He’s Mr. Right Now, but for how long?
When Russ suffers a Thanksgiving disaster, his gorgeous neighbor Esteban is there to save the day. And after an innocent mix-up leads to the former Hollywood hottie playing the role of Russ’s date, Russ thinks scoring Esteban as his fake boyfriend is a huge win. The newly discharged marine is healing inside and out and could use some holiday cheer.
For his part, Esteban is intrigued by his big, bad neighbor. He likes how his matchmaking cat brings out an unexpected caring side of Russ. Desire flares as the reasons to continue their ruse pile up for both men.
And pretending feels so good. From chocolaty kisses to late night cuddles, their burgeoning friendship is getting cozier and cozier. But as the end date for their little deception looms, all the real feelings they’ve tried to ignore come tumbling in. Each must decide whether they have what it takes to ring in the New Year as a couple.
Mr. Right Now is a sweet, sexy novella featuring neighbours – a former marine and actor-turned-event planner – that takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not the biggest fan of novellas as I often find them rushed and lacking in characterisation and relationship development, but fortunately, that isn’t the case here, and Annabeth Albert has penned a charming and convincing romance that will certainly warm anyone’s cockles!
Russ has been thrown in at the deep end in the worst possible way. He and his boyfriend were supposed to be preparing Thanksgiving dinner together for Russ’ immediate family, but said boyfriend dumped him the night before leaving Russ – who isn’t very experienced in the kitchen – holding the turkey.
As it were.
A disastrous attempt at sautéing some onions for the stuffing sees him going outside to throw the charred remains of both vegetable and pan into the trash, when his neighbour Esteban stops to ask him what’s wrong and then offers to help. Surprised but very grateful, Russ accepts, and over the next few hours, finds himself enjoying the cooking lessons and demonstrations from the gorgeous, charming and confident Esteban, and enjoying the man’s conversation and company just as much.
With everything prepared, Esteban is getting ready to leave Russ to it when the doorbell rings earlier than expected – which leads to Russ’ family assuming that Esteban must be the boyfriend he’s told them about. After an awkward moment of unspoken communication, the pair decides to play along for the time being – and agrees to announce their break up a few days later.
The trouble is that things keep happening that cause the break up to be put off. A charity fundraiser, a shopping trip, and a work party, along with evenings spent together and shared meals… and suddenly the fake-relationship that was supposed to last for just a few days has stretched into weeks – and maybe ending it isn’t what either man really wants or needs.
Annabeth Albert packs a lot into the shorter format without anything feeling skimped or rushed. The chemistry between Russ and Esteban positively crackles right from the start, but even though they’re attracted to each other they have reasons for being cautious about starting anything new – Esteban was badly burned by an ex who left him to go back to his ex and Russ is on the rebound – but it’s clear they’re falling pretty hard for one another and I loved that they’re so open and communicative about what they’re looking for and how they feel. There’s a nice slow-burn going on, and when the relationship turns physical, it feels like a natural extension of the non-physical one they’ve already established.
There’s some backstory tucked in there for Russ, a military vet who was invalided out and has been struggling to adapt to civilian life. Kind, considerate and maybe just a teeny bit shy, he’s a total sweetie, and when he decides to convince Esteban to become his actual boyfriend, well, let’s just say Esteban doesn’t have a chance 😉
Mr. Right Now is one of those rare novellas that feels fully-rounded and complete. There’s no manufactured drama, no overblown angst and no question that Russ and Esteban are perfect for each other. If you’re looking for a quick, emotionally satisfying festive read with a nice side of steam that will leave you with a smile on your face, you need look no further.