Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
There is nothing like reading a romance about a forbidden relationship. For me, I both hate turning the page while feeling a deep need to turn it. I know as the page turns more is revealed, and the hero and heroine are always one step away from discovery and the potential destruction of their relationship. When an author writes this type of romance well, you feel it deep in your stomach. It makes your heart race. It makes you feel alive as you progress through their story. Even more, what makes a forbidden relationship romance important is its resolution. For most of these types of romances, the characters realize their happy ending, and the tension you felt as you read the “misses” of their relationship is released into the happiness for the characters. Karina Halle’s The Younger Man (TYM) epitomizes this situation.
Honestly, as I was reading TYM, it felt as though I was moving slowly through the pages. Halle does a brilliant job of slowly building the story between Thalia and Alejo. Yet, at the same time, she compels you forward. These characters are special for two very reasons. Here’s the deal:
- For me, Alejo is the true star of this book. Honestly, THE STAR. From the first chapter where we meet him, I fell. Vi Keeland wrote a book earlier in the year, All Grown Up. Like TYM, it’s an older woman/younger man taboo romance. What I found interesting about that book, as well as in The Younger Man, is the hero, who is obviously younger than the female, is more emotionally mature than the heroine who has many more years on him. It’s been astounding to read this type of hero. As Keeland did, Halle easily accomplishes this with Alejo’s background. It makes sense that he’s mature for a twenty-three/twenty-four-year-old. What I love about him is his ability to feed Thalia’s soul. He’s a lion in bed. When these two couple, it’s hot AF, like steam up your glasses hot. Yet, what Alejo does that I love in swoony heroes is he sees Thalia, and he feeds her emotional need. It’s this part of his character that I fell in love with the most. Yes, he’s an attractive, talented professional soccer player, but it’s his emotional depth and his ability to use that depth to help Thalia heal and find her strength again that is the highlight of this book.
- Thalia. Halle crafts her character to remind her readers to live in their truth, I think. Thalia has endured loss in a variety of ways, and it has left her unmoored. It would be reductive to say that Alejo “completes” her or makes her less broken. Because that isn’t the reality that Halle is creating here. Instead, as she finds internal strength again through her career and with the inspiration of Alejo, Thalia heals. She holds the power over this; Alejo simply supports and recognizes her in a way that challenges her to see herself more distinctly. I think it’s Halle’s way of showing us that a true love inspires; it doesn’t fully define you.
As a reader, how do you know you should be reading Karina Halle’s The Younger Man? Well, this reader, for one, isn’t a soccer fan. I’m intrigued by it, but I don’t tune in to watch it. However, I was entranced with Halle’s storytelling of this world. I found myself looking up teams and players for reference. Secondly, I am interested in the older woman/younger man trope as I don’t see it written often enough. Given the breadth of age for romance readers, I find that we should read this trope more often. For me, finding yourself represented in romance seems essential. No, I’m not youthfully beautiful in my late 40s, but I recognize the struggle to determine my happiness and my future characterized in Thalia. That’s my intersection with her representation. I imagine there are plenty of women like me who would love to find some part of them in the characters or the story. And this sub-trope, I think, would go further to make that connection. Halle has written this well. Thalia and Alejo are 100% believable, and you can’t help but root for them as they struggle to find their happiness together.
Yes, there were several times when, like one would do when watching a horror movie, I wanted to peek through my fingers at the page. I invested myself easily into Alejo and Thalia’s story because Halle insisted it be so with her storytelling. Knowing that pain would be a part of their romance, still, I forged ahead, and it has a huge payoff in the end. Halle has crafted a story in The Younger Man that forces us to recognize the truth that “love is love is love” whether it’s between an older woman and a younger man or whether it’s a love for ourselves.
In love and romance,