Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: opposites attract; brother’s best friend; brother’s little sister; forbidden; close proximity; band of brothers; series of standalones; childhood friends; contemporary romance
Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s The Rules of Dating My Best Friend’s Sister has two distinctions from other stories on their booklist: 1) it’s probably one of their spiciest (there is one scene in a van that will make your jaw drop, and 2) it’s a book set in a bit of a series. That last point might seem peculiar, but my experience with Keeland and Ward is they write a one-and-done story, even if they have other compelling characters in the book. That they are taking the time to gift us with stories in a connected universe is fun.
The foundation of Keeland and Ward’s The Law of Opposites Attract series is Ryan, the deceased friend of a group of guys. Each of them has been impacted by his death, and it has drawn them together. In fact, they own an apartment building together, thanks to him. The other tie thus far between The Rules of Dating and this newest book is the notion of opposites of attracting. In The Rules of Dating My Best Friend’s Sister, the heroine/FMC, Lala, is a buttoned-up scientist while Holden, its hero/MMC, is a musician and the “super” of the apartment building. Lala is interested in a structured, dependable life, while Holden lives by the “seat of his pants.” However, after reconnecting, their attraction is combustible. In fact, as they fight their chemistry, Lala comes to realize that she cannot marry her fiance because, while she wants a structured life, she also needs the attraction she feels with Holden. Once Lala calls off the engagement, she and Holden explode. From there, what felt like a slow burn at first, becomes a total inferno.
What did I like about the story?
- Holden’s journey. In The Rules of Dating and The Rules of Dating My Best Friend’s Sister, it’s clear that Holden is a playboy, a f*ckboy. He doesn’t appear to be “relationship” material, hence the reason that Lala fights her feelings for him. However, as Lala and Holden develop their relationship, it becomes clear that Holden wants more with Lala. He has pined for her for a long time. His evolution from player to dedicated boyfriend adds a huge dose of emotional gravitas to this story.
- Lala’s evolution also adds to the emotional depth of The Rules of Dating My Best Friend’s Sister. Through her characterization, Keeland and Ward interrogate the pre-determined, planned life. Her journey begs the question: “should one forgo attraction for safety?” As Lala struggles with this question and her feelings for Holden, while letting go of her plan with her fiance, Keeland and Ward compound the drama of their story, creating an emotional tug to the story. As Lala navigates the choices of her life, it compels the reader forward.
- The band of brother relationship. I love the friends: Colby, Holden, Owen, and Brayden. Keeland and Ward have drawn them as both the humor and wizened guides of these books. When they need to break up the emotional tension of their story, they bring the guys together to add humor. The intentionality of this relationship points to the authors’ writing genius.
One of the biggest issues I found with The Rules of Dating My Best Friend’s Sister is the immaturity of the characters, specifically Holden. Thankfully, Holden matures by the end of the story, but there were several moments when I wasn’t sure that Lala should work out a relationship with Holden. I found this to undermine the impact of their coupling.
All of that said, though, I enjoyed this book just as much as I loved the first book. I’m excited about the stories for Owen and Brayden. The promise of more stories from Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward in this small world should put a smile on any romance reader’s face.
In love and romance,