Review: Gouda Friends – Cathy Yardley
by Cathy Yardley
Series: Ponto Beach Reunion #2
Also in this series: Love, Comment, Subscribe
Publication Date: March 22, 2022
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Two high school BFFs reunite and endeavor to fix each other’s lives in this geeky romance from the author of Love, Comment, Subscribe.
Tam Doan dumped her boyfriend after he threw away her gourmet cheese. Sure, it’s a little more complicated than that, but the point is, he had it coming. Newly single and unemployed, Tam calls up her best friend from high school and utters the emergency code word—goldfish. Next thing she knows, she’s on a plane back home.
Josh O’Malley was a troubled, unconfident teenager. Now he’s the successful owner of a multimillion-dollar ghost kitchen. Tam, his high school BFF and fellow member of the Nerd Herd friend group, was instrumental in building his self-esteem. When she calls him out of the blue, he jumps at the chance to return the favor.
Josh and Tam immediately get to work fixing her life—but again, it’s complicated. Their close friendship was always a lifeline between them; a blooming romance might confuse things. Still, at least one thing is for certain: their chemistry is un-brie-lievable.
After adoring Love, Comment, Subscribe, I knew I had to read the next book in the series ASAP. Friends to lovers is a favorite trope of mine, and seeing that it involved two other members of the Nerd Herd? I was so excited! And it definitely lived up to the first book, full of humor, romance and a thoughtful exploration of some of the hurdles facing late 20-somethings. While this is the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone.
“I am homeless, unemployed, and got cheated on,” she said. “Hashtag: winning.”
Tam and Josh have been best friends forever, though they’ve talked less frequently over the past five years as she’s been in NYC with her boyfriend and working constantly at her job. When she finds out that her boyfriend is cheating? Her first inclination is still to call Josh, and that’s how she ends up back in California and staying in his guest room. Suddenly cut adrift, Tam realizes she’s not happy with the way her life has been going, so she and Josh decide to brainstorm and find her dream job, whatever that may be. But as Tam trials different jobs, she and Josh start to realize that their constant past assertions that they’re not romantically interested in each other may not be so true anymore.
Tam’s dissatisfaction with her work life is something that I think will ring true for many late 20-somethings today. She’s a hard-worker, endlessly creative and a problem solver, but her past employers have walked all over her. It’s no wonder Josh is determined to help Tam find her dream job. After all, she’s the one suggested he follow through on his own dream of starting a ghost kitchen, which completely changed his life for the better, so he feels like he owes it to her. And if that keeps her staying with him longer, all the better! It’s easy to see that they’re great friends, with plenty of banter and affection for each other, and also easy to see why falling into a romantic relationship is a draw for them. They’re so adorable and funny together and I loved every minute they spent on page together.
The big issue with their romance is, of course, that they’re worried they’ll lose their friendship. It was the thing that sustained them both through dealing with their dysfunctional families in high school, and they’ve always been there for each other, from Tam providing the boost to get the ball rolling on his dream job when he was at his lowest point to him returning the favor now. But while that part of the friends-to-lovers trope played out as I expected, I liked that their bleak moment was a little different. They are such good friends that they’ve had front row seats to the things that have gone wrong in each other’s previous relationships and neither wants to repeat those errors, whether that’s demanding more of Josh than Tam thinks he’s willing to give, or Josh believing Tam will be happiest pursuing her dream job.
“I’ll be your cheese daddy.” She let out a peal of laughter. “Oh my God. Cheese daddy. I have to put that in a meme somewhere.”
“Talk curdy to me,” Asad joked.
“Doesn’t get any feta than this,” Freddie chimed in.
“Brie my valentine, I’m so fondue you,” Tam added, her voice full of laughter. “They write themselves.”
Of course, given that title and cover, food is featured prominently in the story. Sure, at the beginning of the book, Tam isn’t happy to come home and find her boyfriend cheating with his ex, but it’s the revelation that he threw out her expensive comfort cheese that’s the final straw in their relationship. Tam and cheese are, well, inseparable, so there’s lots of dairy goodness, from charcuterie boards to grilled cheese. Plus, since Josh owns a ghost kitchen, there’s all the dishes from his various restaurants as well. I loved learning about ghost kitchens, basically restaurants that solely do delivery, no in-person dining. And then there’s the endless cheese puns, which were suitably silly. I also loved the thoughtful way Tam handled how to balance work and life (an echo of the theme in the previous book) and how she dealt with her ex. What I didn’t like? There’s a subplot with a renter at Josh’s kitchen space that I didn’t care for and wasn’t sure how it moved the plot along.
Overall, this is a cute, funny and cheese-filled friends-to-lovers romance! I’ve already bought another of the author’s books and can’t wait to read more from her!
Content notes: View Spoiler »cheating, emotionally abusive toxic relationship, misogyny, threat to falsely accuse character of sexual harassment « Hide Spoiler