Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Voice. A person’s writing voice is as distinct as their speaking voice. It’s indelible, and it’s the thing that sets them apart from other writers. It is also my favorite part of teaching writing. While I have the pleasure of learning my students’ speaking voices, I also learn their distinct writing voice. If anyone ever asks you how you can read romance when it’s “all the same,” any romance reader can tell you that isn’t true. It’s the voice of the romance writer that distinguishes their work from the others. It’s the reason that so many of us read a variety of writers even when tropes or subgenres or sub-tropes are so similar.
I learned Dylan Allen’s writing voice in The Sun and Her Star aka Envy. It’s where I fell deeply in love with her storytelling. It was clear that this author’s writing voice involves epic storytelling. She imagines these broad, sweeping tales of love and angst that wrap around your heart and pull on it until the tension seems like it will break it. Then, she infuses your heart with a wrap of healing emotions that leaves it repaired and reinvigorated in the end. This journey stays with you through every single one of her books, and it is what sets her apart from other romance authors. Her writing voice carries her readers away on clouds of epic romantic dreams.
It would be easy for me to sit here and say “read Dylan Allen’s newest book, Between Now and Always because Carter, the hero, is amazing, Beth, the heroine, is divine, and their story is transcendent.” Yet, when you read this last book in her Forever Trilogy, you earn the last piece of the puzzle for this sweeping story of salvation. Because that’s the essence of this story: finding salvation in the unbound depths of love. Between Now and Always provides the finality to Carter and Beth’s story, but it unlocks the understanding that love is transcendent, moving beyond space, time, and trials. Carter and Beth’s story is truly an epic epoch, and it divinely illustrates the gravity of Dylan Allen’s writing voice.
In Between Now and Forever (BNF), Allen introduces us to Carter and Beth’s story. In that book, these two are individuals who are finding themselves within the confines of challenges. They find and figuratively mark each other before losing their connection. This book is meant to start their story and introduce us to them, to their challenges. It also offers the catalyst for Beth’s journey. Without this book, there is no future Beth. In Between Now and Heartbreak (BNH), Allen develops Carter and Beth’s love story. It’s their foundation. While BNF is their introduction, BNH is their awakening and their downfall. When BNH ends, Carter and Beth’s relationship is fractured, yet the individuals aren’t. In BNF, the individuals are broken, and the relationship has yet to truly exist. Both of these tomes exist for the purpose of Between Now and Always (BNA). Without the actions of the first two books, BNA could not be, which makes this book this trilogy’s frosting. Yet, this book isn’t a sugary sweet covering. No, it’s a concrete reward for the hard work of the first two books, but Allen doesn’t make it easy for her readers with this book. The resolution of Carter and Beth’s challenges comes near BNA’s end, so don’t go into this book thinking these two will resolve their trials quickly. In true Dylan Allen form, she makes us work for it. In doing so, it elevates Carter and Beth’s story, and it adds gravity to it.
The true gem, the jewel of Between Now and Always, is the character of Beth. I had messaged with Allen after reading Between Now and Heartbreak, and she was insistent that Beth would be Carter’s inspiration, the motivation for his continued emotional growth. We find this temporarily in BNH in that Carter is Beth’s muse and Beth is Carter’s influence on his creativity. Yet, the motivation behind this is their soul-driving interest in each other. In Between Now and Always, Beth’s strength is illuminated in her belief in herself. This is a woman who has come into her own, and she uses it to inspire everyone around her. For me, she is the most enlightened character. Yes, she still struggles with her beauty mark, but she fully accepts herself in this book. She becomes the fully realized Beth, her strength exuding from her characterization. As a woman who is always looking for strong heroines, this is exciting. Carter is still handsome, he finds his place in music, he’s successful, and he loves Beth, but he still flails in his emotions. His inconsistency of emotion and actions is a frustration. As a reader, you need him to stand in his conviction and knowledge, not his emotion. However, through Beth’s example and strength of character, Carter becomes more grounded; he becomes a better version of himself by the book’s end, and Allen’s prologue from Between Now and Forever can be realized. It is Beth’s example in this book that acts as a shole to Carter’s character. As a reader of romance, this is important. In so many romances, the hero is the impetus for change. For a genre that is continually evolving, seeking out better versions of itself, we oftentimes still get it wrong. In Allen’s book, it’s clear that Beth’s characterization is its feminist message on feminine strength of character and evolving standards of beauty.
Is this book still $exy like her others? Yes. Is the story compelling? Yes. Are Carter and Beth a match made in heaven? Yes. Yes to all of the parts of romance we love incorporated in Between Now and Forever. It is all here. Crucial, though, is Dylan Allen’s voice. It’s comforting. We know that, while she will take us through the fire, she will deliver respite and care at the end. When her heroes and heroines struggle to find their way to each other, she will make it so, but she will need to teach us important lessons about the difficulty of living because, while writing should entertain, it should also ring true to our own experiences or we can’t find ourselves in it, making it less palpable, more transitory. For a book, one like Dylan Allen’s, to be profound and necessary, we must lose pieces of ourselves in it. We must find ourselves embedded in its pages. And this, readers, is Allen’s superpower. Her ability to cull the experiences of her readers, transform them into the beautiful words of her story, and leave us panting for more lies at the heart of Allen’s writing voice. The Forever Trilogy beautifully illustrates the power behind Dylan Allen’s writing voice. Most importantly, Beth and Carter’s journey to forever is a necessary read in a world of processed, filtered Instagram ideals.
In love and romance,