Can friends turned occasional lovers move beyond past mistakes and wrong assumptions to build something that can last?
Quiet bookworm Shane has a big secret—one he’s kept for fifteen years. AFL superstar Ambrose Jakoby grew up next door to Shane. They were close friends, and Shane supported Ambrose through school.
One night, everything changed.
Before Ambrose left Perth as a scared eighteen-year-old to head to Melbourne and take up his new footy career, Ambrose and Shane slept together.
For the next nine years, they continued a secret friends-with-benefits situation whenever Ambrose was in town. Shane never knew exactly where he stood or how to define Ambrose’s sexuality—and Ambrose didn’t know either. Then last Christmas, everything changed again, and a disagreement strained their friendship. Shane vowed to get over his unrequited love.
But Ambrose is back, recovering from an injury and hoping to make amends. He claims he’s ready for a real relationship. But Shane has to decide whether Ambrose means it and whether his Hufflepuff soul can take the chance.
Jay, Liam and all the gang are back for the fourth instalment of the Loving You series.
I really had a lot of fun writing them, and you will see that throughout the book, there’s an anonymous interviewer who’s asking each of them some questions. You get another peek at some of their love stories. It’s quite wonderful to write the whole gang again.
In this story we’re concentrating on Shane, the quiet one of the group. Being quiet doesn’t mean you don’t have exciting things going on in your life – and Shane has a bloody big secret he’s been keeping from them all. Not because he’s ashamed of it, and not because he doesn’t want to tell them, it’s more that he doesn’t think they will believe him. Plus, it’s not his secret to tell.
You see, Shane’s been close friends with Ambrose Jakoby since childhood. They grew up together and their mothers are best friends. Ambrose has gone on to play football at the elite level, being drafted into a team on the other side of the country. He’s known to the media and fans as Bro-Jak, yet maintains a close bond with Shane. And when Bro-Jak comes home to visit, he and Shane have continued a friends-with-benefits relationship.
Now Ambrose is home, an injury halting his season. He’s determined to make a real go of a relationship with Shane, but Shane is hesitating. Who would believe that Wallpaper Shane and the mighty Bro-Jak are a couple?
I’ve prepared a short excerpt for you, where the entire gang have organised to attend a football game to celebrate the Pride Round the AFL has. Ambrose has insisted on coming, along with another of his Hawthorn team mates, Daniel. It’s the moment Shane’s friendship with Ambrose is revealed.
I hope you enjoy!
By the time we parked, there were a bunch of messages on the group chat—Vinnie telling us all he was at the gate and he had our tickets, Hiram saying he was running late, Liam saying they were arriving, Aaron complaining that he felt exposed by lingering outside the gate at a Dockers game and what if an Eagles fan saw him? Tate told Aaron they no longer hanged people for treason.
We arrived on time but were delayed by Ambrose, who couldn’t walk that fast on his crutches. It meant all my friends—apart from the running-late Hiram—had already assembled.
“Oh fuck. I’m going to be in so much trouble,” I mumbled as we approached the group. They were hard to miss. Vinnie and Jamie were holding rainbow flags. Tate wore a straw hat with a rainbow ribbon on it. Jamie’s sister, Jackie, was there too, dressed in a rainbow skirt with a rainbow bandana tied around her hair. One of Vinnie’s sisters was sporting two temporary tattoos of the rainbow flag on her cheeks as well as an equality shirt identical to the one Ambrose was wearing. Of those I could see, Kee, Tate, Vinnie, and Aaron were all wearing some sort of Pride T-shirt.
“Why?” asked Dan, confused about me being in trouble.
Confession time all around. “I’ve never even told them I’m friends with the mighty Bro-Jak. Now I’m turning up to a game with him and the famous Dan Egan?”
He looked shocked. “They don’t know about you and Ambrose?”
I was full of sympathy for his mistake. “Who would ever believe me?”
He couldn’t reply because we were upon the group. Kee was the first to notice me. “Shane’s here.”
