Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I heard you and I see you and I choose you.”
Isn’t this the essence of all relationships? In my writing courses, I ask students about modern-day relationships. One of the first traits they say leads to a meaningful relationship is trust. We talk about “trust” and the truth behind that meaning, and we determine it means that your significant other “sees” your personal truth and accepts you just as you are. To trust means to love a person in their completeness without taking advantage of it. In many romances, this is the gravity of the story. It’s one of the main connections between a fully developed, emotionally connected hero and heroine. When this idea is the message of a romance, as a reader, I lose myself in the evolving relationship because, for this reader, being seen is my catnip.
In Karla Sorensen’s Batter of Wits, the newest SmartyPants Romance, this runs at the core of her story: the need to be seen and accepted first. The story follows Grace and Tucker. Grace is a new transplant to Green Valley, Tennessee. She’s ready for a new start, even though she isn’t sure what that looks like. On her way into town, her car breaks down, and Tucker, a local lawyer, comes upon her. For lack of a better description, for Grace, this is “hate at first sight.” Something about Tucker rubs her very wrong. It’s a deep feeling that puzzles her as it feels like a compulsion. Tucker comes to her aid and takes her to her destination, leaving her confused and overwhelmed in her intense feelings for him. Tucker is living a life of complacency. He’s had the same girlfriend since they were seventeen, he works for his family’s law firm, and he’s never left Green Valley. He feels as though he’s living with the world on his shoulders. On meeting Grace, something breaks loose, and he begins to question the life he’s living.
Grace is a Buchanan, and the Buchanan family’s mythology involves a love curse. Grace is confused because her initial feelings for Tucker begin to morph into feelings of interest, but it doesn’t follow the pattern of the other love relationships in her family. Then, she finds her distant ancestor’s journal, and she realizes that she might have fallen prey to the family’s curse, just in a different way. Tucker can’t stop thinking about Grace, and she “sees” him in a way that his family and girlfriend haven’t noticed. As these two grow closer, their worlds entwine and become complicated. Is it possible that Grace and Tucker are fated for each other, or is their life in Green Valley a dead end?
At the most basic level, there are a clarity and a musicality to Karla Sorensen’s writing. The words and emotions flow across the page and through her story. While the romance isn’t always an easy one, there is an ease and a comfort to reading her stories. Time and time again, I crave that ease and grace in her storytelling. She makes writing small-town romance look easy.
In contrast to her style lies the difficulty of Tucker and Grace’s union. This is seemingly not “love at first sight” until it is. Tucker and Grace are complete in each other, and their moments together are easy as they are “meant to be.” In juxtaposition to that ease is the larger difficulty of small-town living. As Grace struggles to find her place, as Tucker struggles to live for himself and not the expectations doled out on him, the struggle seeks to undo their easy coupling. This is an apt contradiction to Sorensen’s ability to convey those difficulties. And it’s that tension that draws you deeper into Tucker and Grace’s truth.
Even more, in my opinion, the beauty of this story lies in the truth of acceptance and finding a place for yourself. It would be easy to wrap my mind up in the Buchanan curse as the focus of Batter of Wits, but that is only the initial catalyst for Tucker and Grace’s coupling. Instead, the depth of this story lies in Tucker recognizing Grace’s truths. With love, this can be difficult, and it can create many of the conflicts within a relationship. Sorensen artfully illustrates this conflict, and she brings a worthy resolution to their conflict that makes your heart bleed a little in all the best ways.
I loved Tucker and Grace from the start. My favorite type of romance involves two seemingly different people first fighting against each other and eventually falling for each other. That strife turns the pages of the story for me, as I wait for the eventual revelation of love. And when that happens, that love is typically rich in depth. This is Sorensen’s craftsmanship time and time again. She makes you want to read small-town romance no matter the iteration. Once again, Sorensen takes us to Green Valley and we fall deeply for its characters. Tucker and Grace’s story will find a place in your heart in Batter of Wits, just as it found a place in mine. I simply want more of the Buchanans.
In love and romance,