Always Eli (Forever Love #1) ~ Charlie Novak
Always Eli is the first book in Charlie Novak's new series Forever Love. Eli was first introduced as Lewis' brother in Proficiency Bonus (Roll for Love #3). I was intrigued by Eli's introduction in that story, so I was thrilled to see that he got his own book.
Always Eli has all the characteristics you expect from a Charlie Novak novel: beautiful, genuine characters; engaging story; laughs; a good dose of steam; all the romance and intimacy you could possibly want; and just a touch of angst (outside of the relationship) to keep the story interesting.
A large part of this story involves Eli’s performances as a drag queen, and it was great to see how this plays out on the page. I do not have a lot of experience with representations of this performance art, but to me anyway, it was presented very tastefully and sensitively. Honestly, it made me want to go and look up a show in my local area to experience it for myself; it looked like a lot of fun!
One of the defining characteristics of Charlie's stories is her characters. I haven't met one yet that I haven't been 100% invested in, and Eli and Tristan were no exception. These men were beautiful together, with Tristan 110% behind Eli. They were the perfect counterbalances for each other: Eli's sunshiney, light and free personality and lifestyle balanced Tristan’s more reserved qualities. They complemented but never overshadowed each other.
Eli and Lewis' family once again played a significant role in the story. Loud and loving, they are a group of whacky characters, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them have books of their own at some stage. It was also lovely to be reacquainted with characters from previous books. Apart from Jason and Lewis, Leo and Jay also make a couple of appearances, and it was nice to see them pop up again.
A bit of angst or drama was scattered throughout the story until it reached its climax. The tension was not between Eli and Tristan but from outside, and it was quickly and satisfactorily resolved.
Always Eli can be read as a standalone; it is not necessary to have read any of the other related series. However, there will be some 'in jokes' and references to things that happened in the previous stories that you won't understand. This lack of background knowledge will not impact your enjoyment of Eli's story.
If you enjoy a smart and funny story with captivating characters, who are devoted to each other and not afraid to show it leading to so. much. romance. then I'd highly recommend checking out Charlie Novak's Always Eli.