Book Reviews

The Setup by Ofelia Grand at JMS Books

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by ParisDude on 09-March-2023

Book Blurb

Three years ago, Dax Howard got out of a bad relationship and swore never to date again. He loves his picturesque cabin outside Nortown and is looking forward to three weeks of quiet over the holidays. He hadn't foreseen a stranger turning in on his driveway in the middle of a snowstorm, claiming he's there for a date.

Ellis Rush has risked his neck driving in a snowstorm to meet his friend Daniel and his boyfriend Dom for a double date he agreed to go on as a favor. Reaching the destination, he can't see Daniel's car anywhere, and when the mountain of a man opening the door says he's never agreed to go on a double date, Ellis realizes he's been played.

The more Ellis explains the situation, the more annoyed Dax gets. Dom is one of his closest friends, and he does not appreciate the setup, no matter how intrigued he is by Ellis. Since the roads are undrivable, Dax invites Ellis to stay, and together they plot their revenge. Cooking for Ellis, kissing Ellis, and sleeping next to Ellis isn't the same thing as dating, is it?


Book Review

Ofelia Gränd is one of those writers I’ve already encountered several times in one of the cozy Facebook groups where I hang out—a Swedish author of M/M novels I didn’t have time to check out so far. But last December, her publisher ran a promotional Advent Calendar online which allowed people to download each day a given book for free. When I saw Ofelia’s name pop up, I didn’t hesitate, telling myself this was the perfect opportunity to get a first glimpse of this author’s œuvre.


‘The Setup’ turned out to be a short read, almost a novella, in fact. Surprisingly—remember, I’m no big fan of novellas, preferring longer books—I found it very charming. It starts with young chocolatier Ellis driving through a snowstorm at night, in the middle of nowhere, to meet up with his bestie Daniel and Daniel’s boyfriend for a double date. Nothing in that sentence fills him with joy: night drive, middle of nowhere, snowstorm, double date. Ugh. But that’s what friends are for, as the song goes.


At one moment, he has to stop, though. He cannot even see the road anymore, it’s snowing so hard. Luck would have it that he has reached the address his bestie gave him, which turns out to be an isolated cabin. When he knocks on the door, a hunk of a man opens. That’s how he meets Dax the woodworker - manly, tall, handsome, muscular, but alas, not keen at all on having a stranger showing up on his doorstep. Weirder still, said stranger claims he has been invited for a double date and asks about a certain Daniel. Dax is perplexed. He doesn’t know who Daniel is. He doesn’t do double dates, either; he doesn’t do dates, full stop, not since his ex broke his heart (and probably his nose and several ribs, too).


But snowstorm. Blizzard, really. It would be inhuman, criminal even, to send the stranger packing. Plus, said stranger does look innocuous. One could go as far as saying he’s pretty cute, despite a quaint penchant for oversharing. The stage is therefore set for a quick-and-easy insta-falling-in-love winter romance as heart-warming as the fire crackling in Dax’s fireplace.


Heart-warming it was. The setting alone would have made me swoon. Imagine, snow falling outside, but you’re sitting in a warm and cozy cabin lost in the middle of nowhere, facing a handsome, hot stranger you’ve just met, and the fizzy-fuzzies start slowly spreading in your belly, and you can see that the man before you apparently feels the same… Shared laughs, shared silences, long looks into eager eyes, chemistry taking hold of the two, electricity sparkling. Add a hint of painful back stories, a virtually absent scheming bestie, a vibrant plaidoyer for chocolate, a jointly hatched vengeance plan, and (sorry for divulging it) a sweet and funny Happily Ever After, and you get why this was a sweet, sweet read indeed.


Of course I would have loved it to be longer. The characters as such could only be sketched, as is often the case in novellas, and the whole plot turned out easy and simple. But sometimes, I’m perfectly fine with easy and simple. No need for unnecessary complications. Ofelia Gränd’s style turned out to be engaging, light and funny, with much warmth and empathy for the main characters and undisguised delight in making them fall for each other. I really liked this short winter romance and will surely check out more of this author’s books.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been downloaded for free by the reviewer from the publisher’s website.


Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Short Story, 55 pages/14382 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 19-November-2022
Price $2.99 ebook
Buy Link