3.75 Hearts--I'll admit it...I read the blurb and honed in on the "socially awkward, closeted virgin" and "hot drifter" parts like a heat seeking missile.
I was in the mood for major deflowering and figured it would be a romantic PWP.
Boy, was I wrong.
Not Just Passing Through is just like the blurb promises and more. It is a deceptively simple story that is character driven with characters in their early twenties whose lives are still in the molding stage.
Avery Malcolm, the awkward orphaned virgin is already stuck in a job managing a New Mexico motel and hiding in the closet. He only has one friend, can't stand being touch and already signed for being celibate since he didn't being out would gain him any possible hookups or suitors. Enter twenty-one year old cocky as all hell drifter, Chase Lancaster. He rides into the motel parking lot on a motorcycle, full of freckles, dark hair and blue eyes. Imagine the reaction from Avery...are you licking your lips? Because I was already on line to buy tickets to Pound Town.
But not so.
See, the young men have to get to know each other. Avery has only one person he counts as a friend and doesn't let anyone else get as close. Chase is a smooth talker and friendly guy and...straight. He considers himself a ladies man. The thing about Chase is that he knows he is good looking and loves the attention especially from Avery.
This made me think he was going to be woefully strung along. And in a way, Avery was. There is Avery pining for the long term motel customer who kept telling him he was straight (thankfully not in a douchey way) There is a few off page encounters from Chase but the story is strictly told from Avery's POV. We don't see the other side of the coin and remain blissfully ignorant and stuck in heavy pining mode with Avery.
This story starts slow and I was going to write it off as dull with the way the first half was. The reader gets to experience mundane tasks that is Avery's life...but you know what? Some could have been edited or summarized but it works for Avery's character now that I've read this novella. And there was a point when Avery sort of sacrificed himself that made me realize, this story might be simple but I'm hooked because I cared about this kid.
And then...I noticed I was touching that soft and pink phase. It was romantic! Avery might seem boring but his feelings run deep. His friendship with Chase blossoms to be the focal point of his life and he isn't a doormat. Chase was a lovable jerk but there were vulnerable moments that made me like him.
This is 100% Avery's story and for a novella it read complete just based on the romance and HEA. There were a few moments when my feels cavity were tickled...gently.
"There's only four things in the world I'm scared of losing. I just put two of them together for safe keeping."
There were a few items I wish were detailed more - the runaway sister & state she was in, the entire Lancaster reunion, Avery's aunt, and Chase's hustling. The story focuses on the characters but a little more detail to the rest of the story wouldn't have been remiss.
There was sex that progressively got better, but did not take over the entire story. No PWP to be found here. I think the payoff is worth the wait with the pace.
I will say Chase...hiding that important part of himself gave me pause. That's not a good indicator usually with a relationship. But he's 21, so maybe he'll grow out of that. New Adult is the type of genre that I can see bonehead moves and understand they're still learning to adult. Maybe a POV switch would have worked for some parts.
I liked the ending overall, wish the boys much success. Not Just Passing Through was straightforward for the most part-- a simple strangers to friends to lovers romance that didn't have added unnecessary drama. Just a romance between an socially awkward guy and a smooth talking hustler that learned things about themselves and made the best of it.
My first time reading Jamie Dean and I think I'll be checking out the rest of his work.
Recommended for fans who don't mind a simple story, don't mind cocky main characters or slow burn and enjoys New Adult.
A copy provided for an honest review.