Good things come to those who wait, and ever since we met these characters in the Eversea duet, I just knew that Jazz and Joey’s story would be worth every bit of the anticipation. And, how I love when I am right! A poignant second chance romance that takes its time to gradually unfold before our eyes, this is so much more than just a love story—this is a coming-of-age tale of two people whose very transition from youth to adulthood shapes the way their emotional bond grows over time. It’s a story of two young people who have loved each other for as long as they have known one another, but who have not always been ready to embrace that love. As we return to Butler Cove, to the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina, we are transported back in time to live through every heartbreaking, elating, character-defining moment of a first love that was so much more than what I had hoped it would be. And to finally hear the full story of Jazz and Joey.
Friends was apparently all he ever thought we were. Even when I was eighteen and naked under his body.
Jessica “Jazz” Fraser met Joseph “Joey” Butler when she was only eleven years old, and even though their relationship always remained a complicated mixture of brotherly bickering and innocent flirting, her feelings towards her best friend’s older brother never stopped growing over the years, as a puppy love crush slowly turned into an all-consuming love. We are given one summer of their young lives, a summer when lines of friendship got blurred, when their hearts finally lost control over their bodies and gave in to years of pent-up longing, a summer when everything between them changed forever. But at a time when neither of them knew what life had in store for them, or where their priorities lay, what could have been one of the happiest memories of their lives quickly turned into one of deep regret.
“God, I wish I could go back and stop anything happening between us. But I can’t. I can only apologize.”
“Well, that’s the difference then. I don’t. I don’t wish it away. I’d never change it. I just wish we’d had a different ending.”
Three years have passed, three years of pursuing their own dreams and minimal contact between them, but when their shared concern for a loved one suddenly brings them both back to Butler Cove, it becomes impossible to keep ignoring the attraction between them or the feelings they worked hard to suppress. The years, however, have changed them both, and while painful memories inevitably come to the surface, forcing them to finally address the past, they quickly realise that even when two people are perfect for one another, they might have simply found the right love at the wrong time.
“I never said I didn’t want you.”
Natasha Boyd has given us a perfect slow-burning romance by building the tension between Jazz and Joey little by little, using intense romantic scenes sparingly and with purpose. And when those moments come, we find ourselves purring at all the ways these characters cannot keep their hands off each other. But this is not a tale of an easy love—it might have taken them an instant to fall for one another, but it takes them a decade to recognise all they are willing to do for that love—and by giving these characters a chance to grow and learn from their mistakes, we are shown what loving another truly means. And that is where the true beauty of this story lies.
“I don’t want or need a girlfriend right now. I have work, college, plans, and decisions. Decisions that don’t include thinking of someone else’s feelings.”
There is a familiar quality to all of Natasha Boyd’s stories for me, a sense of comfort akin to a safety blanket that overwhelms me whenever I open one of her books, and they never fail to leave me smiling in the end. I treasured every word of this delightful tale, quickly becoming invested in the characters, the setting, all the ways Ms Boyd’s vibrant prose stirred my mind as well as my heart, and even though some scenes were prickly at times, my heart willingly skipped a beat on more than one occasion.
While Jazz and Joey’s story might share its timeline with the Eversea duet, allowing us to revisit those beloved characters at the same time and even fill a few gaps left in that storyline, its distinctiveness makes it a complete reading experience that can be enjoyed in its own right.
“You were right three years ago.”
“That I’d fall in love with the first boy I slept with."