Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
“‘I’m yours,’ I said against her lips before taking them. Forever was written in that kiss.”
Staci Hart is new to me. This is only the second book from her that I have read, the first being Well-Suited, the fourth book of her Red Lipstick Coalition series. With that book, I appreciated her story and loved the characters, but there was something missing for me. Part of it was its voice. It lacked some level of flow for me. However, in the end, I realized how much I appreciated and respected Hart’s storytelling.
When I read the blurb for Hart’s newest book, Coming Up Roses, I was drawn to three things: the enemies-to-lovers trope (LOVE IT!), a playboy-level, seemingly irresponsible hero, and an “inspired by Jane Austen” level story. I was all in after reading those qualities. Add to that a beautiful cover, and this book had to be mine.
And Coming Up Roses did not disappoint in the least. To begin, the voice of this book changed from Well-Suited. From the outset, the words and sentiments on the page flowed, so much so that I could not put this book down. In fact, I read it from front to back in one sitting. It captured me, clobbered me over the head with its humor and sweet story.
It is a bit deceiving in the realm of enemies-to-lovers. There are two main characters, Tess and Luke. Tess sees Luke as an enemy due to a moment in their past. From the outset, Luke recognizes Tess’s virtues, and he’s puzzled by her animosity towards him. As far as he’s concerned, he has never affronted her. We, the readers, know the issue, but Luke is clueless. This story isn’t like a true enemies-to-lovers story wherein the hero and heroine both hold disdain for each other. In this case, it is very one-sided, and it makes for some good story-telling as the “playboy” learns Tess’s truth. It also offers some sweet sensitive moments.
Hart has constructed Luke to be more than just a playboy. This is seemingly so at first glance, but Luke is much more layered in his development. Yes, he loves women, and he connects with them in the way that most men like. However, he is sensitive, thoughtful, caring, and sacrificial. We see this from the start in that he leaves California to come home to care for his family’s business. While there is more to the decision, it still shows that he is more than just a playboy out to bed women. He cares deeply for those he loves. Luke, very quickly in the story, moves from being a lothario to emotionally intelligent. I loved his evolution, and as a reader, fell deeply in love with Hart’s rendering of him.
“He was kind and giving to measures of absolute certainty. He sacrificed himself for others, even when it cost him dearly. He shouldered responsibility for things that were not his to be responsible for. He was steady and sure in ways I never thought he could be, in ways that had brought Wendy across the country strictly to seek safety in him…Even now, even having endured what she’d put him through, I believe he would try to help her, do what he could to ensure her security. And if I gave him the chance, he would do the same for me. More, if I let him. I wanted to let him. And I wanted to give him everything he had given to me.”
Conversely, Tess is your typical cerebral heroine. She thinks before she acts. Her head rules her heart, and she can be annoying to the reader because her internal struggle keeps her away from the hero. However, Tess is any woman who has ever feared jumping first, thinking later. While she is more cerebral than some heroines, her chest holds a deep and caring heart. In fact, she chooses the happiness and care of others over her own. Through Tess, Hart shows her readers the necessity for self-care and living one’s life, not just simply existing in it. Much like reading Luke’s evolution, there is something deeply satisfying in Tess’s changes.
Together, Luke and Tess make a whole. He pushes her towards adventure and spontaneity, while Tess grounds Luke more than even his family. It’s this wholeness that makes this story a beautiful read. There is some angst in the book, but really Luke and Tess’s story is more beautiful than destructive. As they work together to make the flower shop successful, I looked forward to each new change. In each new change, their relationship moved from the physical to the emotional and there inlaid the beauty of the story.
“We went up like a torch in a twist, a tangle of arms, our bodies locked and seeking the other. There was no space — the flame had devoured the distance, the air, her and me. Consumed.”
I think Staci Hart won me over even more with Coming Up Roses, the first in a new series. From the other family members who made me laugh out loud and love them for the ways they loved each other to Tess and Luke’s coupling, this book brought a light to my day. Having read some heavy, angsty romances lately, Staci Hart’s newest book breathed fresh air into my day and my heart.
“But looking at my parents, looking at what I had with Tess, I realized love was more than that. It was equality. Respect. Trust.”
In love and romance,