Quarantine and Read: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

At The Cool Table, we have a few romance books that we’d love all others to live up to. You probably know what they are by now: pretty much anything by Christina Lauren and The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. Almost all dirty Regency. Anything we cad add to the pillars of swoony goodness.

New-ish author Abby Jimenez is proving that she deserves to have a spot at that table too. Her 2019 release (and debut!), The Friend Zone, was one of my favorite books from last year and she has a new book out this spring. In order to prepare for that release, let’s dive into why The Friend Zone is such a treat.

“Well, we’re friends with benefits, right?”

The blurb for this book sounds similar to a lot of other romance books — a girl and a guy, neither looking for a relationship, but what the heck, let’s be friends with benefits. What could go wrong? Everything, and that is what makes the story worth reading.

Kristen is my favorite kind of MC. She’s sassy, but not in a fake, trying too hard way. She’s not afraid to house a Big Mac, and of course, she’s flawed.

Josh is similarly the kind of love interest we’re always looking for. He’s ex-marine so you know he’s buff. He isn’t fazed at all by Kristen’s would-be weirdness, and most importantly, her dog loves him. Dogs just know.

After their requisite meet-cute, Kristen and Josh are pretty much inseparable. Each of their respective best friends —  Sloan and Brandon —  are getting married, and Kristen and Josh are the maid of honor and best man, natch. They have to see each other all the time, right? Well, not in my personal experience, but it makes a nice excuse for their fast blooming friendship. And that’s truly what they are — best friends.

Kristen and Josh acknowledge that they find each other attractive, but their friendship truly came first — and not just for the sake of hooking up. Especially considering Kristen has a boyfriend. Oh that! He’s about to come home from being deployed overseas and Kristen is freaked. What was an easy relationship over the phone will now be real life, and she’s not sure she’s ready for it. So Josh respectfully bides his time. And we, the reader, wait along with him.

“It’s just that you’re perfect, and my heart hurts.”

What I loved so much about The Friend Zone is the complexity of its characters and their connections. Even when the book took a heavy emotional turn  — with a debilitating female psychical ailment that so many of us can relate to, the characters were true to themselves and the story. The story never shifted into melodrama.

And despite reading romance as an escape from the stress of real life, I like my romances to be real, to quote the iconic Cheryl Lynn. I don’t need secret princess fantasies or time travel (although when done well, you know I’m a fan), but what I do need is a convincing love story. Kristen-plus-Josh-equals-love convinced me. If I can’t be a part of their couple, I want to be invited to their #NetlfixParty.

I can’t stress enough that you need to seek out The Friend Zone pronto! It’s got the sex, the laughs, and the swoon that all romance readers love. If that’s not enough incentive for you, here’s some more. The sequel to The Friend Zone, The Happy Ever After Playlist, is hitting shelves next month. As someone who was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of it, I can tell you that Abby Jimenez is only getting better with time. She’s firmly cemented herself within my must-read author list and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

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