Jackie Lau doesn’t always write soft boi romance heroes, but when she does, she does it well. Cal is a very soft boi, but he is neither unintelligent nor unselectively sexually active, so he isn’t a himbo. He does have big golden retriever energy.
Rose is the last of the group who meet at the cider bar to find a partner. She has treatment resistant depression and as much as she would like a partner, she wonders if she is capable of having a relationship. One Friday night when all her friends are doing couple things with their partners, Rose decides to dress up and go to a bar. Cal also goes to the bar to meet a friend who is perpetually late. Instead he meets Rose, they hook up and go back to his place. She has a minor freak out that night, but Cal likes her and wants to see her again.
Unfortunately, Cal’s phone is destroyed, he loses Rose’s number and Rose thinks he’s ghosted her. They meet a year later when Cal becomes her new roommate. Initially Rose is against the arrangement, but agrees they can try and see how it goes, but no romance. Since this is a romance, there is, of course romance. The romance happens because Cal likes and accepts Rose for who she is. He isn’t worried about the way things are supposed to be and does little things that make Rose’s life easier.
I really fell in love with this book. Cal wants Rose in his life, so he gives her room to be herself. When he realizes she has a hard time with things that couples are supposed to do, he points out that the two of them get to make whatever rules they want for their relationship.
This isn’t an angst free book. There’s a bleak moment early in the book, there’s a smaller bleak moment later in the book. But there is never a moment where Cal questions Rose’s worth. I’ve ended up talking more about Cal than Rose. Rose is wonderful – creative, caring, and brave. She and Cal make each other better people.
CW: depression, on page depressive episode, discussion of treatments not working, past death by suicide of parent, parental disapproval, dyscalculia and ADHD, negging.