by Jack Harbon
Publication Date: January 5, 2021
I received an advance review copy of this book from BookSprout. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Oak Ridge High School’s ten-year reunion was the last place Arden Hale ever expected to see Spencer Gaines.
After graduation, she left town and started a cushy new life in New York. It felt like she outgrew the small community. Now that she’s back, he can finally fill the void he’s spent years trying to fit other women into.
The truth is, it’s always been Spencer.
It’s been her in all his fantasies.
Her on his mind when he finishes.
She’s the one that he’s pined after for over a decade. And she’s back. All he has to do is make her his.
Worship is a steamy reunited friends-to-lovers romance about the ex-popular girl whose life is now in shambles and the ex-nerd who still pines after the woman he crushed on all throughout his adolescence. This novella is intended for readers 18 years and older.
I think it’s obvious by now that I have a serious thing for second-chance romances, so of course I jumped on this novella about a high school reunion and the chance for the nerd to finally get the popular girl he crushed over in high school.
“Spencer Gaines naked in my bed sounds like the very conceit of my wildest fantasies, yet somehow, it’s now a reality.”
Spencer is only back in Oak Ridge for her parents’ vow renewal, so her last minute decision to go to her ten year high school reunion is mostly just because of the free drinks. She’s shocked to run into her high school boyfriend, Charlie, who she broke up with two years ago, and even more shocked to see her ex-best friend Hope on his arm. When Spencer gets into an altercation with Hope and ends up covered in most of the snack and drinks table, she’s rescued by Arden, her high school bio partner. Arden had a huge crush on Spencer in high school, and he still carries a torch for her all these years later. His innocent attempt to help her clean up ends in a steamy shower and a confession of his crush. As they reconnect, both discover they have more in common than they thought. Is Spencer willing to risk her heart again for a chance at love with Arden?
“I don’t know why I’m laughing, but it feels good. Maybe it’s who I’m with that makes it feel that way.”
This novella is told from both Spencer and Arden’s first person POVs, and I loved how this gave so much insight into each of the characters. Spencer, to be frank, is an absolute mess. While Charlie ran back home after the breakup, Spencer stayed in NYC. But now, two years later, her boutique isn’t doing well and she still feels like she’s reeling from the breakup. Arden’s spent his whole life planning for his future. Even in college, he was focused on the next test, and now he’s focused on the next thing he has to do for his business. They’re both very lonely, but they find common ground in it. Arden’s pretty amazing. He knows how to deal with Spencer’s messiness, gently teasing her out of her moods when she needs it or just supporting her. But as Spencer’s having fun getting to know Arden again, she’s also worrying that if they get serious, she’ll just start off a new wave of loneliness when they break up.
The writing is excellent, and the sex scenes are super hot and inventive. There’s some interesting locales – in the high school locker showers, the drive-in movie theater during a slasher film marathon – and there’s some hilarious and descriptive turns of phrase. At one point, Spencer pictures sitting on Arden’s face and wiping away his smirk like a dry erase board, which, whoa, let me fan myself off here.
As for cons, I’m not a fan of mean-girl plot lines, so I didn’t care for Hope. Spencer even admits Hope was the definition of mean girl back in high school, but she was still best friends with her. While she didn’t participate in Hope’s cattiness, she never spoke up against it, so she’s (rightly) conflicted about her past. Spencer’s also trying to work through her feelings about her ex, Charlie, and the specter of that relationship threatens to ruin her chances of staying in Oak Ridge and a relationship with Arden. I liked how Spencer eventually set boundaries on her relationship with Charlie, and how Arden didn’t get jealous or do anything other than support her decision.
Overall, this was a delightful novella, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, steamy, and ultimately heartwarming read.