Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️++
I was only a short way through Jessica Peterson’s Southern Seducer when I realized how much I had missed reading her brand of romance while she was away on maternity leave. If you’ve read any of my reviews for her books, you’ll realize quickly how excited she makes me over her intent in making romance MORE. Yes, the romantic relationships are key elements of her books, but she always gives us MORE to consider, and Southern Seducer is no different. As you read chapter after chapter of this new book, I think what you realize quickly is that Jessica Peterson, more than any of her other books, is bleeding herself onto the pages, and she’s grafted a romance that tackles some of life’s most difficult times.
The romance of Southern Seducer is a combination of sweet, soulful, and seductive. Her hero and heroine, Beau and Annabel “Bel,” inhabit one of my favorite but confusing tropes: best friends to lovers. Peterson has crafted a friendship that can withstand anything. At the core of their journey, though, is the overwhelming nature of expectations when they aren’t balanced with the reality of life. Both Beau and Bel struggle with a sense of expectation that is a creation of their own minds. As such, their lives feel messy as they fail to meet those pristine expectations. Each has their own story which highlights their difficulties. It is their deep abiding friendship that sees them through that mess and leads them into a relationship that truly sits in the divide between expectation and reality. Peterson composes these reverent moments between the two, as they grow deeper in their friendship and love. From Beau’s first words of solace to Bel on her diagnosis of postpartum depression, I wanted more. My favorite moments in this book aren’t the steamy ones. They rarely are. They are the moments where humanity is spoken and it brings a sense of peace for the characters. Each of those moments leads you deeper into Beau and Bel’s exemplification of love. There is a tenderness with this couple, even while there are moments of hilarity and sensuality too. Peterson’s ability to construct these layers for her characters is an additional reason I’ve missed her romances. I’m thankful that Beau and Bel have brought us back to Peterson’s brand of Southern romance.
Life is messy. I think this is the ultimate truth of Jessica Peterson’s Southern Seducer. I think we live in a time when that message is screaming at us. So many people are holding tight to their control when, quite frankly, it feels more important to live in each moment. To be messy. To acknowledge that we aren’t “okay” right now. Even more, that we can ask people to walk us through the difficulties of our lives. This is the truth that both Beau and Bel have to learn in Jessica Peterson’s carefully drawn story of two friends finding a depth of love beyond their imaginations. Reading this truth as it’s revealed in this impassioned story was important, just as I imagine it was important for Jessica Peterson to write it on the page. Beau and Bel are us; they are striving to meet their carefully constructed intentions for their lives. Yet, when their lives don’t meet those ideologies, through their love for each other as friends, they allow themselves to accept the now and to accept their messiness. If we don’t need a book like this right now, then I don’t know what we need. Beau and Bel’s story is perfect in its imperfection. Grab this one fast because it is ALL the stars.
In love and romance,