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Elana Johnson
The Relationtrip
Question: What do a reclusive author and an outgoing travel agent have in common? Answer: Nothing. But fate brought them together on a vacation five years ago, and as Logan and Sloane prepare for their annual get-together, there's sparks flying between them. Sloane: When Logan Murphy, my accidental best friend, calls to say our annual mid-winter trip has to be "redone," he's already got the solution. Belize. An adults-only resort, and we leave in two days. I'm giddy with excitement, because I need this trip more than I can express. When I see Murph standing in the airport, my heart twitches to a beat it hasn't since my fiancé left me to tell our friends and family that he couldn't make it to the wedding. So it's a short-lived twitch, because I'm never going to get into the dating boxing ring again - and least of all with my best friend. Logan: I've never told Sloane what I do for a living, and she doesn't know how I feel about her either. But I find I want her to know all of my secrets. I want my best friend in my life more than once a year, and I've already started penning a happily-ever-after for the two of us. This year, I tell myself, as my crush on the vibrant woman is at least three years old now. If only I knew how to tell her... This is a standalone, slow-burn travel romance that will make you smile, gasp, and cheer for Logan and Sloane as they figure out who they are...and who they want - at home or on vacation. For fans of BEACH READ and THE PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION by Emily Henry, THE LAYOVER by Lacie Waldon, or THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren.
Prolific clean romance author Johnson (The Grumpy Cowboy Collection) begins a new travel series with an optimistic friends-to-lovers vacation romance. Ever since Logan “Murph” Murphy stepped in as a last-minute companion for Sloane Sanders’ planned honeymoon after her fiancé abandoned her at the altar five years ago, they’ve been long distance best friends and have arranged a yearly vacation week together. But this year in Belize, everything is different: though Sloane’s been indulging in cuddly romantic fantasies about Murph, when he admits he’d like to date her, she’s afraid of ruining the friendship—and of being hurt like she was before.

Romance readers who know exactly what they like — cozy romances with beachy kisses and people learning to trust offers of happiness — will enjoy this execution of a classic formula. Logan and Sloane are likable leads; Johnson depicts them as well-suited to one another, and gives each of their concerns equal weight in the text. Their connection may be a slow burn, though the arc of their emotional progression doesn’t change much: both are interested from the start, as most of the tension comes from skittishness. The aspects of the story that center on becoming comfortable in honest feelings hit solidly. Though beach lovers will sympathize with Sloane’s swimwear decision woes, lovers of travel romances may find details on Belize lacking as the setting remains largely a generic resort.

The dramatic climax follows classic tropes but strains credulity, with the accidental revelation of a surprise from Logan that would have taken serious effort for him to have kept concealed for so long, and then Logan fighting to win her back by engaging in behavior that’s presented as sweet but in real life would set alarm bells ringing. But the sparkling final pages, complete with loop-around closure to the next year’s vacation, is exactly what the story requires.

Takeaway: Lovers of cozy, slow-burn clean romances will enjoy this beach story.

Comparable Titles: Emma St. Claire's Sandover Island series, Francesca Lane’s Grace’s Fake Groom.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B