My rating: 5 stars / It was amazing
Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem.
The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.
Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.
The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.
When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.
They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.
Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?
As it always happens, whenever I read a book by Sheralyn Pratt, I can't put it down until I've devoured the entire thing in one sitting. And since I usually read at night after my kids go to bed, this makes for some pretty late nights ;) This time it was 2:52 am, but even after that I couldn't sleep and had to type some notes about the story in my phone to share in my review. I was a bit of a zombie the next day but it was totally worth it! Don't you just love books that leave you feeling totally satisfied?
So, what stood out to me about King of the Friend Zone is what I thought was the most creative use of Miss Pearl of all the books in the Power of the Matchmaker series. I loved the cookie angle and how it reflected the "flavor" of a relationship. Miss Pearl was pretty subtle about it at first which I liked since it made it not seem gimmicky.
Esme and Hunter share a special bond, but they do spend much of the story avoiding or denying their deeper romantic feelings since their dynamic is based on the fear of risking their friendship or facing rejection. Hunter identifies with a friend Luke, who pines after a woman who married someone else, but can't move on and insists on being there for her as a friend. Esme's fiancé provides much of the conflict when he coerces her to cut Hunter from her daily life, and Hunter sees that even being the third wheel isn't part of his future with her. Part of me was mad that Esme was so conciliatory to Jon, but the author does such a good job of showing the personalities and vulnerabilities in play that I could see why everyone was acting the way they were, and it felt realistic and complex.
The other aspects of Hunter and Esme's lives blend seamlessly into the plot and add another dimension to their characters. A crisis they handled together demonstrated how perfect they are together, not because they match (like she and Jon did) but because their differences complement each other and there is a deep foundation of trust. Some of the unexpected twists in this book had my jaw dropping as I was reading and made me think "what the what?!?!" I loved that the story wasn't completely predictable or cliché, but had me seriously glued to the pages as Hunter and Esme angst their way to a happy ending.
And... hands down the most epic best man toast at the engagement party.
(Thank you to Ebooks For Review for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review)