Evolutionary psychology professor Henry Hathaway is ready to spend his birthday the same way he does every year: a good teeth cleaning followed by lunch with his brother. But when he receives a wrong-number text confirming the details of a date, he does what any considerate person would—he goes to meet them and explain why they've been stood up.
Asher Wescott hadn't expected his blind date to go well, because when do they ever? Henry shows up instead, and things are suddenly looking up. Socially awkward and attached to his routines, Henry is nevertheless one of the most charming and kind men Asher has met in a long time.
Too bad he's not Henry's type.
An accidental date, an impulsive kiss, and a few conflicted feelings later, can Asher get Henry to see the world—and him—in a different light?
Textual Relations is a light, short, low angst read. I loved the premise, but the execution kind of left me wanting just a bit more.
Henry takes "socially awkward" to the next level. He also might just be the least self-aware person on the planet. His most interesting (and endearing) quality is his tendency to find himself on dates he didn't know were dates. Truly, I didn't know this could be a thing -- at least not more than once! And for a guy who studied psychology -- and yeah, his focus is evolutionary psychology, but I would think he would have to take some core classes -- he misses pretty much every social queue directed his way. I think the reason for this is that Henry focuses more on people he is not interacting with than he does on his own interactions.
Ash, I liked, but beyond his whimsical tendencies I didn't get much of a read on him. I wish we would have gotten some of the story from his POV, because he was just a little too good to be true. Ash is a very spontaneous guy and when Henry shows up, instead of the guy that was supposed to be his date, Ash just rolled with it and had his date, anyway -- even if it did take Henry a lot longer than it probably should have to figure out that it was actually a date. But Ash never takes anything wrong and always goes with the flow -- though he does have a tendency to change the direction of the current, sometimes.
But the story, itself, didn't much keep my attention. I normally love 'self-discovery' stories and I always love seeing a character really discover who they are and finding that other someone that makes the journey worth it. But there was no real tension in Textual Relations to make you really feel what the MC's were feeling, and I missed that.
The steam, while being plentiful, never felt overdone and I thought that Henry and Asher had good chemistry. The relationship progression seemed a bit fast in the story, but time does pass, so I think that's just page perspective, rather than an insta-love situation.
The overall premise showed quite a bit of promise, and I think if it had been longer, the author could have dedicated more time to the development of both the characters and their tension and the story would have greatly benefited. As it stands, though, while I "liked" Textual Relations well enough, I probably won't much remember it next week.
There is one thing, though, that I really appreciated and want to be sure to mention. Asher never once pressured Henry into labeling himself. Henry thinks he is probably bisexual, but he's in new territory, being 32 and suddenly finding his sexuality isn't what he always assumed it was, so he's not sure, really, how to define himself. And Asher was completely supportive of Henry's journey:
"People can identify in a thousand different ways. You could be bisexual, or demi-sexual, or gray-A. No one can decide that for you except you, and if you aren't comfortable with labels, you don't need them.
I can't tell you just how much I appreciate that message. It is near and dear to me. Labels are such a personal thing and while I recognize the need that many people have to embrace them, and that is a wonderful thing, I also feel that not everyone does and that's ok, too. Henry isn't running from who he is, he is just gathering data and I can totally appreciate that. Our own journeys are very personal and each of us needs to go at our own pace in determining our own truths. So, thanks, Ms. Ashwood, for that.
ARC of Textual Relations was generously provided by the author, in exchange for an honest review.
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