They all turned. Vinnie, who was in the act of hefting a bag onto his shoulder, dropped the bag with a thump. It landed on Aaron’s foot.
“Ow. What the fuck, Vin? Why did you—? Holy shit.” Aaron obviously recognized Ambrose immediately too. And I thought Dan and Ambrose were well disguised wearing sunglasses and hats.
“Fuck me to hell.” That was Liam’s brother Ben.
“Oh my God!” That was Vinnie’s cousin Ricky.
“Seriously?” John looked amazed.
Some of the others evidently didn’t recognize my two famous tagalongs, but from the whispers in ears and the shocked expressions that filtered through our gathered crowd, they were quickly informed. I took a deep breath.
“Guys, this is my childhood friend, Ambrose Jakoby. We lived next door to each other when we were growing up, and our mothers are best friends. And this is Daniel Egan, his friend from Melbourne. When Dan heard I was coming to the game to cheer on Micah, he asked if they could tag along. You don’t mind, do you?”
They were all stunned to silence. It was awkward until Liam limped forward. “Of course they can join us. Welcome.” He stuck out his hand, and Ambrose shook. “You’re in good company. I spent close to three years on crutches of some sort. You’re just lucky you’ll get better.”
I pointed to everyone in the group. “Dan, Ambrose—this is Liam, Jamie, Kee, Tate, John, Jackie, Vinnie, Aaron, Ricky, Sandra, Tony, Lachie— no, sorry. That’s Lachie, and the little one is Tony. And that’s….” I had to stop while Patrice confirmed her name, because I always mixed her up with her cousin Linda. “Patrice, Mario, Frankie, Ben, aaaannd”—I pointed behind Ben—“that’s Hiram, who’s running because he’s late to meet us.”
Hiram raced up behind the group, some of whom were still staring at Bro-Jak and Daniel in shock. “Hey, everyone. Sorry I’m late. I had to stop and—holy fuck. Who brought Bro-Jak?”
“Shane.” My name came in stereo from around the group.
Oh yes. I was going to cop so much shit.
This one was a bit of a surprise, because it wasn’t your traditional friends to lovers, or even hookups to lovers. It was a combination of both, yet no one even knew they knew each other, other than their mothers, which created such an interesting family dynamic.
I always enjoy reading all the fun Aussie sayings and cultural references, and with the added Aboriginial references, it made this book very multi-layered. Then we have the group of friends that Shane has made part of his family, and you have a fun, but passionate book.
Shane standing up for himself after nearly 10 years of allowing himself to fall into patterns that could only continue to hurt him was good to see. He loved Ambrose, but knew that he would never be Ambrose’s love if he continued to allow himself to be at the beck and call of a man who barely acknowledged him. Shane was sweet, and quiet, with fantastic internal musings (e.g. “I helped myself to a piece of cake–free cake doesn’t contain calories.“) and hated his job, but loved his people. 🙂
Meanwhile, Ambrose finally opened his eyes and realized that as much as footy had always meant to him, and it gave him an avenue he would have been unable to achieve any other way, it was not something he wanted to be the catalyst to losing the person he cared about most.
With a little help from all those around them, and a little extra footy from the sidelines, they could finally connect.
What a sweet, fun, funny read.
Definitely recommend this one, in fact the entire series!
4.5 pieces of eye candy
Renae Kaye is a lover and hoarder of books who thinks libraries are devilish places because they make you give the books back. She consumed her first adult romance book at the tender age of thirteen and hasn’t stopped since. After years – and thousands of stories! – of not having book characters do what she wants, she decided she would write her own novel and found the characters still didn’t do what she wanted. It hasn’t stopped her though. She believes that maybe one day the world will create a perfect couple – and it will be the most boring story ever. So until then she is stuck with quirky, snarky and imperfect characters who just want their story told.
Renae lives in Perth, Western Australia and writes in five minute snatches between the demands of two kids, a forbearing husband, too many pets, too much housework and her beloved veggie garden. She is a survivor of being the youngest in a large family and believes that laughter (and a good book) can cure anything.