cover image Strictly Friends

Strictly Friends

Frances Mensah Williams. Lake Union, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3889-8

This uneven contemporary romance from Williams (The Second Time We Met) gets off to a strong start, but deteriorates in the final act. Ruby Lamont decides to track down Kenny, the ex who abandoned her six years before the start of the book, to get some closure for herself and her eight-year-old son. This quest takes her to Sorrel Island in the Caribbean, a place rumored to inspire true love. Ruby dismisses the legend—until Kenny confesses that he’s never stopped loving her. Then she meets a smoking hot artist who asks her to be his muse. Finally, her best friend, Griffin, follows her to the island for moral support. Griffin has always been there for Ruby and Jake, but Ruby has never considered dating him because of Griffin’s playboy reputation. Griffin, meanwhile, has pined for Ruby for years. Ruby’s torn between men, until she learns Kenny’s reason for abandoning her—and discovers that Griffin knew about it all along. This twist leads to a dragging third act full of frustrating conflict that could be easily resolved if the characters just talked to each other. It’s a weak, overdone climax that undermines Williams’s impressive character work and relationship building. This fails to stick the landing. Agent: Rukhsana Yasmin, Good Literary. (Mar.)