Title ~ Not Just Friends
Author ~ Jay Northcote
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date ~ 24th February 2014
Rating ~ 5 Stars
Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis is not prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max—given that Lewis had always assumed he was straight. Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction.
When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. But after a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends. Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.
College stories are a favourite of mine, English or American I just love stories about young love so I was pretty sure when I read the blurb that this was going to be right up my street, and my intuition wasn't wrong...it was a winner! When Lewis first arrives at his new college in Bristol, he meets three of his new roommates Dean, Rob and Andreas and they spend a few hours after they've moved their stuff in, eating pizza and getting to know each other. They seem like nice enough guys so Lewis is pretty happy with the situation. Its his first time away from home so its all a bit of an adventure. He's left behind his best mate Paul and an ex girlfriend who he was with throughout sixth form but who he's amicably split from, so he's free and ready for college life and all it brings.
Then Max arrives. A couple of hours late he breezes in on the gang and Lewis is drawn to him straight away. Slender, with dyed blonde hair, earrings and full of life, Lewis can't stop sneaking glances at this young guy, with his exotic, striking looks and his beautiful pale green eyes. As the night goes on, the five of them start to get to know each other, talk turns to sex and Max tells them all that he's gay. All the rest of the guys are straight, including Lewis...or is he?
From then on the story goes in exactly the direction you think it will. The more that Lewis is in Max's company, the more he finds himself attracted to him. Max starts a relationship with another gay lad on campus which Lewis tries not to think about as he attempts to live the straight life but as time goes on he begins to realise that perhaps the feelings he has for Max aren't as platonic as he thought. Reliving memories of his friendship with Paul, his BFF back home, make him question that perhaps his affection for him wasn't as cut and dried as he thought and he knows deep down that his relationship with Cara, his ex, was never a relationship with any spark to it, they had sex but it was never particularly fulfilling.
Max and he become close and end up spending a lot of time together, and when Max's new boyfriend lets him down badly, Lewis finds himself comforting Max and the inevitable happens but the morning after things are strained so they decide to try and forget it ever happened and just stay friends. From then on its a typical will they/won't they, GFY style story that pretty much follows the general pattern of this type of book. So why the five stars?
Well, it gets five because honestly once I started, I couldn't put it down. I knew when I picked it up I was going to thoroughly enjoy Jay Northcotes easy writing style and I fell in love with these two sweet, extremely likeable young guys who I connected with as soon as both of them appeared on page. I've said before and I'll say it again, its how you tell a story that engages you to a particular book and this little cracker sucked me in straight away. It kept my attention all the way through. There's some nice sub plots added to flesh it out, concerning Lewis' family and all the secondary characters, including a really nice female friend, who are well rounded and add great support to the growing love story that in itself is sweet, endearing and just angsty enough to stir things up a bit. I hold my hands up, I loved it! GFY and all! Sexy, entertaining and fun.
Max is a delightful character, I adored him and Lewis who I also loved, is a total sweetie. They both got under my skin and despite a bit of eye rolling at some the misunderstandings they generated, I rooted for them all the way, getting all warm and fuzzy at the right spots and feeling the love when finally they both got their heads out of their arses and saw what was staring them in the face. This is the second Jay Northcote book I've read and it certainly won't be the last.
At the end of the day this made me happy, and that's what its all about!
Interview with Jay Northcote
Hi Jay, welcome to SSBR, it’s lovely to have you here with us talking about your new book Not Just Friends. I have to say I loved this. How are you feeling now that it’s finally ready for release?
Thank you! It’s lovely to be here. I’m thrilled you liked the book.
I’m currently overwhelmed by pre-release nerves. It’s wonderfully exciting but terrifying too. After months of writing, editing and waiting for release I’m impatient for it to be out there, but I’m biting my nails while I wait to see what readers think of it!
I really fell for Max and Lewis. They were adorable. How did they get you to tell their story?
It’s really hard to remember now because I wrote it several months ago, and have written so many things since. But I seem to recall the ideas came to me quite naturally once I’d got the basic outline down. Their characters developed organically in the planning stage, and then Max in particular took on a life of his own once I started writing.
When you were writing Max and Lewis, did you have a fixed picture in your head of what they looked like and if you did, was it pure imagination or do you get inspiration from pictures you see of real people?
It varies from character to character. I am often inspired by pictures of actors or models but not always. Sometimes I have a picture in my head first and go looking for similar faces afterwards. I had a very clear idea of what Max looked like (he was initially loosely based on Jett Black of Cockyboys fame with a hint of Draco Malfoy), Lewis was a little vaguer but he’s more of a cute but nondescript boy next door type compared to Max who is quite striking.
