Despite desperately pining after her best friend Ben for nearly a decade, Marcela Ortiz is not going to let anything get in the way of his happiness and ruin his engagement—especially not Theo Young, his older brother who has been pining after the bride-to-be Alice for even longer. What starts as a well-meaning attempt to stop Theo from confessing his feelings to Alice becomes something more when everyone sees Marcela and Theo leave the engagement party together and wrongly assumes the following day that the pair hooked up. But as they continue their fake relationship, real feelings start to develop and the couple begin to realize that their plan may have worked just a little better than they ever expected.

First off, let’s hear it for the librarians who are doing their best to create safe spaces and fight back against book bans in order to create spaces that will allow people—especially youth—to feel safe to explore who they are and who they want to become. Marcela is everything I could have hoped for as a main character, insecurities and all. And truly, how can anyone have anything but high standards when a character like Theo exists? An ex-NFL who isn’t afraid to explore his softer side and takes his time to learn about the interests of the woman he loves? Yes please!

And just as strong as the leads are, Gamez creates a sneakily villainous character in Ben. Though the story is told strictly from Marcela’s (rose-colored) POV, it’s clear to anyone on the outside looking in (both characters within the story and the reader) that he is not everything that Marcela has built him up to be in his head. Gamez finds a way to somehow convince the reader of Marcela’s view of Ben while still showing how sinister he can truly be underneath. While it takes time for Marcela to  unravel the side of Ben that's she's never seen, the reader already has a sense of what is hiding under the surface while still discovering at her pace.

I never really expected to read about messy straight people in a love square and I sure didn’t expect to love it as much as I did, but here we are! These four people have been so intertwined for so many years and now that there are big changes afoot, everything is really coming to a head. Gamez has a way of taking something that could become extremely convoluted and confusing and painting a picture that is easy to follow and draws you in.

As I often find myself doing when I know a romance is the first in a series, I kept my eyes peeled for hints as to what is coming next and I am happy to report that I think the seeds are perfectly planted. Gamez gives just enough hints to keep us guessing and wanting to come back for more and I, for one, can’t wait to see what comes next!

THE NEXT BEST FLING is the first book in debut author Gabriella Gamez’s Librarians in Love series. It hits shelves on July 9, 2024 and you can preorder a copy for your here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2024 Book Recommendations."