Review: Better Than People – Roan Parrish

Review: Better Than People – Roan ParrishBetter Than People
by Roan Parrish
Publisher: Carina Adores
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Genres: Romance
Pages: 239
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, walking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

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What an absolutely lovely and angsty hug. Forced proximity between two hurting animal lovers with absolutely exquisitely crafted emotional responses? Yep, sign me up!

When Jack breaks his leg while walking his small pack of animals, he’s forced to hire Simon to take them for their twice daily walks. Jack is resentful of having to ask for help, but there’s something about the withdrawn Simon that makes him crave more time with him. For Simon, who prefers animals to people, the joy of spending time with such a menagerie of animals is overshadowed by having to interact with grumpy Jack. Neither man expects a friendship – or perhaps something else – could grow from such a simple arrangement.

The plotting of the book is excellent. It’s a very tight and focused story – there’s little external conflict, and most everything happens in either Jack’s house or Simon’s grandmother’s house. Everything revolves around the slow building of trust between Jack and Simon. They both have to come to terms with their own issues, whether it’s Simon’s lifelong anxiety or Jack’s inability to draw after a shocking betrayal, while simultaneously navigate the other’s. Jack struggles in his own way with words, as well, having been dependent on his “friend” to write the stories for the children’s books he illustrated. He knows how powerful they are and how distressing the lack of them is, but has some missteps with Simon initially. There’s a difference between accommodating a person’s differences and trying to fix them, and the author does an excellent job showing that.

“This—this right here was why animals beat people, paws down.
They were sensitive. They cared. They wanted to be loved and they gave love back. Animals never betrayed you the way people did. They were loyal.”

I thought Simon’s anxiety was handled well. He’s frustrated and tired of everyone trying to fix him, telling him that if he only tried harder he’d be able to overcome it. It makes him touchy and sensitive to certain phrasing. After all, no one wants to be someone’s project to “fix.” While Simon’s had a multitude of bad experiences with people reacting to his anxiety in the past, everyone in the book is exceedingly kind and patient with him, even grumpy Jack. Jack is dealing with a betrayal of his own, and coupled with a broken leg that forces him to rely on others, including his brother that raised him after their parents died, he’s, well, grumpy. He’s fiercely independent – but does relying on others make him weak, like he thinks? And can he accept that the good things in his life, like Simon, aren’t going to leave or betray him? Their relationship is quite sweet and builds somewhat slowly, which is understandable as Simon is a virgin. For Simon, communicating through touch is

“Dick pic, dear?” Grandma Jean said sympathetically. “The bits not quite what you’d hoped for?”
“Grandma, no! God.”

The secondary characters are so much fun, especially Simon’s grandma and Jack’s brother Charlie (I need a novel for him, stat!). As you’d expect from the cover and blurb, there’s a whole petting zoo full of animals, from a St. Bernard named Bernard to a lab named Puddles to a cat named Pirate (Jack is… not so good at naming animals). And while they’re certainly there and prominent in the book (including tripping over dog toys and shooing them off the bed prior to sexy times) they never veer into cutesy trite plot moppet (plot pupper?) territory. There’s even a little bit of surprise Christmas magic – though magic is a misnomer, considering it’s each character’s kindness, empathy and ability to listen that ultimately brings them together rather than anything supernatural. And also a Christmas-tree-shopping-inspired blowjob!

Overall, this was a fun, enjoyable and emotional read!

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