Best Men by Sidney Karger
LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
May 2, 2023 by Berkley
Review by Kate H.
Max Moody is missing a gay gene or two. He’s not interested in fashion; he doesn’t know where the nearest “drag karaoke bingo barbecue” is being held in NYC; and he is hopeless at wedding planning. But his best friend, Paige, has asked him to be her Best Man, and Chasten, her future brother-in-law, and the other Best Man is helping plan the wedding. Only guess what? They’ve met before – and had the most embarrassing and underwhelming hook-up I’ve ever read. I love it when romance novels keep things real. Chasten has perfect hair, perfect clothes, and a very successful new chocolaterie. He has a rapport with Paige that rivals Max’s own. Oh, and by the way – he can plan weddings, bridal showers, you name it.
Part of Best Men is about Max’s friendship with Paige and his fear of losing that, but also some of his resentment at being the “gay best friend”. Part of it is about his former boyfriend and their cringey ex-with-benefits arrangement that he is having trouble letting go of. He’s also got an awful job, boss, and the path to a promotion that he doesn’t want. The professional success that both Paige and Chasteen are experiencing just reminds him that he is being ground down by his dehumanizing HR work.
I liked Max. He isn’t all sunshine and roses. He makes bad decisions. He gets all sulky. But he dusts himself off and tries again. Ultimately this book seemed as much about his personal transformation as it is about the heartwarming connection that he and Chasten develop in spite of their inherent competitiveness. Despite the hook-up that started it all, their romance is not insta-love or animal heat, but a different kind of intimacy that comes from talking and sharing.
Thank you, Sidney Karger, for skipping the ever-disappointing epilogue! Thank you for not fast-forwarding to the Best Men’s marriage, Max’s phenomenal professional success, their 2 children, and a vacation share on Fire Island.
There is one criticism I have of this book. Max’s passion is plants, and he knows that plants need pruning. And so did this book. Karger has great descriptions, fully drawn-out settings, and good dialogue. But, anecdote after anecdote after story after flashback. Never mind the multi-modal interstitial matter between chapters that every romance novel seems to have now. There is just too much! When the whole book is in the same detail-laden register, it’s hard to know what to latch on to. It’s like canoeing through lily pads.