Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️+
This is a warning. I’m going to spew forth love and adoration for Parker S. Huntington and her newest book, Devious Lies. There is nothing unbiased here whatsoever because I fell. In. Deep. with this book. This is the first book I’ve read by Huntington, but, given the beauty of the storytelling, it will most definitely not be the last.
So why? What is it about Devious Lies that makes it a formidable and decisive read? Why do I pledge my undying love to it? In a word: smart. This book is my favorite type of storytelling. At the most basic level, it embodies the enemies-to-lovers trope which happens to be my romance of choice. I read all types of romantic tropes, and I’m a sucker for most of them. Yet, this trope particularly curls my toes and attaches to my soul in a way that other tropes can’t compare. With this trope comes a hero who is borderline sociopathic. They feel compelled to destroy the person who has wronged them, usually the heroine. It’s in these moments of destruction that the true pain of the hero is revealed, and as a reader, you can’t help but revel in those moments. For an emotional masochist like me, it’s these provocative, gut-wrenching moments where the magic of an enemies-to-lovers story exists. It’s a gut check to your stomach and your heart, and this is where you empathize with the heroine and fall deeply into the story. And this is entirely true with Huntington’s Devious Lies. From its start, Emery becomes your emotional barometer.
Devious Lies boasts more than one bully. And as every brilliant enemies-to-lovers story does, these bullies wreak havoc on the heroine. It’s here that you fall down the emotional rabbit hole. Every moment with Emery in this story is heavy, but we find her wrapped in a warrior veneer. She’s bullied by her mother, by her “uncle,” by a peer, and eventually by Nash, the “hero” of Devious Lies. Then, later, she’s bullied by her boss, Charmaine. Yet, in the face of these people who judge her and seek to exact emotional torture on her, she stands in her truth. She’s powerful; she knows her mind and her spirit. There is both a simplicity and a complexity to her, and it’s why I fell for her. She’s quirky and spirited and beautiful. She stands for justice and willingly self-sacrifices to right the wrongs of the story even when it feels futile. Huntington personifies her as a goddess, and it is truth. She is probably one of my favorite heroines to date because she makes no excuses for herself, and she willingly embraces the underdog to fight for justice.
With a heroine this powerful, it was imperative that Huntington carve out a worthy adversary. She completes this with such purpose that Nash, even in his moments of pure bullishness, feels as necessary to the story as Emery. Nash is a contradiction, a complexity. On the one hand, Nash and Emery are the same. Huntington illustrates it best when she places these words in Nash’s mind: “She [Emery] reminded me of an active minefield. Volatile. Dangerous. A liability to herself. Because when a mine exploded, it’d take her down with it.” While he’s using these to describe the volatility of Emery’s persona, this is also him. He is all of these, at least to Emery. Yet, while they are so similar in their approach to love and each other, he is more dangerous than Emery because he doesn’t read situations or people well. He misreads Emery and her father through much of the story. He’s an illiterate due to his own filter in his reading of her. He’s a narcissist before he is anything else. This makes him dangerous to her, and Huntington carefully formulates him to become like her father, the very being he detests. This is ingenious because it shows his fallibility. Through his reticent pure attraction to her as his driving force, he becomes more literate and eventually reads her better than everyone (save for her father). It’s all of these contradictions engendered in this explosive hero that drives you deeper into Huntington’s story. It feels imperative to your soul that he recognizes his incongruities and rectifies the story. When this moment hits in the story, it’s the single most tender moment of Huntington’s romance, and it’s Nash’s undoing. The Nash after this moment is nothing compared to the Nash before it. In other words, Huntington generously offers us two Nashs for consumption, a gift to the reader.
“She believed in words, and magic, and storms. In fighting back, going down hard, never giving up. In blind loyalty, jumping first, dealing with consequences later. She was awful. She infuriated me. She drove me [f’ing] crazy.”
Beyond her characters, what endeared me to Parker S. Huntington’s romance is her style. As a professor of writing, prose and style cause me to “geek out” in the realm of writing. I have a handful of romance writers who I adore simply for their ability to put words on the page while imagining worlds for their readers. Huntington just stole a spot on that list. Because she was new to me, I didn’t realize the power of her storytelling. She pummels you moment after moment, drowning her readers deliciously in overwhelming feels. When you start to normalize, she crafts a wave of emotions to pull you into her story. It’s the best torment of feelings. Her language choices, her allusions to mythology, and her imagery throughout Devious Lies conspire to make you a prisoner to her story. Once I began this book, I couldn’t put it down, and it’s lengthy. She details Emery and Nash to make concrete for her reader the emotional journey towards their happy ending. It never feels staid or overproduced. Every detail and moment find purchase within their story. I simply didn’t want to rush this book, but I was compelled forward to the end as a respite from their struggles. And in the end, the reward is a magical epilogue that quenches your final thirst for Emery and Nash.
I think Parker S. Huntington says it best here: “Falling in love with you is like diving blindly into a book, not knowing it’s destined to be my favorite. Whatever’s more than love, I feel it for you. I am only ever going to be in love with you.” Devious Lies is one of those favorite books that you cannot know until you read it that it will become so. I simply didn’t know of the genius that is Parker S. Huntington until I read this tome. Now, I can’t unsee her specialness, and I hope as I continue to read that I am afforded the opportunity to drink in the nectar that she offers through her books.
In love and romance,