Book Boyfriend by Kris Ripper
LGBTQIA Contemporary Romance
Carina Adores Press
April 26, 2022
by Kate H.
I had to adjust my expectations a lot as I read Book Boyfriend, and I expect most readers may not have the patience. Written as an inner monologue with all the verbal habits, like “like” and “you know” intact, it tells the story of PK or Preston Kinglsey Harrington III. Like many “the thirds” he has the benefit of generational wealth, and he lives in a New York apartment with a spare bedroom he calls the junk room, working as an editorial assistant at a publisher. When his best friend Art breaks up with his boyfriend Roman, PK offers him the spare bedroom, and Art moves in. PK works hard to emotionally support his friend, but in fact, he’d like to be more than friends. Back in college, one drunken night, they had shared a kiss that was never discussed afterward. In a discussion, early in the book, Art (not knowing of PK’s interest) describes PK as being incapable of being a romantic boyfriend. “I just don’t associate you with peak romance. Which is fine! Totally Fine! It’s not a big deal.” But of course, it’s a big deal to PK, who devotes the next year to writing a romance novel about Art.
It may be the limitations of that first-person monologue, but it is hard to get a sense of why PK is so attached to Art or why he seems so emotionally immature in some ways, and not in others. For example, why is communication so hard for him? I found myself looking to the secondary characters’ reactions to PK to try to understand him. As forthright as PK seems to be, there seem to be some huge blind spots in his self-awareness. Why he puts up with his friends’ frequent meanness is also not clear. Without completely understanding PK, the beginning of the book feels a little bit like reading underwater. The pace picks up in the second half and makes up for some of the lack of character development.
One of the things that we don’t get in the inner monologue is much explanation for why PK’s interest in Art is so chaste. He seems like a kiss and cuddle guy, but it’s hard to tell from the lack of introspection if that is because this is a closed-door romance or if it’s because he legitimately wants to do nothing more. Because Art references blow jobs twice in the novel, it seems like PK, who really shares just about everything, is holding back on us. It seemed strangely incomplete. If he is asexual, there are numerous moments for him to disclose that, even without labeling it. But if you accept going into it that the relationship goals are sweetness, and not full of sexy times, the conclusion will not disappoint.
At one point in the novel, Art, who is gender queer, switches his pronouns to they/them. Art tells PK he doesn’t have to switch, but PK says, “If it seems right to you, it seems right to me.” The earnestness and care PK takes in privately practicing calling Art they in sentences, once he finds out, is heartwarming.
I also liked the really smart critique of the “grand gesture” that is part of Book Boyfriend. In the era of promposals that require big displays and extravagant marriage proposals, it’s good to take a second look at the motivations behind and effects of over-the-top romantic gestures.
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