Title: Five Dares
Author: Eli Easton
Narrator: Tristan Josiah
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 6 hours and 19 minutes
At a Glance: This wasn’t one of my favorite Easton works, but I know that I enjoyed it much more for Tristan Josiah’s narration than I would if I had been reading it.
Reviewed By: Jovan
Blurb: Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.
But hey, nothing gets the “terrible duo” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Nantucket. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.
But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.
Review: Five Dares is a low-angst, bro-tastic NA book that has a very interesting way for the friends to develop into lovers. If nothing else, Eli Easton gets an A+ for creativity by taking the “dudes just helping each other get off” subsection of the friends-to-lovers trope to new levels with friendly 69ing because they were stupid enough to blow the skin off their palms with fireworks. With the premise, one might expect ridiculous or one-dimensional characters, but Jake and Andy have a decent amount of character complexity that keeps the MCs, particularly Andy, likeable and relatively interesting.
Andy and Jake have been friends and pranksters since high school. While most of the time, Andy follows the strict guidelines that his father set out for a successful career, he can’t completely contain his more reckless, dare-devil side that leads him to perform dangerous stunts with the help of his best friend, Jake. Although Jake thinks of Andy as the brave one, through flashbacks of the dares they’ve done since high school, the reader learns that Andy’s repressed denial of his feelings and fear of not living up to his family’s expectations fuels the adrenaline junkie feats that he uses as outlets for the emotions and ideas he’s too afraid to examine. When Andy’s last minute prank to celebrate graduation goes spectacularly wrong, Andy decides to use the accident as a way to spend time with the best friend he fears their diverging paths will take away from him.
As the close quarters and horniness overwhelm him, and helped along by his suspicion that Jake is bisexual, Andy suggests they help each other out with blowjobs, which escalates to more than just friends doing each other a favor as the summer progresses. Given Andy’s inability and desperation to avoid introspection and without his normal outlet of pranks, it is unsurprising that he bottles his growing feelings into dares and an almost aggressive sexual pursuit of Jake. While understandable at times, it does make him come across unfavorably, especially as he knowingly uses Jake’s friendship and tendency to follow his lead to get what he wants, and is almost petulant when Jake say no. Sometimes he acts like Jake should never say no, nor has a right to say no to him; his only saving grace is that once or twice he at least acknowledges that Jake does in fact have a right to say no, and his behavior is a bit d-baggy, but the more desperate he is to jump into action to avoid dealing with his feelings, the less considerate he is of what his best friend may be feeling or going through. If the writing wasn’t so well done, Andy would be an utterly unlikeable, entitled dick, IMO.
For me, this wasn’t one of my favorite Easton works, but I know that I enjoyed it much more for Tristan Josiah’s narration than I would if I had been reading it. While the voice-work for the female characters and the disapproving dad are a bit one-note, Josiah does a great job adding dimension to the MCs. For example, early on Andy comes across as an adrenaline junky attention whore who gets his kicks making people fear for his life. However, Josiah helps convey the fun and escapism in Andy’s pranks, as well as subtly showing that at his core, the attention Andy craves the most from his stunts is Jake’s. Though Five Dares hit a few of my pet peeves, overall the story and narration are solid and enjoyable, so fans of low-angst NA/YA with a sweet, engaging friendship and tidily wrapped up ending to the drivers behind Andy’s inner turmoil will like this one.
You can buy Five Dares here:
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