Bayou with Benefits
by Erin Nicholas
“Bayou with Benefits” is part of the ‘Badges of the Bayou’ series by Erin Nicholas, and it’s an excellent friends-to-lovers story with a terrific balance of humor and emotion. Although it fits into the world of several related series by this author, this book be read and enjoyed as a complete standalone.
The LeClaire and Landry families have been friends for as long as anyone can remember. Michael LeClaire is the local fire chief, single dad to a wonderful son, and a man who can be counted on to deal with any problem, big or small. Ami Landry is the third of three daughters, known as the ‘pretty’ one. She’s a former beauty queen, successful model, and social media influencer. She and Michael have been attracted to one another for a while, but they’ve agreed to not act on it because her life and career is in New York City and his is in Autre, Louisiana. He knows he can’t do a long-distance relationship and there is fear of ruining their friendship. A further complication is her close friendship with his son; if Michael and Ami were to start a romantic relationship and it didn’t work out, he might be hurt, and neither adult wants to risk that. When their close family ties mean they have to see one another, it’s wonderful but it’s also a test of willpower to resist their attraction. After a car accident has a lasting impact on her appearance, it has a deeper lasting effect on both of them and their perceptions about themselves and the world.
There are plenty of lighthearted and hilarious moments in this book, which balance out and highlight the very serious parts. This author’s books often hit on multiple levels, but this one really went above and beyond my expectations. Michael and Ami are both vivid characters with complex emotions and ongoing internal and external struggles. Their journey is heartbreaking and exhilarating, and they truly deserve their HEA. Michael’s son also goes through an understandable, emotional journey of his own as this story unfolds, and I thought that was handled extremely well. If you’re familiar with other books by this author, you’ll recognize some of the colorful secondary characters, many of whom have had books highlighting their own romances. The settings in the characters are so well-depicted that you want to go visit them in their world. Once again, I can’t wait for the next book by this author!