Gouda Friends is a sweet and sexy friends to lovers romance. Tam and Josh have always been each other’s BFF/emergency contact. They drifted apart when Tam moved from California to New York for a boyfriend and a dead end job at an ad agency. But when Tam catches her boyfriend with another woman (and worse: having eaten her precious fancy cheese with said woman), she immediately gives Josh a call. Josh owes his current success running a ghost kitchen business to Tam; she helped him figure his life out when he hit a personal low point a few years ago, and he’s glad for the opportunity to return the favour.
I love Tam and Josh’s relationship. Yardley does a great job of building up the sexual tension between them — their sex scenes are both scorching hot and adorably tentative, and I love how much their years-long friendship helped them understand what the other needed in bed. I also love how deeply they care for each other beyond the romance, and support each other through key life moments. Even with just slight, subtle references to the past, it’s clear to us just how much Tam helped Josh out of his low point years ago, and how much she contributes helpful ideas to the next stage of his career; and in turn, we get to see unfold in the present how Josh uses similar techniques to help Tam through her own career slump.
Josh is a super sweet friend; I like how he offers Tam a place to stay for an indeterminate amount of time, and more importantly, I love how Tam is equally determined to get on her own two feet in reasonable time. She values her independence without being too defensive about it, and as much as Josh wants to help her out for as long as it takes for her to figure out what she really wants to do with her life, he also respects her desire to stick to a reasonable timeline. There’s a deep thread of mutual respect between both of them, and I love that.
I also like the supporting characters; the nerd herd is a fun group. I like the various friends, and how they all jump in to support Tam through this major transitional moment in her life. I’m already looking forward to what I presume will be future romances in the series featuring Vinh and Emily, and Juanita and Darius. They’re all badass in their own ways, and it’s fun to see them working together to help each other out.
I admit the cheese puns did get a bit much after a while; I thought I loved cheese, but I didn’t realize until Tam how much more a person actually could be obsessed with cheese. But Tam is so genuinely enthusiastic about cheese (particularly Cloud City Creamery cheese!), and Josh so earnestly supportive of her love for it (he keeps feeding her stuff she loves to eat, which is so super sweet!), that I actually ended up liking the overall cheesiness of this part of the story. Mostly, I was happy that they were happy, and honestly: find yourself a man who’d fill his fridge with cheese just to keep you happy.
And finally, I love how both Tam and Josh’s stories vis-a-vis their careers turn out. The job Tam eventually takes is perfect in so many ways, and the way Josh’s pitch to his investors turns out, despite not being quite how he planned, makes so much sense. I love how these subplots about Tam and Josh figuring their professional lives out was so intricately interwoven with the romance, and how their partnership was developed on so many different levels.
Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.