1999 goals: Get a life, get real… and get a room.
No one ever said I was the brightest bulb on the tree, but a near-death experience finally knocks some sense into my thick head.
Luckily, my jerk of an ex washes his hands of me, but I'm left with so many burnt bridges to re-build. Landing a job on any movie or TV show that'll have me has to be my #1 priority. Thankfully, my life-long friends still love me enough to help.
When the one I always wished could be more than a friend shows up on my doorstep, however, all my good intentions go right out the window. Before I know it, I've convinced him that an out-of-town, friends-with-benefits deal will be the perfect way to get over each other.
Is it another in a long line of bad decisions, or a move that'll turn things around? 110 percent, I hope he can handle the truth.
Fans of 90's TV shows, from Friends to Freaks and Geeks, will love this second chance, friends-to-lovers, retro romance, where a grumpy cinnamon roll hero and a wounded bird heroine vie for a happy-ever-after despite interference from meddling found-family friends.
Note: Content guidance can be found at karengrey dot com slash contentguidance
Captivating and clever retro 90s steamy romcom.
Thanks to the author for the eARC and gifted early paperback copy.
When I Come Around
By Karen Grey
4th and final book in the Carolina Classics series.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (0-5)
🌟 My initial reaction/mini review: If you like childhood friends-to-lovers, workplace romance with unique forced proximity, & retro 90s epistolary vibes, you will loooove this beautiful book!
What I’m Starry-Eyed Over
🤩 It’s a good bookish life and what joy being in the acknowledgements: “Thank you to all the Karen Grey VIPs who brainstormed 90s songs for the book’s title. I love the one we chose!
🤩 Captivating and clever retro 90s steamy romance.
🤩 Great mix of beach town setting and inland Carolina movie production setting.
🤩 Childhood friends-to-lovers: oh goodness, the friendship bracelet had tears streaming down my face multiple times. So much love and tenderness and secret pining
🤩 Unique workplace forced proximity—yes, please!
🤩 Ford is my true book boyfriend forever! He is giving, caring, patient . . . and so hot when he decides to show (not just tell) Whitney how much he cares about her! 🥵
🤩 The best first hug and kiss I’ve ever read—all the feels! 🥰❤️🔥
🤩 When Ford and Whitney start to open up and really talk, ugh, it’s refreshing, beautiful, and oh so cuuuuuute! Steamy romcom goodness!
🤩 The actual steam is such a great combination of sneaky, hot, fun, and intimate.
🤩 The divorce law/emotional domestic abuse plot is smart, sweet (successful women supporting other women), and so well written. The retro resilience and healing are magnificent, and I totally love Whitney and all the character development we get to witness as a reader! Plus, it gives us all those extra feelings of longing.
🤩 Fantastic use of epistolary components—email threads, letter writing, and invitations.
🤩 All the intricate details with late nineties nostalgia are so perfect.
🤩 This friend group is something special. You’ll feel it in this book alone—it’s a standalone in a series of interconnected books with the same friend group, each member getting their own HEA. I highly recommend them all.
What I’m Wishing/Dizzy About:
💫 I became a super fan of @karengreyauthor last year & have read her whole back list. Actually, I listened to all the audiobooks (highly recommend) so this is a new experience for me hearing Karen’s writing with the voices in my head. I could hear these beautiful and broken people loud and clear; however, I cannot wait to have a reread via the audiobook in a few months! That first hug and kiss are going to be so good on audiobook (first person, dual POV)!
So much fun, loved it
I was both happy and sad to receive the advance copy of When I Come Around. Happy because it was finally time for Whitney’s long-awaited story; we knew that girl had hidden depth. And finally Ford’s story, too. And to learn at last if there is going to be a Ford & Whitney story or a Ford story and a Whitney story. Would all the miscommunication and misunderstanding and unpleasantness from the past prove to be insurmountable? And my sadness? Well, this brings another of author Karen Grey’s fantastic retro series to a close. She writes series that you want never to end. Add another character, invent another situation, and readers will happily partake. Re-reading is always an option, and trust me on this, you can re-read Grey’s books all day long and they are just as satisfying. But leaving a series is hard.
