Overall Grade: More than 5 ⭐️
“Because the one is supposed to get you, accept you.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged”, that a single reader of romance in possession of a couple of bucks and a few pennies, must be in want of an Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romance. That’s right. I’ve decided that Jane Austen and Ilsa Madden-Mills are an apt pairing given that the same tenets that drive my love for Jane Austen also drive my adoration for Ilsa Madden-Mills’s brand of romance. What are those tenets? Here goes:
- One handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul requiring a tenacious, headstrong, obstinate heroine to mend those broken parts into wholeness
- One tenacious headstrong, obstinate heroine with a certain set of quirks and imagination who infuses a certain level of humanity into the handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul
- Some carefully-plotted story with just the right amount of angst, steam, romance, and humor, all of them combining to keep you engaged from page 1 to the very end.
- A happy ending so carefully wrought that you can’t help but tear up over both the pleasure of the moment and the pain of having to leave characters whose characterizations make them seemingly real, new friends.
Yes. Each tome of the Ilsa Madden-Mills’s booklist brings these set of qualities that inspire one-clicks in Amazon at the announcement of a new book, impatient waiting for said book, constant visits to IMM’s Facebook page for nuggets of the forthcoming book, and, on receiving said book, a careful, but expedited read of her newest romance. Around and around the merry-go-round that is Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romances go because she writes romance that makes you pine for entry into her romance worlds. That’s right. If I had my way, I would jump feet first into the worlds she creates because they captivate her readers with characters, story, and the promise of love. And, once again, Madden-Mills has crafted a story that brings all of these qualities together in her newest book, Not My Romeo.
Am I being overly effusive? Possibly, but it’s simply the way I am with IMM’s stories. I’ve only been reading romance over the course of 2 ½ years, and I read mostly indie authors such as IMM. I’ve read only one of the traditionally more “popular” romance writers, missing the others. Ilsa Madden-Mills was, I believe, the third romance writer whom I read her entire booklist, at the time, in one sitting. Her stories captivate me as a reader because they portend to be innocent and light at first glance, but deeper into the story, we are met with deeper, more troubled issues. This is definitely the case with Not My Romeo (of which, I could not put down once I began reading it). Her hero, Jack, is complicated. According to his surface, his life seems perfect, as he’s a wealthy NFL player. Yet, we find out quickly that, underlying that handsome facade lies hurts, and those hurts have caused his life to be upended based on public scrutiny grounded in conjecture and gossip. I believe the saying “never judge a book by its cover” resounds in Jack’s story. And, as a staple of Madden-Mills’s romance, Jack needs some mending. He’s complicated, and IMM, as she does so often, brilliantly crafts a heroine who brings light to his life.
“He watched you like you were the sun to his moon.”
Enter Elena. You learn very quickly that this woman who bears her own wounds offers a soft place for Jack’s hardness (both literal and figurative) to land. She is the IMM heroine: tenacious, headstrong, obstinate as a protection for her own heart. I think my favorite moments between Jack and Elena in Not My Romeo happen as a result of Elena setting boundaries for herself and instituting them. There are several times in this story when it would be easy for Elena to take Jack’s offerings even though they are limited. However, in doing so, she could never be his heroine because he requires someone who can break down his heavily-fortified walls. In denying him, she causes him to question himself. This is the romantic gold of IMM’s stories. If you want an easy read from her, you will find it interwoven with some hard truths about life through the actualization of her characters. It’s why I love her romances. She aptly combines the difficult with the effortless. This is what keeps you reading until the very end.
I think when you look at a story such as Not My Romeo you have to understand that our pasts impact our future selves. This is very clear in Ilsa Madden-Mills’s story. Whether it’s abusive behavior, whether it’s poor choices we’ve made, or whether it’s how other’s have treated us, they leave behind excisions that eventually scab over and scar, but they can never be new skin again. As such, these scars create a weakness that influences our choices in the present and the future. For both Madden-Mills’s characters, those scars impact their ability to be present and make choices that bring about their happiness. And this is the story’s biggest truth. We have to allow ourselves to move beyond those weaknesses, to not let the scars of our past influence how we live abundantly in the present. Even in Jane Austen’s time, this particular “truth was self-evident,” as she wrote it into her novels. Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, political upheaval, and racial tensions, we could focus on the weaknesses of the time as Jack does for much of Not My Romeo. However, as Ilsa Madden-Mills carefully walks us through his journey with Elena, we realize that making better choices in the spirit of love will leave us with a happiness beyond our imaginations. I loved Not My Romeo. It wasn’t a story that I wanted to leave, and I imagine you will feel the same. So grab this one quick.
In love and romance,