A lot of writers listen to music as they write. I had to smile at a depressed Max listening to Morrissey and The Smiths the night he and Lewis finally give in to the initial attraction. Brought back a lot of memories for me. Do you have a playlist for each book you write or is music not that important to you when you're in author mode?
I’m actually one of those writers who likes silence to write. I find music really distracting because it demands my attention, so I never listen to music when I’m working. I work best with peace and quiet. It’s a shame, sometimes I wish I could write with music playing but it just doesn’t work for me.
I love college stories, there's something about them I love but a lot of them do seem to have the ' straight' boy falling for the gay guy. I don't have a problem with GFY plots because I think it makes for great sexual tension and chemistry and I love that in a m/m romance but a lot of readers find it an unrealistic trope. Would you class this story as GFY or do you see it differently?
I don’t consider Not Just Friends to be a GFY story. Lewis is gay, he just doesn’t know it at the start of the book. He’s very young—still a teenager—and is still working himself out. Max is the catalyst in Lewis’s discovery of his sexuality, but if Lewis hadn’t met Max, he would have had a similar experience with another guy sooner or later. Part of Lewis’s backstory is that he had a crush on his best mate at school, but he was still in denial at that point so didn’t really recognise it for what it was. I’d call Not Just Friends a story of self-discovery and coming out rather than GFY. But there is a fair amount of crossover I suppose, and as you say—lots of lovely scope for sexual tension.
I really liked Amanda's character. It was really nice to see a girl who wasn't a bitch or nasty ex girlfriend. How important are the supporting characters for you and do you find them taking over sometimes if you connect with them too. I loved all the guys in this, they're were all likeable characters!
Lewis and Max’s flatmates were fun. Some of my favourite scenes in the book are with all the boys together, I really enjoyed writing those.
I’m glad you liked Amanda. I was fond of her too. I often try to put strong, interesting female characters into my books to support the male leads. Miranda—Joel’s sister in The Little Things—became very important in that story, more than I’d originally intended, but I liked her so much I ran with it. I think supporting characters are very important to a story and I enjoy developing them. You can learn a lot about your main characters by letting them interact with other people, but the challenge in romance writing is still keeping the romance plot front and centre. It can be hard to stay focused if you have a very large cast of characters.
Before you started writing, did you read a lot of m/m and do you have your own fave authors within it who inspire you.
I wouldn’t say I’ve read very widely in the genre—I’m working on it! But I definitely have some favourite authors. Auto-buy authors for me are N.R. Walker, Eli Easton, Con Riley and Josephine Myles, but there are so many great books being released all the time. My TBR list just keeps growing, it’s wonderful!
I noticed it says that you come from a family of writers but you came to it later. What do they think of you writing in this genre?
Sadly my mum died over ten years ago, long before I ever started writing. But I like to think that she would be completely supportive and excited for me. She was very liberal and would probably have thought it was great. My sisters know what I write, a couple of them have even pre-read things for me although m/m isn’t really their genre of choice. My dad knows I write romance but I only told him recently and was a little vague about the details. I’m not sure what he’d think, so decided not to rock the boat for now.
So now that this is finished. What's next on the horizon, any new projects for us to get excited about... or is it top secret? Lol.
I have a couple of short stories contracted and due for release in Dreamspinner anthologies fairly soon. One will be out in the Juicy Bits anthology in April and the other in the Not Quite Shakespeare anthology in June. I have another novella in the pipeline, but don’t want to jinx it by discussing it yet. I finished that a couple of weeks ago, and since then I’ve been working on the outline for a new project that I will be starting to write this week.
I see you’re a Bristol resident! Will you be going to the UK meet this year? We're all going to be there so it would be lovely to meet you in person. It must be fantastic to have it on your doorstep!
Yes! I’m going to be at the UK meet so I’ll see you there J It will be the first time I’ve done anything like that as I’m still a newbie in the m/m world but I’m really looking forward to it.
Well thanks so much for being here today Jay, it’s been a pleasure. I think Max and Lewis are definitely going to gain some fans out there. They've already got one here. Do you think you might bring them back sometime or are there new guys in your head talking to you already? Looking forward to whatever you bless us with next.
My next project is another standalone. I haven’t written sequels for anything yet, but I might consider it at some point in the future.
It’s been lovely having you with us today Jay and we hope you stop by for another visit soon.
Thanks for having me at Sinfully Sexy, it’s been a pleasure, and I’m really glad you enjoyed Max and Lewis’s story.
About Jay Northcote
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her amazing, occasionally ridiculous husband, two noisy-but-awesome children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
Jay Northcote will be gifting one very lucky reader an eBook of Not Just Friends, all you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.