Mixed Messages Series, Book 3
Release Date: 07.22.18
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
Being in love with your best friend is hard.
Henry’s the odd man out. All his friends are settling down, and his reputation as the Hook-Up King of London seems more like a curse than a blessing these days. Especially when it keeps photojournalist Ivo, his best friend and the brilliant man he’s loved since they were fifteen, at arm’s length. But that’s where Ivo wants him, right? Putting aside his feelings, Henry decides to give up casual sex and look for the real deal. After all, he has no chance with Ivo - or does he?
Henry is everything to Ivo. Best friend, soul mate, the one person who has never let him down. The one person he is loyal to above everything and everyone. But Henry’s in a box marked best friend and that’s where Ivo’s kept him for nearly twenty years, despite steadily falling in love with the gentle man. And besides, why would Henry want to date Ivo? Burned out and injured, he’s the walking embodiment of damaged.
Distance has helped Henry and Ivo keep a lid on their attraction, but when they find themselves in the same city for a change—Ivo hurt and needing assistance, and Henry more than willing to provide it—the two best friends grow closer than ever, forcing a realization, and a decision. Risk their friendship for their hearts? Or can they have both?
From the bestselling author of Rule Breaker and Deal Maker comes a tender love story about two best friends who are perfect for each other, and always have been - if only they knew it.
This is the third book in the Mixed Messages series, but it can be read as a standalone.
“Is there a particular reason, Henry, why I am standing in an art supply shop rather than sitting in a perfectly good restaurant eating lunch?”
I shift the basket over my arm and turn to face one of my best friends. “Gabe, you really should be a bit more highbrow. Otherwise, you’ll never keep that pretty totty you’ve got.”
His perfect-looking face scrunches up in disgust. “Totty. What an utterly disgusting word.”
“I know,” I say cheerfully, turning back to the shelf I was perusing and chucking in another tube of Rose Gold oil paint.
“Makes you sound like your father,” he says snippily, and I nudge him.
“Now that’s petty. Anyway, I’m nothing like him. I have all my own teeth, and my complexion is milky-white perfection, if I do say so myself.”
He snorts. “Apart from those freckles.”
I shake my head and touch a finger to my face and my bête noire, the multitude of freckles that span my nose. “I wish that cream I got off the internet at uni had worked,” I say forlornly, and he laughs loudly, making it echo around the shop.
“I did so enjoy the way your face turned that shade of green. Made you look like Grotbags from The Rod Hull and Emu Show.” He reaches over and grabs a tube of paint. “It was this shade precisely. Hmm, Pistachio Green.” He chucks it into my basket, and I patiently remove it and put it back on the shelf.
I toss a couple of tubes of Prussian Blue into the basket while he leans casually against the shelf looking like the perfect picture of a lawyer in his dark grey, hand-tailored suit.
“Why are we here, Henry? Because if you’re thinking of giving up the law and becoming an artist, I really will have to stage an intervention.”
I laugh. “I think I’d make a very good artist.”
“Piss artist, more likely,” he says, poking my arm with one long finger. “So, if we’re not shopping for what would be the shortest career in art history, who are we shopping for?” His gaze sharpens, and I mentally groan because aside from Ivo there is no one who knows me better. “Hmm. Would we be shopping for a six foot four blond photographer who a certain red-headed lawyer has had the hots for, for years?”
“That’s such a non-Gabe expression,” I sneer. “Has Dylan been influencing you?”
He looks startled and shakes his head. “Those f*cking phrases of his and Jude’s. They’re messing up my vocabulary. Yesterday one of the senior partners asked me if I was okay and I said I was cool. He went out and asked his assistant to tell maintenance that the building heating needed to be turned up.”
I laugh helplessly, and he gives me a rueful grin. “Don’t distract me, Henry. Is Ivo back?” I nod slowly and his expression darkens. “Is he okay?”
I shrug, picking up a brush and studying it intently so I don’t have to look at him. “Not really. He’s got a hole from a f*cking bullet in his side, and broken ribs and bruises all over him from being near a car bomb when it went off.”
“What?” he says instantly. “Is he okay?” Gabe has always had a complicated relationship with Ivo. He loves being with him, and they can talk for hours, but he hates the effect that he unknowingly has on my life.
“He’s fine. Silas checked him over.”
He checks with his hand out to grab the brush from me. “Henry, isn’t Silas a vet?”
I shrug. “He was very good at biology at school.”
“I was good at it too. You don’t see me turning up at St Bart’s Hospital and performing a few appendectomies during my lunch hour though, do you?”
“The only biology you were any good at was the male anatomy kind,” I say tartly, and chuck the brush in the basket.
He smiles. “That I was. I’m a very learned man in that area.”
I snort. “You’re practically PhD material.”
Friends to lovers is one of my absolute favorite contemporary romance tropes, and the author does a fantastic job with it here in Risk Taker. While this is the third book in the Mixed Messages series, it can be read as a standalone—this is actually the first book I’ve read by this author, and I was able to follow along just fine. The writing is strong, and the characters are well-rounded with plenty of depth. There’s also the cute add-on of starting each chapter with notes that Henry and Ivo have written to each other over the years from when they first became stepbrothers many years ago, those really made me smile.
Both Henry and Ivo captured my attention right from the start. Henry’s unrequited feelings for Ivo have led him to being more of a hook-up guy, but he finally makes the decision to quit that and look for something real with someone since it’s not going to be Ivo. Ivo is a risk taker all right, a journalist who travels to dangerous places and can never be guaranteed he’ll make it home in one piece. These two have been best friends, closer than most ever get, for a very long time.
Some pretty funny things start to happen when Henry tries dating again once Ivo is back home for a while to heal from some injuries…to the point where you might think “Seriously? That poor guy!” But one thing that does is prompt Ivo to make his own claim—to Henry’s delight but also to his worry since he never wants to damage their intense, close friendship for any reason (so Henry’s taking his own kind of risk by entering into this new stage of their relationship). As close as they are as best friends, once the physical aspect is added in things are downright explosive between them. The issue? Ivo doesn’t want to confront the emotional side of things, to have that “talk” about feelings and what the two of them being together on this new level means…and what will happen once he’s healed and ready to leave again.
Even with the funny stuff, there’s still a good dose of angst stemming from both Ivo’s reluctance to discuss his and Henry’s relationship, as well as the ever-looming point of his eventual departure to head back to his work. Once the two of them had embarked on the deeper connection of their relationship, I was constantly concerned about Henry leaving again and what it might mean for them—not to mention the fact that him leaving always has the risk of him never returning.
In the end, I was extremely satisfied with how things worked out, and I loved the ending and epilogue. I was on edge for a lot of the story, but at the end I was able to finally relax and smile. I was also intrigued by Henry and Ivo’s coupled-up friends Gabe and Dylan, and Asa and Jude…I can’t wait to go back and read their stories as well. Risk Taker was a 5-star read for me, and is one I do highly recommend. This book is for readers 18+ for adult language, sexual content, and mention of some disturbing past moments for Ivo’s character.
About the Author
Lily writes contemporary romance novels, and specialises in hot love stories with a good dose of humour.
Lily lives in sunny England with her husband and two children, all of whom claim that they haven’t had a proper conversation with her since she bought her first Kindle.
She has spent her life with her head full of daydreams and decided one day to just sit down and start writing about them. In the process she discovered that she actually loved writing, because how else could she get to spend her time with hot, funny men!
She loves chocolate and Baileys and the best of all creations – chocolate Baileys! Her lifetime’s ambition is to have a bath in peace without being shouted by one of her family.