A therapist and a cybersecurity expert who are neighbors in a coworking building agree to a friends-with-benefits arrangement.
Eliza Catalano loves her job as a therapist, but she struggles to manage her own feelings. Grieving over the loss of both parents in a car accident two years ago and feeling like a failure for being single at 32, she decides to adopt a dog on Christmas Day. When she stops at her office to do some paperwork first, she finds Beckham Carter, the cute younger guy in the office next door, also alone and working on the holiday. She spontaneously asks him to join her at the dog shelter, and a friendship is born. Beck is a cybersecurity expert with zero presence on social media, and he invites Eliza to join him at a “NoPho” party, where his large group of friends get together to focus on the people in the room, with no phones allowed. Beck encourages Eliza to detox from social media and the dating apps that make her feel like a failure, but he struggles to reveal his own feelings of failure about his past. His parents were leaders of a fundamentalist Christian cult, and he abandoned his entire family after leaving the cult in his late teens. There is a strong attraction between the two, but Eliza wants marriage and family while Beck is determined to stay single forever. They agree to a friends-with-benefits arrangement, realizing it’s the only path forward since they have such different relationship goals. Eliza and Beck are both sympathetic, nuanced characters, and Loren fully explores their inner lives to great effect. The late return of someone from Beck’s past is nothing more than a plot device, though; it strikes a discordant note in a book that aims to thoughtfully explore how sad, traumatized people learn to love and trust each other.
An angst-y, emotional romance that explores the challenges of falling in love.