The Best Man’s Problem by Sera Taíno
LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
Feb 21st, 2023, Harlequin
Reviewed by Kate H.
The Best Man’s Problem is a low-angst romance about two very different men who have been asked to partner up to plan the bachelor’s party and other Best Man duties for an upcoming wedding. Etienne, the groom’s best man, travels a lot for his photography career, so the bride asks her brother, Rafi, to work with him on the pretext that he’ll need help. Etienne is bi, Rafi is gay. No secret what sis is hoping for. What nobody knows is that Etienne and Rafi have already had a go at one another: a kiss that Rafi walked away from, and Etienne can’t forget. If event planning is your kink, this book doesn’t focus too much on those details, though there is a tension over excel spreadsheets that I totally identified with. Instead, it is a tale about two opposites, confused by their attraction.
This novel is full of close-knit families, delicious sounding Haitian, Puerto Rican, and fusion foods, a lot of frustration, and a dose of petty. Rafi sees Etienne as careless, carefree, and with no one, he can trust. Since his mother died when he was young, he has lived his life with a habitual rigidity that serves as a ward against bad things happening. He has tried to be there for his dad, who immigrated from Puerto Rico, and his two sisters just about every day of his life, working in their restaurant in addition to his job teaching math. Etienne is also close with his family, though his parents don’t believe photography is a stable enough career, despite his success. He moved to the United States from Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010 and though he is an outgoing, vibrant person, he is also haunted by his losses.
I had a little difficulty getting into the relationship between Rafi and Etienne, in part because I couldn’t see what Etienne would even see in Rafi. Sure, we, the readers, understand why Rafi is such an inflexible person, but that doesn’t make it any more appealing. With Etienne, we get scenes with his assistant, details about his career, and his personality, but Rafi just appears to be Mr. Routine, albeit good-looking. I was not raring for them to get together. But as it started to happen, and as Rafi started to recognize his wrong assumptions about Etienne, I was able to get over my earlier ambivalence.
At the end of the novel Rafi and his father have a heart-to-heart in the kitchen. I have to ask: Rafi’s father waits until he’s almost 30 to have the conversation about how Rafi is not responsible for his mother’s death? In the book, this didn’t sound like well-trod conversational ground, but something Rafi hadn’t heard before. If his Dad knew he was carrying that load, why wait so long? Since Rafi is so shaped by this guilt, it seemed like a big deal to me and made me angry with his father.