Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The genius of a good writer lies in his/her craftsmanship of story and characterization. You always want to find a little bit of yourself somewhere in the humanity of a character. Looking into a mirror of sorts, you cannot help but empathize with the character through your soul’s connection to him/her. Fiona Cole’s Another did just that for me. Her newest story shares the dichotomy, the struggle, of being a woman of great strength and allowing one’s self to feel vulnerable. This contest leads to the revelation that women can be both tenacious and emotionally available.
Another tells the story of Carina, the ex-fiancee of Jake from Cole’s book, Lovers. When we leave her in that story, her heart has been broken when Jake realizes his love for his college friend, Jackson, and breaks his engagement. At the end of that story, Carina meets a man in a bar and asks for a kiss, a way to know if she can still feel desired. Quickly, we find that there is a potential mystery man for her future.
At the beginning of this book, Carina’s aunts have arranged a blind date boudoir session. When she arrives to meet her partner, she finds it’s the man from the bar. Together, these two struggle for dominance, which only sparks their chemistry. This leads to a quick dalliance. Overwhelmed by it, Carina runs away from the man, Ian, avoiding exchanging last names and contact information. Fast forward six weeks and Carina realizes she’s pregnant. Without contact information for Ian, she determines to raise the child by herself until, one day, she meets Ian again, and they begin the journey of parenthood and partnership. Will Ian and Carina find love? Will Carina allow herself to fall in love again, or will she be destined to live in her strength, raising her child on her own?
In reading this story, there is an ease in liking Ian. He is affable, easy-going, and he moons over Carina and their child. There is no doubt you should fall in love with Ian Bergamo; Cole forms him into this hero we should pine for. Even in moments when he fails Carina (like all male heroes, he makes mistakes), Cole makes it easy to forgive him, rooting for him and Carina to find a happy ending. I think it’s easy to be distracted by Cole’s hero.
However, the crux of this book is Carina. I had commented out to Cole in her Facebook fan group that Carina needed a big book, one that would remedy the heartbreak of Lovers. And Cole does not disappoint. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the mark of genius in a writer is his/her ability to create characters where the reader finds a bit of herself in a character. Cole does this beautifully with Carina. One aspect that I’ve admired about this character in other stories within Cole’s universe is Carina’s acceptance of other women. In Savior, she buoys Alexandra. In Liar, she admires Olivia’s ability. In this book, she continues to build relationships with women like Erik’s sister, Hanna, even when Hanna makes some unwise choices and hurts Carina in the process. Carina is a woman in the business of building up other women in the workplace and out of it. You cannot help but admire Cole’s commitment to creating this type of character, especially in a genre where female characters can be awful to each other. And especially in the world outside of books, where women are still fighting for equitability and respect.
Secondly, Carina’s struggle with vulnerability truly resonated with me. Over and over again, when Carina comments on her “walls” that she has constructed through heartbreak and surviving a predominately male workplace, this evoked feelings of solidarity within me. Women who carry internal strength struggle with making ourselves “soft.” We worry it will be taken advantage of, or, in the case of Carina, we will realize, once given, we won’t be someone’s priority, their first choice, that our vulnerability will be diminished in favor of another’s feelings. When this happens, it’s crushing to the soul. Each moment when Carina struggled with this, I felt it in my soul. I knew that struggle, and it connected me deeply to her.
But what’s truly amazing about this trial is Cole’s resolution of it. In the real world, most of us walk around with gaping fissures in our walls without people to help fill them up with apologies or actions to protect us. In Another, Cole specifically creates Ian to bring about this resolution, this repair of the heart, to show us that women can both carry a strength of being AND be loved into submission. That the two are not mutually exclusive, but, rather, they work best residing together in a person’s soul.
There is so much to love about Fiona Cole’s newest book, Another. An indelible woman coupled with a man who loves her beyond herself plus a surprise baby is the best of romance. If you truly want to live in the genius of Fiona Cole, if you want to appreciate her ability to craft a woman of substance, and if you finally want Carina’s happily-ever-after, then Another should be at the top of your booklist. This is one of Cole’s bests.
In love and romance,