Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I learned at a young age what can be seen through the lens (my emphasis) is often a skewed version of reality. A bent perspective. Manufactured, therefore, losing all sense of authenticity.”
At the heart of writing lies style. Every writer creates a specific voice, marked and distinct. I’ve stated in other reviews that my favorite part of reading different authors is listening for that voice, identifying the treasures of it. Some have concise, clear writing voices, using a sparse syntax to assert their message. Others write words overwrought with details that set every scene, offer every detail, leave nothing unsaid. It’s up to the reader what they adore or what they pass on.
Insightful writers craft a combination of the two. They don’t overcomplicate their style, yet they use metaphor/simile, imagery, allusion to create the visual pictures behind their words. For me, it’s in those visual representations where emotional connection is created. When the reader can place themselves in that picture, empathize with her H or h, then writers have created a moment of experience, one that reaches into the chests of their readers and plucks at their souls. This is THE power of writing.
You’re probably wondering why all the set up in this review for K.K. Allen’s Through the Lens. Well, it’s because her newest book forges that connection in her extended metaphor, contained in her title. The title, Through the Lens, is no mistake. It wasn’t haphazard in its choice. The title becomes the ultimate representation of the message of this book: that the perception of something isn’t its reality. Time and time again throughout her story, Allen deftly articulates this message through the extended metaphor of the lens, through her characterizations, and through her story. In doing so, she reminds her readers, once again, WHY you should read her books because she is an intentional, skilled writer who clearly knows her voice and challenges her readers to “see” her as an accomplished author.
Through the Lens follows Maggie “Mags” and Desmond “Des”. We met these two in Allen’s Under the Bleachers, as Maggie is Monica’s sister and Desmond is Ryan’s best friend. It is there where we realize that sparks fly between these two. This story begins with Maggie in Seattle, living with her sister, after upending her modeling career. Desmond’s cooking school is growing, and he has a potential television show offering to grow his business further. These two conflict when Maggie, as a student at the cooking school, pushes back against Desmond’s control. When Maggie’s living situation becomes problematic, Desmond reticently offers her an apartment above the school and a position assisting him in the school. Neither of them is happy with this situation, but it helps each other during a difficult time. What they don’t realize is how easily their chemistry will light, and the two find themselves drawn to each other. Are Desmond and Maggie destined for each other, or are they a “quick flash in the pan” of chemistry?
Throughout the story, Allen illustrates her prowess with writing by using the metaphor of the lens. It seems fitting since Maggie is a former model and Desmond enjoys photographing his food. This title feels apropos. However, these characterizations are too obvious. With Maggie, looking through the lens of the camera underscores her “lack,” her imperfections and unattainable standards. By looking through it, her sense of self is defined by the evaluations of others, causing her to be “othered.” With Desmond, while he loves to photograph his food, his intent isn’t to share it with the world. Instead, his food photography is his connection with his father. It becomes a representation of their fraught relationship. As Allen weaves this metaphor through her story, we recognize that Allen is illustrating that Maggie and Desmond’s masks or social constructions of themselves don’t actually match their truth. The “lens” isn’t a reflection; instead, it distorts it. As you read this story, and that truth plays over and over again, the profundity of Allen’s message flows over you like a wave repeatedly. It’s here where I fell in love with this book.
In Maggie’s depiction, I found myself. Like Maggie, I have some “daddy issues.” Allen uses moments in the story to push against Maggie’s figurative “bruises” related to her fractured relationship with her father, and I felt that push to my own bruises. Writing a character such as Maggie becomes a reflection of anyone who has been left behind. Like Desmond, I like control. I imagine much of this is similar to Desmond’s reasons for it: our pasts were wrought with moments where we felt out of control. Through Desmond’s characterization, Allen deftly connects her readers to the lens of control as a way to assuage guilt or worry or fear. She does this so well that you feel emotionally connected to bother her hero and heroine.
And Allen’s story is rife with moments of learning. How do we let go of our past? How do we move past fears of rejection? How do we allow people beyond the walls we’ve erected in protecting our heart? This is the depth of story found in K.K. Allen’s Through the Lens. The metaphor, the character development, and the story conspire to remind us that the present is all we have, and we must live it without regrets. The past is in the past, and the future is only a promise. All of this profundity is wrapped in a heart-felt, sultry package of enemies-to-lovers romance that grabs you from the first page, sets your heart on fire, and leaves you sizzling in the pan. Through the Lens is no value meal; it is the exclusive chef’s table meal created to both ravish and assuage your soul.
In love and romance,