I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC for indie author Erin Thomson's sophomore novel Five Dates Between Friends. Before I received the advanced copy, I saw a post on her Instagram saying the main characters also make an appearance in her debut novel The Wedding Planners. Being the neurotic individual I am, I immediately added The Wedding Planners to my TBR, intending to complete it before starting the ARC. As such, this review will be for both books. Buckle up!

I started The Wedding Planners after 10pm last Thursday night with the intent to just read a couple chapters before bed. Next thing I knew, I had finished the book, it was 4:40am, and I needed to be up to get ready for work in less than 3 hours. Needless to say, I couldn't put this down.

Jemma's growing catering business has been trashed on social media. Nash's wife of six years has walked out on him. These two strangers meet and have an explosive night together, expecting to never see each other again. Then, something crazy happens - they are reunited when Nash's social media influencer sister gets engaged and insists they plan her wedding...together.

The tension is high as Jemma navigates her growing feelings while attempting to remain angry at Nash for what she thinks is a blatant lie. The heat between the two kept me turning page after page, waiting for them to recreate that first, very hot night together. The choice to use dual POV (one chapter being from Jemma's POV and the next being from Nash's) allows for insight into a situation that we do not often get in real life. Though there were some plot points that were predictable, it was an overall enjoyable story that almost made me want to re-enter the dating scene.

I don't know about you, but I love a good will they-won't they romance! This was a nice break from the fantasy that I normally read and checked a few boxes for me.

Romance? ✅
Spice? ✅✅
Unrealistic expectations about dating and men in real life? ✅✅✅

If you’re looking for a contemporary romance that is a quick read and pulls you in immediately (like, seriously, RIGHT AWAY), this is the book for you! The Wedding Planners is available now for purchase wherever you get your books or for free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription here.

Trigger warnings: mentions of past abuse (sexual/emotional), rape, abortion

Not learning from my mistakes, I then started my ARC of Five Dates Between Friends the following evening, again reading into the wee hours of the morning (but at least the following day was not a work day). The story starts near the end of the first book, but follows Nash's best friends Chase and Mack. The two have been best friends for half their lives, also running a successful bar together, and their relationship has always been platonic...or has it? An unexpected kiss turns both their worlds upside down. Feelings are unearthed that the two have kept buried for years and Mack is adamant they should explore a romantic relationship while Chase is more hesitant, citing her tumultuous dating history.

The friendship between Chase and Mack is incredibly sweet. They constantly have each other's back and know exactly what the other needs, sometimes even before they know it themselves. While this story could have easily been very flat, there were many well fleshed out supporting characters that played a big part in each step of their exploration of a budding romance. There were times when I was very frustrated with one or the other character (mostly Chase) because of their actions. Erin again uses the dual POV to give a wonderful insight into a situation that has two very distinct sides.

It may be because I am an extremely impatient person, but I felt like getting from that first kiss at the beginning of the book to the first date took a long time. In that time, though I was able to understand Mack's feelings and why he wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with Chase, I also felt that he was being incredibly pushy and almost coerced Chase into something that she wasn't comfortable with. On the flip side, Chase felt whiny and self-centered at times, only concerned about how a romantic relationship would affect her and not completely considering the effect her refusal would have on Mack. Despite these things, I still found myself rooting for the two of them. Both of the main characters are incredibly likeable and relatable.

Though I did take issues with a few things, I did enjoy the story overall. There were quiet, sweet moments sprinkled with a good dose of humor. I love Chase and Mack's relationship and how they interacted with each other (in both good and bad times), but I personally found some of the supporting characters of more interest to me (I am, however, more fond of drama than this sweet love story provided though). I'm more of an enemies-to-lovers kind of girl, but a good (best) friends-to-lovers story every now and then is very sweet. There is something to be said about two people who already have a strong connection moving into territory that will likely strengthen that connection even further. While this isn't marketed as a sequel (more like a spinoff), it was really nice to see characters and plot lines from The Wedding Planners come back in this book.

(And yes, for those wondering, this book also had the same romance, spice, and unrealistic expectations about dating and men in real life. Erin has found a good niche.)

Five Dates Between Friends is available for preorder now wherever you get your books and hits shelves (and Kindle Unlimited!) on September 9, 2022.