Snow, steam, and a second chance.
Reluctant socialite Kai has thirty-five days before his family starts shooting the next season of their reality TV show, revealing a life he’d rather keep private—and one that feels increasingly scripted. Desperately needing a break, Kai escapes to his childhood best friend Hiro Asada’s inn in rural Japan. He finds peace in the thousand-year-old hot springs, but his yearning for Hiro resurfaces at the worst time: Hiro is about to inherit the inn, and his parents expect him to marry within the year.
Hiro’s traditional family loves him for who he is, but they can’t imagine two men running the inn. Meanwhile, Kai has a TV contract his lawyer insists can’t be broken. Hiro and Kai need to think outside the box—and solve their problems before Christmas Day, when Kai’s show shoots its annual holiday special.
The Winter Quarters is set for publication October 15. Preorder the book here!
Thank you very much to Anna Veriani for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The seasons change as we rotate around the sun. In the summer the cicadas hum; in the winter it snows. And I’m in love with Kai Ledging.
The Winter Quarters is the soft, feel-good queer romance I’ve been waiting for! I laughed, I cried, and I smiled like an absolute loon because this story and these characters touched me so deeply.
Kai Ledging is a reality TV star who hates everything about his life: from his fake boyfriend, to the cameras constantly in his face, to paparazzi that stalk him. But he forces himself through it because his mother has poured her heart and soul into the show, and has climbed her way to American and international stardom from rural Japan, leaving behind her husband and family. The only light in his life is his best friend Hiro Asada, who works at his family’s hot springs in Japan which he is set to inherit. So Kai escapes, hopping on a plane and running to hide in his best friend’s inn, the only place he’s ever felt truly at home.
Kai feels safe and loved with Hiro and the only thing that’s stopped him from perusing anything romantic is because Hiro is straight … but then Hiro comes out. Unfortunately, Hiro’s parents still expect him to marry a woman in order to inherit the inn, because they don’t believe that a male partner could take on the traditional hostess duties of the inn that have always been conducted by a woman. But lucky for Hiro and Kai, because Hiro’s grandmother is backing up their corner …
I love the friends to lovers trope (not as much as enemies to lovers but damn, Anna Veriani has almost made me a complete convert with this book!) and it was developed so perfectly in The Winter Quarters. There is so much mutual pining from both Kai and Hiro and it was delicious to read. I love angst in my books and nothing gets me more excited than two characters always being in love with one another and who don’t know that the other is just as in love as they are. Veriani’s writing is so well done, you can feel Kai and Hiro’s attraction to one another. I love how their friendship develops so naturally from friendship to romance — they’re still best friends with each other even with the romantic feelings involved, which is so important in a relationship.
“I think when you’ve loved someone as long as I’ve loved you, it stops sounding like a grand declaration. I’ve thought it so many times in my head that it’s just a fact to me.”
I also really appreciated the discussion around Hiro’s sexuality. Hiro is comfortable in who he is, but he struggles to reconcile it with his parents expectations. They love and support him so much, but they can’t understand how two men could possibly run a traditional inn together. Hiro’s extended family plays a large part in the plot and they’re such enjoyable characters! His cousins are fun and loveable, and their dynamic with Hiro and Kai is so sweet. There’s also a side romance in this novel between two women, and I won’t spoil anything and say who it’s between, but I found it so lovely and adorable, and I cried.
Veriani’s prose is so magical and vivid, and perfectly captures the beautiful Japanese countryside. You can tell that Veriani lives in Japan because she painted such a beautiful picture of the natural hot springs, of the mountainous terrain, and of the charming villages dotting the landscape.
The Winter Quarters is a book that I needed to read. It’s so soft and gentle (and unexpectedly funny), just two men trying to navigate their friendship to make way for what they hope will be a life-long romance. I highly recommend this book — it’s the gay, friends-to-lovers romance you’ve always wanted. Consider me even more excited for Anna Veriani’s next book!