Off Key by May Archer _ Book Review

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I’m about to sing you the saddest song in the universe, and it’s called “The Man of My Dreams Married My Sister.”

It’s kinda my theme song. And trust me when I tell you, it’s heavy on the violins.

Because the man in question? He’s not just any guy, he’s Rafe freakin’ Goodman.

My former best friend.

The boy who made my summers on Whispering Key magical. The guy who inspired every love song that led to the chart-topping music career I have today. The man I always sort of figured would wait for me, while I pursued my dreams and finally found a way to tell the world I was gay…

But instead of waiting, he married Aimee.

Rafe and Aimee’s marriage has been over for a while now, but it doesn’t really matter. He doesn’t love me even though I feel like I’ll love him until the day I die. Trying to be “just friends” would tear me apart.

We’re a broken chord. A blue note. Hopelessly out of tune.

Or so I thought.

But when circumstances throw us back together on a crazy cross-country road trip, suddenly all kinds of secrets come to light that make it seem like maybe our show’s not over yet.

If I want a life with the man of my dreams, though, I’ll have to be honest–with Rafe and the rest of the world, too–and find the courage to write us a new song.

One that’s exactly like us: perfectly imperfect… and a little off key.

[I received a digital arc for an honest review]

Is it really a surprise to anyone that I gave Off Key by May Archer 5 stars? No ? I didn’t think so. It was everything I wanted from a Whispering Key novel, and it honestly exceeded my expectations.

At age 15, aspiring musician Jay Rollins made the decision to keep his sexuality in the closest in order to achieve his career goals. Keeping it secret from his best friend and crush Rafe, even though Rafe was publicly out as bisexual. Cue them growing up and his dreams coming true while back at home Rafe marries his sister, and he cuts ties because of jealousy and heartbreak. Fast-forward to the present and there is a lot of secrets, miscommunication, and animosity built up between them. The two are thrown together for Whispering Keys Labor Day Extravaganza, but plans change when Jay’s sister needs help. The result is a fake kidnapping, an impromptu road trip, uncovering secrets, and two best reconnecting more than they ever imagined they could.

“The guy made me feel warm all over when he looked at me like that.” Made me think thoughts and dream dreams…and write songs that were all about him…”

Rafe Goodman is happy enough while trying to wrangle his dad, keep an eye on his brothers and cousin and manage the town of lunatics he loves. His unhappiness shines through when his ex-best friend and the man who crushed him, Jay Don Rollins is brought up. All bets are off as he rants and raves about the man who left him behind. Rafe is forced to face his past with Jay when Aimee needs them both. Rafe cracks almost immediately when he feels the raw loneliness coming off of Jay and wants to help him, even knowing that he will be left again at the end. Once he opens to Jay all bets are off because Rafe is a man who deserves to be loved and just wants to love Jay in whatever way he can. He is a planner and takes the opportunity to put the past in the past and embrace the future whatever that may look like.

“My teammate. My constant. My rock. My North Star, guiding me home. My Love. Always.”

Jay Rollins has struggles with people’s perceptions since a young child, first trying to please a father who would never accept his dreams, then playing straight for the music industry and lying to those he’s closest to in order prevent his secret from getting out and finally to his fans and the media, so he can continue doing what he loves. But does he truly love it anymore knowing he’s pushing away anyone who cared about him? Rafe comes back into his life as a force of negativity towards his music and life not realizing that Rafe is hurting so deeply that lashing out is his way of self-preservation. Jay opening up about the loneliness of the rock star lifestyle broke my heart because he had so few people in his corner, although everyone claimed to love him. Jay deserves the happiness that Rafe, Aimee and the Keysters bring into his life. Once he realizes that his future is his to choose I was delighted to see what he pulled off for his family.

“In everything. You and me, partners in crime. Saving the world from all manner of birds.”

Rafe and Jay were perfect together. Whether they are arguing over pancakes vs waffles, trying to one up each other, or declaring their feelings I never tired of the two of them together. Plus when they finally let down their walls and start communication the intimacy between them was off the charts! Their adventure was filled with ups, downs and chest clutching moments of both angst and joy. You couldn’t help but fall in love with both men and cheered every page as they got closer towards reconnecting. This wasn’t your run of the mill best friends to lovers story which I appreciated and it wasn’t an enemies to lovers story either. Falling in the middle ground made this a book I couldn’t put down. May Archer always has you falling for the side characters who support the story as much as the MCs and the addition of Oak and Chet just had me in stitches.

“Kissing Rafe Goodman was main stage, sellout crowd, it was holding a note and feeling the perfection of it resonate in my chest. In short, it was everything.”

Overall Off Key is another top-notch 5 star addition to the Whispering Key series by May Archer. Filled with love, friendship, laughter, nosey but caring small town neighbors and happily ever afters.

—Review Smash by Amanda & Katie—

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