(fair warning: I've had a lot of coffee so I'll try to make this as coherent as possible :/)
Ok so let me begin by saying that Penny has nerd-ed her way up into my Top Contemporary Romance Writers List. The capital letters are to let you know that I mean business and that this is a real list...that's in my head but still. Deserves capital letters. Kelsie! Kelsie! What does it take to be on that list?! First, simmer down, I will tell you. You MUST have the ability to warp my reality. What I mean by that is basically you have to write amazing fictional characters that generally ruin actual people for me. Penny (I'm speaking directly to Penny right now) you have created a world so vivid and filled with amazing characters that you have done this for me. Well done, you!
In all seriousness, Friends Without Benefits was so much more than what I was expecting. Now before you get your knickers in a knot, knowing that Penny wrote the book, I was expecting a fun/light rom-com with funny characters and some smexiness. Sounds pretty great right? What I got was all of that, but with so much more depth. Now don't worry, it's not so deep that we drown in angst. It's perfectly balanced because...wait for it....Nico Manjellomiello (I can't pronounce his name either ;). People. Nico. Niiiiico. Niccolo. Let me just tell you something about Nico: he is literally one of the sweetest, hottest guys I've ever read about. He is hilarious and sexy and SPEAKS ITALIAN. Y'all need to put on your fire proof panties while reading this because this sexy Italian stallion will quite literally set them on fire.
Now this brings us to our lovely Elizabeth/Lizzybella/Skinny Finney. I have no idea how Penny is able to write a completely different character from Janie in Neanderthal Seeks Human and STILL I am able to see so much of myself in her that it makes me wonder if I have a bit of a Sybil issue, but she does. She writes the every woman and girl nails it. I'm warning you right now, Elizabeth will most likely drive you nuts. She's a little looney and incredibly stubborn, but what I like about her is that she is realistic. She gets scared and she makes mistakes. I think it's the flaws in a character that allow a reader to relate so well to them and that my fellow Trotters is the difference between fluff and substance. And Penny Reid has substance in spades.
As for the secondary characters. It is established that I love the knitting club. I lurve them. They are my fictional besties and I am so frickin happy that they are getting their own books. Can I get a yeehaw?!....too Southern? Ok, no more yeehaws. Noted. Can I get a woot woot?! There we go! So yes, the friends. Love them. Also, lets give a hand to the break out stars that make up Nico's gigantic family. I'm Irish/Italian so I felt like Penny did a very good job of capturing the chaos. And it is chaos. His mother, Rose? Yes. Dead on. My mother has been trying to marry me off since I was legal so I can sympathize. Quick warning: there is Italian spoken in this book (I know right? So hot) but it doesn't get translated very often (if at all) so you'll be looking that stuff up. Especially during a certain...ahem...spicy scene. Wink.
In short, I loved it. I love this series. I have an author crush on Penny Reid. Gah, I really don't wanna flaunt that fact that I received an ARC but WOOHOOOOO I GOT AN ARC AND IT WAS AWESOME AND I LOVE PENNY REID'S BOOKS!!!! EEEEEEP! Ok. That was uncalled for. I'm sorry. So would I recommend this? I feel like asking/answering this question is redundant but I have a routine...so yes! I would totally recommend this book! This is book 2 in the series, but you can totally read them as standalones (that sounds so sad. That word. Standalones. You can totally read them as loners? recluses? friendless losers? Huh. I guess standalones is the best option for a name, but I digress....) since it doesn't come out for another few weeks why don't you read book 1 in the series while you wait?