Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
“She was magnificent. She was also his. I’d touched what was his. I’d pleasured what wasn’t mine. “
Possible Spoilers ahead…
I’ve been drawn to Rachel Van Dyken over the past year. I find when I read her books they have a strong readability meaning I tear through them, gobbling the pages of her stories whole. There is something about her ability to put words on the page and moments together that engage her readers. Stealing Her, her newest book, is no different.
Have you ever seen While You Were Sleeping, the famous ‘90s rom-com? To a certain extent, Stealing Her reminds me of that movie. This story is a triangle of sorts. Bridge and Julian are twins. Their father is a tyrant of a father. He’s successful, morally relativistic, and self-absorbed. Their mother, tired of his cheating, divorces him. As part of their prenuptial agreement, they split the twins with Bridge being sent with his mother into poverty and Julian staying with their father in continued luxury. Bridge has always felt led to protect Julian. He is headstrong and willful, while Julian is a people-pleaser, especially seeking the approval of their father. Without Bridge’s protection, Julian must grow up under a man who is domineering and a horrible role model. The story fast-forwards many years into the future. Julian is soon to become the CEO of his family’s empire. He’s engaged but emotionally distant from his fiancee. He’s become a copy of his father. In contrast, Bridge struggles to care for his ailing mother by working three jobs. One day, Julian is involved in a horrific accident and lies in a coma. Their father comes to Bridge, blackmailing him into pretending to act as Julian. Their father agrees to pay for the much-needed care for his sickly mother if Bridge agrees to pose as Julian. However, the only people who will know are the board of directors for the company. If Julian survives and recovers, Bridge will step aside, and Julian will return to his position. Complicating this is Julian’s fiancee, Isobel, who is readying to leave Julian over his emotional abuse and detachment. When Bridge enters her life, unknowing that he isn’t Julian, Bridge begins to heal Isobel’s heart, and they begin to fall in love. Unfortunately, Isobel doesn’t know of the scheme, and Bridge worries that she loves him as Julian, not as himself. Will Julian wake up and claim his position, and will Bridge and Isobel end up together?
From its beginning, Stealing Her grabbed me. There are quite a few reasons why I couldn’t put this book down…
*For one, this isn’t just about Bridge and Isobel “Izzy.” While that is one of the main relationships, this book is about the different dynamics of relationships. It’s equal parts about fathers and sons or mothers and sons; it’s about the dynamic of brothers, and it’s about a love triangle between Bridge, Julian, and Isobel. In considering all of these relationships, you can’t help but be intrigued. There is so much love and hate in this story that, when you get to Isobel and Bridge, you bask in their growing love. While it is complicated by the betrayal of Julian, it reads as the easiest relationship in the book. It is hard to imagine, but you root for Bridge and Izzy. This can only happen because Van Dyken’s genius in this book is her ability to normalize their relationship. At some point, we know there will be recompense for their choices. When it materializes in the story, you find yourself choosing Izzy and Bridge together, and you don’t feel guilty for wanting it.
*One of the ways that Van Dyken allays your guilt is her craftsmanship of moments in the story. I found myself highlighting different moments between Bridge and Izzy because they lit my soul up. There is a general ease between these two that Van Dyken doesn’t create for Julian and Isobel. Those created moments are necessary for accepting the fated relationship between Bridge and Izzy. This is Van Dyken’s superpower in this story.
*Even more, it would be easy to dislike Julian given his treatment of Izzy, but, once again, Van Dyken doesn’t allow that. This is key because Stealing Her is a standalone in a series entitled Covet. Julian’s book is next. It is imperative that he remains likable. As such, Bridge and Julian are actually more alike than different in my opinion. They both are tenacious and honorable, even when they act dishonorably. Therefore, when all is exposed in this book, you have big hopes for the brothers. In fact, I cannot wait for the next book because I am hoping for more reconciliation.
Rachel Van Dyken’s Stealing Her is a story that will pull at your heart. The strife of this story will rearrange your heart and challenge your thinking. It would be easy to feel guilty about advocating for Bridge and Izzy as a couple, but I think Van Dyken is suggesting that we need to follow our hearts. That our heart will ultimately lead us on the path to finding our true love. Stealing Her is a beautiful, carefully wrought tale of finding healing through giving our heart to that one person who will carefully tend to it.
In love and romance,