5 Stars / Contemporary / Review

Review: Friends with Benedicts by Staci Hart

Timing is everything.

Presley Hale and Sebastian Vargas are no strangers to goodbye. Their high school summers were spent wrapped up in each other until she would inevitably go home to California. One season after college, Sebastian finally escaped the little Texas town to travel the world, and they said goodbye for what they thought might be the last time.
Sebastian went one way. Presley went the other.

For the first time in five years, they’re both in town, but the timing is no better than ever. So the only thing to do is what they do best. Keep it casual.

Friends with benefits.

They’ve done it before—doing it again will be easy.

But their hearts don’t get the memo.

When the lines of their arrangement blur, Presley and Sebastian are faced with decisions they’ve avoided for years. And that’s not even their biggest problem.
A small town in danger of failing.

A secret that could tear them apart.

And two hearts that can’t hide anymore.

They’ve shared so many summers, but none compare to what they’ll face.

Timing is everything.
And their time is almost up.

Title:Friends with Benefits
Author:Staci Hart
Category / Genre(s):Contemporary
Trope(s):Second Chance Romance
Small Town Romance
Secret Baby ← highlight to reveal (spoiler)
Point of View:First Person, Past Tense, Dual Viewpoint (H & h)
Location:Lindenbach, Texas, US
Release Date:8th June, 2021
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Deliciously entertaining

5 stars

I adore a second chance romance story but, I suppose, this wasn’t really that. It wasn’t really a third, fourth or fifth chance either. It was more like a first chance. Or a final chance. Or a chance at forever.

When we first meet Presley, she’s working in a diner in the town where she would spend summers as a kid. It’s the kind of diner that dreams are made of – a real 50s pink vibe with booths, squeaky vinyl, laminated menus and Elvis playing on the jukebox. Sebastian is also back in town and their first meeting is nothing short of adorable. You see in that moment that this couple are perfect for each other and since their childhood romance, have never stopped loving each other – the timing just was never right.

Presley was definitely a kick-ass character. She was strong and feisty and always did what was best for her family and those she loved. And she worked so hard to get where she wanted to go. I was in awe of her. I also liked that she didn’t put up with some of the crap she got dealt, but equally was understanding of how her actions might impact on others. If I had been in her shoes, I know I wouldn’t have been so kind.

Sebastian has a hot name. Despite that being all you need to know to love him – he actually was extremely lovable in other ways, too. He was strong, sexy, caring and kind – and he was completely, utterly smitten with Presley. His heart eyes gave me the total feels. And when he gets dealt a life-changing curveball, he takes it like a champ. I had been worried, but he was so adorable I wanted to cry.

“I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone but can I just say yes. Yes, yes, yes to it all!”

Presley and Sebastian were so obviously soulmates but they just needed to get their stuff together and figure it out. And yet I swooned. I laughed. I all but screamed at them to hurry up! Don’t you know they’re both leaving? Who knew anticipation and aggravation could be so delightfully sexy?

I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone but can I just say yes. Yes, yes, yes to it all!

There’s something about Staci Hart’s books and her writing that really grips me and pulls me in. They’re never heavy or bogged down in emotion but it’s there, shimmering and sparkling under the surface. It feels tangible and it has you in its power. And I like it. Add to that the smart, sweet and funny romance and you have yourself a real winner.

There’s a host of secondary characters – some I liked, some I didn’t (don’t try to make me like Marnie – I wanted to hate her and I did! LOL!) and an interesting sub-plot involving saving their little town. All that makes me very happy to see that there will be another book set in this town featuring Presley’s cousin, Ivy Jo. Hopefully we’ll also see books for her other cousins.

I hugely enjoyed this story about finding the right time – and making it the right time – to make your dreams come true. It was pure, small-town romantic gold and a book I would very much recommend. 5 stars.

5 stars

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life: a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom to three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, even though she’s certainly not the cleanest, nor is she the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party–especially if she’s been drinking whiskey–and her favorite word starts with f and ends with k.

From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north in Denver, where snow is magic and the mountains have become home. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Memories were funny—what remembered with vivid, certain clarity was a sad, watered-down version of the real thing. I didn’t remember him being so tall, though I’d come up to his shoulders since we were seventeen. I didn’t remember just how strong the cut of his jaw was, made sharper by his tidy scruff. Or the masculine line of his elegant nose, the abundance of his black hair, so thick, you couldn’t see his scalp, even with the ebony locks cut with ruts from his fingers. I didn’t remember the golden amber of his skin, the color so rich, it seemed to swallow sunlight thirstily.

That wasn’t the only thirsty thing in his general vicinity. 

He was built like a runner, long and lean, with strong shoulders and rolling muscles. I noted every curve down to his pecs until his shirt hung too loose to count abdominal muscles that I knew for a fact were right there, chasing each other in pairs toward his narrow hips. 

I tumbled into the depthless black of his eyes, such a deep shade of brown, you could only see his pupils in a certain slant of light. Those eyes I remembered, lined with enviable black lashes. That smile on wide, full lips, I knew. The flash of bright teeth when he laughed had been only for me for a few perfect summers, though we always broke it off when I went home to California.

Neither of us were dumb enough to think we could pull off long distance, smart enough even as teenagers to know better.

“Seb,” I said with a smile I hoped wasn’t too obvious to the fact that I’d have liked to climb over the bar and onto him face first, if things like manners and societal rules weren’t a thing.

“Come here,” he said with a movie star smile if I ever saw one. He walked to the galley, and I paused, indecisive for a split second.

And then I nearly ran for him, giggling like the teenage girl I was when I’d fallen in love with him a million years ago.

He caught me with a laugh that rumbled all the way through me. And for a second, he just held me there.

I breathed him in—he smelled the same, an earthy spice that I remembered most of all. One whiff elicited a biological reaction that had my hands fisting the back of his shirt where I hung onto him.

I relaxed my grip, and he took the cue to put me down. But he didn’t back away, instead hanging his hands on my hips so he could peer down into my face. 

It’d always been this way with us. Easy.

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