The perfect way to describe this friends-to-lovers novella is short and sweet. The fact that I enjoyed it and am giving it a high rating is saying something, because normally romance novellas don’t do it for me. With romances, I need substantial character and relationship development, and just by default, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to deliver that with a short book form like a novella. Claire Matthews’ Intimate Friends proved to be an exception, and an absolutely lovely one at that. One of the things I loved was that from the beginning, Emma and Noah’s friendship feels authentic; you really do get the sense that you’re looking in on two people who know each other very well and care about one another.
Emma and Noah are best friends and teach at the same high school in Austin, Texas. Emma is a friendly girl-next-door type heroine and a lover of English literature; Noah is a sweet beta hero and math teacher, who in many ways appears to be your stereotypical nerd – though that does not extend to the bedroom *wink* *wink*. Both of them ended serious relationships about a year ago and neither has since reentered the dating world. What has happened in the meanwhile is that Noah’s feelings towards Emma have coalesced and grown into full-blown romantic love (see sigh-worthy quote below). He is afraid of jeopardizing their friendship and that Emma does not return his feelings, so despite his love for her, he has so far remained silent on the matter. Until … well, read the book to find out!
The story is so short that writing too much of a summary will make reading it seem repetitive, so I’ll stop there. It’s very enjoyable watching Noah and Emma’s relationship move beyond friendship. One of the things that is a definite plus about novellas is the lack of room to throw in tons of obstacles, Big Misunderstandings, or Things Left Unsaid, and luckily Matthews didn’t even try. The obstacle they do have to overcome is a realistic one that fits with the story and characters. Even when they’re facing it, they’re still open about their feelings for one another – there’s no pretending or covering up or deflecting for their own sake or their partner’s. A hero and heroine acting maturely about their relationship: what a nice change!
Intimate Friends is short – only 47 pages – and as with most novellas, I was left wanting more. However, the fact that I wished it was longer (not shorter), yet greatly enjoyed it despite its (lack of) length, is noteworthy. There are interesting and engaging main characters, sweet scenes, funny dialogue, and some nice sizzling chemistry: what’s not to like?
It was so stupid, and random, but at that second, with the morning sun hitting her auburn hair, and her huge brown eyes fixed on him, the lock flew off the “do-not-allow-yourself-to-even-think-about-it” portion of his brain, and every feeling he ever had for her—feelings he never even realized he had for her—flooded over him like a tidal wave. Love, tenderness, desire—it hit him so hard he had to excuse himself, go to the men’s room, rest his forehead against the cool metal of the bathroom stall, breathing heavily, wondering what the hell had just happened. It left him exhausted and spent, as if he’d just run a hundred miles.
And almost a year later, he was still exhausted, spent, frustrated … and madly in love.
Intimate Friends by Claire Matthews
July 20th 2011 by Evernight Publishing