We spent time with the rest of the Carolina Classics “gang” in the previous three books in the series: Violet, Sully, and Dani, and their significant others Nate, Helen and Lukas. Whitney and Ford were always there, not-quite-settled into their lives, always just on the edges. After Ford and Sully’s knock-down-drag-out where they demanded Whitney choose between them, she up and married that rich guy. They rarely see her. Ford is always on the move, always traveling, still in touch but doing his thing. They’re all together again now, though, even if only briefly, for Violet and Nate’s wedding. Except things turn dark and complicated when Whitney collapses and almost dies and Ford and the others start to think Whitney’s perfect-on-the-surface life might not be so perfect after all.
Author Grey throws Ford and Whitney together at work, drops in a little “friends with benefits” action, and makes us privy to their secret thoughts – and longings. And as readers all we can think now is, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, hurry up, speak up, man/woman up, make it happen.” But will they?
Grey’s characters are so unique, have so much depth. No run of the mill, cookie cutter, everyone longing for the house with the white picket fence, ready to give it all up for love and ride off into the sunset happening here. Some are traditional, some not so much. They have serious dilemmas and serious choices to make, need to find out what they need, what makes them happy, and what doesn’t make someone else unhappy. Not all serious stuff, though. There’s wit, humor and laugh-out-loud moments. A lot of them. And as always, Grey expertly sets the scene with details that take you right back to 1999. Every chapter or section begins with a hook that is perfect for the subject and era. This time it was AOL Buddy List chats. Remember those?
Thanks to Home Cooked Books and the author for providing an advance copy of When I Come Around. I was reading another book that was enjoyable enough if dragging a bit when I started this one. I knew from my previous reading experience with Karen Grey that this story would hook me at once and just zip along. And it did – from first engaging sentence to last completely satisfying word. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it, and anything and everything else Grey writes, without hesitation. And if you get the opportunity to listen to an audio version, by all means do so. The narration will be perfect and her dialogue is just meant to be listened to. I voluntarily leave this review; all opinions are my own.
4⭐️s for Ford and Whitney
The journeys of love and friendship for Grey’s Carolina Classics pentad come to a close with book four. It’s been a lovely, nostalgic ride, with a playlist that takes me back (I’ll be singing Sarah McLachlan for days!). Being that Ford and Whit’s connection has been peeking around the edges of this world from the beginning, getting their story was a satisfying button to the series.
Friends, to friends-with-benefits, to something more, is a storyline I always enjoy and it worked well in WICA. Both characters had solid arcs, though Whitney’s was definitely more intense. You can know someone all your life without really knowing who they are, and that contradiction is at the crux of Ford’s journey. He knows himself so well, but he doesn’t know Whitney as much as he thinks because she doesn’t really know herself. And until she does, they can’t work. So following the unfolding of that dynamic made for a compelling story.
Whit has been a bit of a cypher throughout the series and for the majority of this book she remains kind of unknowable, even when we’re in her POV. This is something that frustrated me at times because I couldn’t get a read on her, and so wasn’t vibing with her, for a good chunk of the book. However, as her history is revealed, Grey’s choices with her character begin to make perfect sense. And while the pacing of Whit’s arc felt crammed on the backend, in the balance it makes sense given the situation. Her journey was tense and deals with some heavy themes - emotional abuse, gaslighting - and I thought Grey handled them with a deft touch. She’s an author who’s not afraid to tackle heavy topics, even while spinning a fine romance between two people who deserve their HEA. Love stories that show people working on understanding themselves first, and practicing self-care and grace are so important. And it makes the love story that much sweeter.
Definitely recommend this one, especially if you’ve been in it with the Carolina Classics gang from the jump! I can’t wait to hear the audio for this one! It’s sure to add another layer to an already lovely story. Overall, though I am sad to say goodbye to this fictional friend group, I am looking forward to what new retro world Ms. Grey has up her sleeve for her next series.
I received an advance reader copy via Home Cooked Books. All opinions are my own.