The Last Single Man in Texas, Jess Whitecroft
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romcom
Tags: Humour, Slow Burn Romance, Enemies to Lovers
Length: 282 Pages
Purchase At: amazon
“They’re not going to pay me, I have no idea what my job is, and I have to spend the next six months in a cage match with Satan in Chuck Taylors. I can already feel the blistering hatred that’s about to break out between us, like the tingle before a herpes sore.”
When River O’Sullivan meets Benjamín Reyes at a job interview for a Houston tech firm it’s loathing at first sight. River thinks Ben is a spoiled, snotty rich brat who knows far too well that he’s gorgeous, while Ben dismisses rough Philly kid River as a hypersensitive pathological liar who dresses like ‘a dollar store Tyler Durden.’
To make matters worse they are forced together in competition for an unpaid internship at a workplace so lousy with corporate jargon and motivational nonsense that neither of them knows what the company even does, or what they’re supposed to be doing there, beyond picking up after their slimy boss Blair’s dog. It’s only when River and Ben finally admit to each other that they have no idea what their jobs are that they realise their pure and uncomplicated hatred of each other is the one small island of sanity they’re clinging to in their lunatic workplace. And that said hatred would be much better focused on Blair.
As hate gives way to grudging respect and affection, River begins to wonder if he could ever get Ben to consider him as more than just an unlikely friend, or if that’s a thing that would never happen, even if River was the last single man in Texas.
Dog theft, revenge porn, corporate skullduggery, and a deeply regrettable incident with an electric banana – it’s all going on in this enemies to lovers slow burn romance.
River O’Sullivan is on probation when he is forced by his parole conditions and officer to take an internship at CoLab, a company that basically sells abundance, vibrations, and magical feelings
beans via CEO Blair. Blair is the speaker of word salad that usually comes from some movie or TV character, or he sounds a lot like an OTT Anthony Robbins or Louise L Hay quote generator. That CoLab and Blair create bureaucratic and gaslighting confusion en masse has River caught in the most surreal situation he’s ever been in, and that’s a huge call, *waves at Kafka. And the corporation wants and gets its pound of “deserved” worker’s flesh *waves at Ayn Rand. All of which draws inspiration from people like 21st Century Man Elon Musk’s ability to con everyone that he’s geeky or nerdy or quirky just like them, while being the antithesis of all of those things.
Twenty-three year-old Ben Reyes happens to be at CoLab for the same internship as River because Ben’s dad is tired of Ben not doing something with his life so pulls some strings to get him there. Neither the Reyes’ family nor River’s parole officer seem to completely understand the madness that is CoLab and that there isn’t actually (ever going to be) any pay involved. That they both “need” this internship pits them against one another in the beginning – divisiveness is a necessary distraction for Blair. However, the more River and Ben snipe and snark and taunt one another, the more they get involved because they actually talk more to one another in torment than they do to anyone else at all. Besides, who else is going to rescue Pixel, Blair’s neglected pug who they both have to clean up after, and deal with the bamboozling that exists in the company. They are fully in the trenches together.
“You know what I mean, right? You’re like the only other sane person here in this absolute…circus.”
River laughed. “You’re cute. Can’t believe not so long ago you were trying to sabotage me by selling me your ADHD medication.”
This book is a trip, and I don’t mean like a holiday, I mean as in LSD. Look at that cover – it is representational of an event or two around bananas, and face-hiding. The environment of CoLab, much like it’s inhabitants, is perfect at keeping you off balance whilst also making River and Ben’s quirks seem pretty normal, and they aren’t especially. Or maybe they are. Maybe I’m just vibrating at the wrong frequency.
The world building of this romcom set against the backdrop of a contemporary corporation that seems to do nothing, except symbolise greed, with references to making money via scams and free labour, occasional techbros, start-ups, and cults is all rather apropos of our global economy. People do get flimflammed by the use of toxic positivity, bullshittery dressed up as substance, and that’s all perfectly conveyed. Jess Whitecroft adds plenty of the literary and pop culture references that she is known for and she loves – as do I – that give life to the melange of annoyance, romance, snark, mental health, sexy, sexy, SEXY times (and it is hellishly sexy), evolving but not heavy-handed backstories, and then bam! here comes pathos. I say bam! because for quite a while I couldn’t work out if I liked the MCs. and I wasn’t too worried, which is so fucking weird for this character obsessive to openly admit. Looking back at it I feel like there was some dark arts involved, maybe telepathic magical thinking. The reality is that I spent a lot of time laughing out loud and thinking about how oddly frustrating and entertaining life and people can be that I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about what I felt for River and Ben… until I did. Oh, and then, then I had an abundance of feels for Ben and River, sorry not sorry for using abundance 🙂
The Last Single Man in Texas features weirdly delightful and delicious MCs – I became supremely attached to both River and Ben as they became attached to one another. You get both POV so it’s good being in their heads. River can’t believe someone as gorgeous and long and lean, an ex underwear model, feels things for him. Ben has been hurt before and is unsure of what genuine affection might look like. And River is prone to telling a tall tale or two. I also enjoyed their family moments. I snort-laughed on far too many occasions for it to be pleasant or okay, so the humour is bang-on.
“Oh my God,” he said. “Of all the things we could wind up having in common, it’s this – public humiliation of the anal variety.”
Once again Whitecroft writes an intelligent, humorous story that can reinforce your own “crazy” is travelling pretty well in the grand scheme of things. Plus there is a slow burn romance that leads to longing and love and passion, dirty talk, and Morse code sexy times between River and Ben, plus some scheming comes into it, what’s not to love? All of the above work beautifully to make The Last Single Man in Texas one of my favourite books of 2021.