Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“‘My point is this: you fight for love because the minute you have a taste of it, you realize why wars are fought in honor of it. It’s the most precious thing in the world, and it’s worth waiting for…and fighting for.’”
After reading Stealing Her, the first book of Rachel Van Dyken’s Covet series, I found myself in this strange position. For much of that book, Julian, the brother of the hero of that book, seemed the villain. It isn’t until the latter part of that book that you realize there is no “good” or “bad, “hero” or “villain.” That the truth is everyone is a victim to someone’s choices, save Bridge and Julian’s father who is the instigator of the problem. Sympathetic for Julian’s situation at the end of Stealing Her, I needed, nay I wanted, Julian’s story. And Rachel Van Dyken did not disappoint with Finding Him, the second book of this duet. This story is a tale of two people so broken by the circumstances of their lives that they find completion in matching their broken parts together. Julian and Keaton Westbrook find their puzzle completed in each other, and that is the beauty and truth of Van Dyken’s romance.
The story begins with Keaton Westbrook looking for solace in a solo getaway to rural Vermont. There, she intends to write the memoir of her relationship with her now-deceased boyfriend. As a social media celebrity influencer, the world has acted as an active audience to their relationship. In a promise to him and a homage created for her fans, Keaton is struggling to find the words as they will bring completion to his death and their relationship, and she doesn’t feel ready for it. However, she has a deadline to meet, so this seclusion is meant to push her to finish the manuscript. Enter Julian Tennyson. Still angry and struggling with the “betrayal” by his brother and ex-fiancee and the death of his mother, the board of directors of his corporation, along with his brother, strongarm him into taking a vacation as a way to help him find some peace. His brother, Bridge, suggests he go to the family vacation home, a secluded cabin in Vermont. A bit reticent, he agrees so that he can return to a place where he felt the love of his mother. It is here that Keaton and Julian collide into each other. Initially, these two are unimpressed with the other. However, as they spend time together, learning each other, they become attracted to each other. As the story progresses, they find themselves attached, but life threatens their ability to be together. It is here where the depth of this story pulls at your heartstrings. Is it possible for Keaton and Julian to find their happy ending?
I think the reason why I loved this story lies in its tenderness. This isn’t a word that you would use to describe a hero such as Julian Tennyson. Going into the story, he is anything but tender. He’s hardened and angry and hates his world. He’s been devastated in a variety of ways and it spurs him towards being mean-spirited. He’s been changed by his father, but that change is girded through the pain of his life. This is the Julian at the beginning of the story. As he encounters Keaton and finds himself overwhelmed by her story and her pain, it touches at the emotional depths of Julian’s soul. As she tells the story of her relationship to her dead boyfriend, Noah, she tenderizes his heart and soul. In their latter moments together, Van Dyken does what I love with Type A alpha-type characters, she brings him to his knees. She creates a hero who you can’t help but fall in love with. At the end of Finding Him, Julian is nothing like the man of Stealing Her, and you recognize the brilliant depths of Van Dyken’s storytelling. She makes you empathize for him; she breaks your heart for him. Had you told me I would feel so deeply for Julian in Finding Him, I would have laughed. Yet, this is the true story of this Covet duet. It illustrates the power of love to change a person, to bring him to his knees, and return him to his natural condition. Julian is supposed to be softer, more emotional. Hardened under his father’s tutelage, Julian has lost a part of himself. In Finding Him, Van Dyken returns him back to himself, and by extension, his brother, Bridge.
“And then I realized…that was why Julian was special. Because when he wanted something, he went after it full force, with all his soul – and all his heart.”
Through Keaton, I found myself considering death. There are so many truths about death revealed in this story, namely that we often idealize the deceased instead of considering the reality of it. While Noah seems the love of Keaton’s life, it becomes clear that he teaches her to love, but he cannot be her endgame. For much of the story, Keaton struggles against her idealism of Noah with the reality of their relationship. As she falls for Julian, she begins to understand love, but she must learn to let go in order to feel the depth of it. This is where death is complicated because, in letting go, we have to change our memories. The profundity of this truth is the depth of Van Dyken’s story. Even more, we see very clearly how Van Dyken crafts Keaton and Julian to be two sides of the same coin: both in love with the past, reticent to move forward, but drawn to the gravity of their attraction. Besides Julian’s evolution, Keaton’s journey is my second favorite part of Finding Him. The acceptance of her future is any one of us fighting our own.
There is so much quiet and beauty in the moments of Finding Him. Each turn of the page offered healing, a reminder to the reader that moving past loss is necessary to truly “live.” As Julian and Keaton fall in love, the brilliance of Van Dyken’s seamless storytelling is highlighted. She has this uncanny way of creating stories that evoke a tenderness of spirit along with a truth about human nature. Julian and Keaton’s romance is perfect, and the ending of Finding Him will remind you why romance teaches us everything we need to know about living a full life.
In love and romance,