Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Do you ever read a romance that makes your heart race, you feel it pounding heavily in your chest? It isn’t that it’s $exy, although that happens too. It’s that you see the potential of the characters and know that the journey ahead isn’t an easy one. That’s a typical feeling when reading a Jewel E. Ann book. She thrives on creating stories and characters that are complicated and whose journeys are anything but straight. She oftentimes puts labels on her books: romantic suspense, rom-com, etc. Yet, those labels never do the book justice because they are too reductive to what she does. Which leads me into her newest offering, Perfectly Adequate.
Labels. Honestly, Jewel E. Ann suggests that Perfectly Adequate is a rom-com. While there are definitely those elements, this book, like many of her others, doesn’t really that fit that label fully. And it’s interesting because that is one of the many messages of this book: labels. Dorothy Mayhem, the heroine of this romance, is an “Aspie:” someone living on the autism spectrum. First of all, I LOVE that Ann brings us a heroine who is unique, difficult to fit into the typical “heroine” type. This is the second character I’ve read on the spectrum, and it opens the typical hero/heroine trope. With her “label,” Ann points to the way in which having the label of Asperger’s doesn’t fully account for Dorothy’s personality. When she finds the hero, Elijah Hawkins’s stash of books on autism, she questions his interest in her label because she rejects it as being a complete representation of herself. Even more, she pushes him to see how any label pulls us further from humanizing people. This book, in much the same way, does the same. It takes this message to its core in its presentation. Yes, there are moments of laughter, yet there are just as many moments of tears, anger, and frustration (at least that was the case for me). Dorothy Mayhem’s character is a vivid reminder throughout this story that labels reduce the true nature of a person. It’s a poignant message, a reminder, that being human is all we need for humanity.
Beyond her discussion on labels, Jewel E. Ann’s craftsmanship of Julie moved me more than the romance on the page. She received my most visceral reaction. Reading her was like looking into a mirror at times, and it was weighty. As I am a woman in her late 40s, Julie’s struggles with loving herself beyond marriage, career, and child resonated with me. The struggle to understand feelings of unworthiness and anger and displacement found purchase in my soul, and it was uncomfortable. To be honest, as a whole, Julie makes me uncomfortable because reading her on the page was like looking in a mirror. And it was painful at times. I wanted to stop reading the story because her thoughts and feelings in some ways are similar to my own. This connected me more deeply to this story. It’s difficult to imagine that people serve a certain capacity in our lives for a time, and I think Jewel uses the character of Julie to illustrate this.
But the best part of Perfectly Adequate is Dorothy and Elijah. It’s Elijah’s acceptance of Dorothy’s humanity, that she is “okay” and “perfectly adequate,” that shaped my impression of him. His ability to “see” her offers some of the most poignant moments in this book. Jewel E. Ann gives him some of the most beautiful words because, more often than not, she places few words in the voice of Dorothy. The contrast of these two in that respect is the beauty of their relationship, of their journey. Their chemistry, Dorothy’s sacrifice for Elijah, his soul connection to her, their awkward moments transpire to pull you through the best and worst times of their story, landing safely in a happily-ever-after.
Finally, what buoys the fandom that surrounds Jewel E. Ann and her books is her writing, the literal words on the page. As I was reading Perfectly Adequate, I highlighted like mad and took notes on page after page of this book. From almost the start of the book, she creates these moments that are viscerally profound. More specifically, she has this ability to make your body react to her characters and her story. I felt my heart pounding, my blood rushing, my stomach crawling, and my heart swelling at different moments in the story. Especially as Dorothy and Elijah struggle with their reality, my emotional reactions were palpable. This is Jewel’s brilliance as a writer. Whether it’s Perfectly Adequate, Jersey Six, or the Transcend Duet, Jewel E. Ann’s ability to evoke the emotion that connects us to her characters is her genius. Honestly, it was why I was reticent to start this book. I knew that, through Dorothy and Elijah’s story, I was going to have to feel deeply because Jewel’s writing does that to me. It’s a beautiful type of emotional torture.
If you love beautiful words, beautiful images, and a beautiful story, then you NEED Jewel E. Ann’s Perfectly Adequate. This romance reminds us that our humanity rests in being our best selves. Dorothy Mayhem is truly one of the best heroines you’ll read, and she’s a necessary reminder that we are more than our labels.
In love and romance,