Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
What does it mean to love yourself, to be true to yourself, to really know yourself? These are some big questions coming from Jolie Vines’s newest book, Race You. She has touted it as an enemies-to-lovers, workplace romance. These are simple categories to explain a text with a greater depth of discovery.
Race You follows Arnie and Emma, two workers at odds with each other. Emma is straight-laced, follows the rules of the company, and is industrious sometimes to a fault. Arnie is Emma’s anti-thesis: he’s seemingly laidback, gets along with most people, and he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. Or so it seems. From the outset of their working relationship, Emma feels Arnie sets her up poorly with their boss. This places them at odds…at least from her point of view. Arnie’s perspective is very different: he is entranced with Emma. Each day, he finds a way to provoke her because he loves any attention from her, as he slowly falls in love with her.
A project arises in their workplace, and Emma is keen on doing well as she is looking for a promotion. Arnie ensures that they are placed on the same team, as he wants her time and energy. Feeling as though he might sabotage her, she tries to protect herself from him, only to realize that he adores her, much to her surprise. Very quickly, these two grow strong feelings for each other. Unfortunately, the actions of Arnie’s past and his subsequent future plans threaten his potential with Emma, and Emma struggles with the aftermath of her ex-boyfriend’s emotional terrorism. Will these two overcome their past issues to find a future together? Will they learn to love themselves past their former traumas? This is the crux of Vines’s story.
“We kissed one another like it was all we could do, like London had run out of oxygen and our mouths were made of air. This was so much better than fighting.”
Jolie Vines is an author who is relatively new to me. I found her through reading an ARC from her Marry the Scots series, and I realized quickly that I like her heroes. If you spend any time in my blog or Facebook group (Professor Romance), you realize quickly that I am an equal opportunity romance reader. There isn’t much I won’t read: most tropes, dark romance, clean romance, etc. Since my real “bread and butter” tends to be angsty, alpha-level male romances, I oftentimes forget about the types of heroes that I find in Jolie Vines’s stories: the men who simply adore the female heroine of their tale. This is, in my opinion, what makes Vines’s books so delicious to read. And this is the case with Race You.
For me, Arnie is THE “everything” in this book. In the beginning, he’s seemingly too laid back, as we are given Emma’s point of view. She views him through her over-achieving, rule-driven filter. Everything seems to come easy to him, and at first glance, you might think he’s some one-dimensional male character. However, once Arnie’s point of view enters the narration, you learn very quickly that he is multi-layered and completely obsessed with Emma in all the best ways. He is swoon-worthy, as he works hard to help Emma achieve the promotion, creates memory-making dates, and cares for her in times of trouble. It’s clear that Arnie is definitely not laid-back; he’s enamored with Emma in ways that most women would love for a man to be. I found myself anticipatory for his chapters because I loved the way he loved Emma especially when she struggled to love herself. It was this anticipation that glued me to Vines’s story.
Now, Emma is a lovely character in this book. She tends towards neuroticism, in my opinion. And there were plenty of times when I wanted to whisper in her ear to stop overthinking every situation. Thankfully, Vines rectifies this quickly and remedies situations, so that the angst level of the story stays low. It’s just enough to keep you engaged, but not enough to stop you reading the story. This is a delicate balance where other authors struggle. Not Vines, however. Instead, she knows how to allow the hero to rescue the situation long before the story becomes too painful for the reader.
“Someone, by slow increments, I’d come to need him.”
Additionally, I loved how Emma (once she acknowledged her interest in Arnie) helped him accept his past and choose a better future for himself. Their relationship aids each in healing past wounds and finding self-love because they feel the love of the other. For me, this was the true essence and beauty of Race You, along with Vines’s other books. Love should heal, not hurt the individual. And Vines illustrates this beautifully in her book. Her hero (in this case, Arnie) and her heroine (Emma) complete each other. She takes two halves and creates a whole…
I have quickly come to adore Jolie Vines. Her stories are little bits of heaven in the world of romance. You will always find these incredible men who love and take control and adore their heroines. And the heroines bloom under their care in her books. Vines always throws in a little angst, but she takes care to control it enough to allow her readers’ love for her books to bloom too. Even more, Jolie Vines’s Race You reminds readers that love should always allow you to love yourself; anything else is simply dishonest, an important truth to remember every day.
“I could breathe. She believed me. I knew her, and the tide had turned. Now for the home truths she needed to hear. ‘And love me, ‘ she whispered. ‘Because you don’t think you deserve to be loved. Because love wasn’t always reliable, and that’s why you decided so easily that mine was fake. Why you saw what happened on that stage and didn’t wait to hear my side because it validated what you knew deep down. Because you love me, and that scares you because you think I’ll break your heart…’’I won’t. I will never, ever hurt you. You mean the world to me. Everything that is colourful and beautiful. It’s all you. Your heart, your smile.’[…] ‘You are perfect. A perfection I tried to replicate but never could. If I paint you for the rest of my life, I’ll never capture this feeling you give me. I love you and you love me. At least I hope to god you do.’”
In love and romance,