friend and best man Etienne are charged – well kind of arm twisted by Val – into working together to help plan Philip’s bachelor party. It would be bad enough that the two men are polar opposites when it comes to planning methods but they also – of course – have history.
I had initially thought that the two men had hooked up for a one night stand before straight-laced and has-his-life-planned-for-the-next-twenty-years Rafi ghosted fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants Etienne. Not exactly. It was a kiss they shared. Obviously both felt it but Rafi fled and refused to talk to Etienne afterwards.
Now Rafi’s uptight and embarrassed about it while Etienne is determined to get a bit of his own back over Rafi. Sister Val not-so-obliviously pushes the two together in public and basically insists – no, I insist that they help each other. Yeah, Val whatever you want. And it is whatever she wants as Val helped take over their mother’s place in the family restaurant after their mother died. Of course this is Rafi’s tragic backstory which has shaped his life from then on. The family sticks together and Rafi will grit his teeth and do as she asks.
Etienne met (the groom) Philip after he arrived in the US to attend college and Philip took the Haitian under his wing and helped guide him through his initial months there. Still best friends years later, Etienne will also do anything to help his Frater and Val. But Etienne can’t help but dig a bit at Rafi to discover why their (one and only one, though obviously hot) kiss meant so little. Can these two overcome their differences and manage to work harmoniously all the while fighting their feelings?
I think the construction of the plot worked better for me in this book. In the first, it got a little bland before the Big Conflict hits in the very end. Rafi and Etienne start this book with some seething tension and a few outbursts of (understandable) anger. Things are not pretty to begin with. Rafi is going to avoid even thinking about the kiss and Etienne is going to subtly poke him about it whenever the chance arises. But then, just when I was getting annoyed at them, they had a “aha, we’re adults and we need to act like it” moment and agreed to put aside their drama for the good of all. Wow, adults being adults.
That is when I began to get into the book and the growing relationship. Things aren’t rushed, good food is eaten, and I’m enjoying Rafi’s relationship with his father and Etienne’s with his family (though I needed a bit more closure in regards to how his parents still feel about their son’s profession). Both men have some trauma to deal with and I would have enjoyed seeing these dug into a bit more as well. Rafi gets a little more page time and a lovely talk with his father but both men deserved more space for these issues.
When the third act conflict hits, it is because of baked in character traits. Rafi is just not one to be rushed while Etienne is the grab the moment and live it type. That they clash in the way they do makes sense. All through the book, weeks long separations were mentioned, allowing the men to think and rethink about things and their issues. I liked this as it kept the changes in the relationship and romance from feeling too rushed. Yet, I felt this last – and most serious – conflict got fixed with a conversation before the moment when one screws his courage to the sticking point and goes for it. The outcome is lovely but given that he’s attempting to overcome years of habit and feelings of self worth, yeah, it’s fast. B-