Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
If you read Karina Halle’s The Forbidden Man, then you know Luciano Ribeiro. The reliable, stalwart captain of Real Madrid makes an impression on you in that book. When Karina Halle announced that she would be writing a story for this team captain who is a soft place for Alejo to land in that book, I was “over the moon.” This man needed his own story. When she teased that the story would be a journey, with Alejo’s love knitted from afar, I KNEW this book would steal a little part of my heart. And guess what? It did. However, it isn’t for the reasons that I thought. The One That Got Away is a journey of two souls fated for each other from the day they meet except that journey is a windy road with many paths. The foundation of that journey, though, is the belief that Halle’s Luciano and Ruby will find their way to each other even though the journey isn’t linear and plotted. It’s that truth that steals your heart and takes a piece of your soul.
Usually, I’ll spend time in a review working through the details that the author crafts on the page. I’ll talk about the prose or the characterizations. I’ve written reviews for Karina Halle before, in that vein. However, this time, it’s important to note that this book isn’t about that. If you love stories that feel epic and deep, then you will want to read The One That Got Away. This is not an easy read. This is not a quick jump into bed for her hero and heroine. Halle’s book takes you for a ride, one with potholes and cracked roads. If you love stories where it’s clear from the start that the hero and heroine must be together, then you’ll want to read this romance. One of the frustrations with this story is Ruby. To be fair, though, she makes choices in her youth that make sense. For her. Halle does a beautiful job of helping you understand why she does what she does. However, it’s sometimes difficult to read because you, the reader, know there are better choices. But…that’s life, right? We all make poor choices, and we all live with regret. I think, with Ruby, Halle is reminding us that our decisions don’t have to define us in the long term. That there is always a choice in the future that can lead us back to where we wanted to be. There’s beauty in that truth. There’s beauty in failure and heartbreak, and that’s clear in The One That Got Away. Even when Luciano and Ruby are separated, there is a significance to that part of their journey because when they come back together, they know their place, they know where they belong. For me, that understanding was my favorite part of this story. I love that Luciano and Ruby are messy people with messy lives. I love that their love is difficult even though they are “two sides of the same coin.” Halle has Luciano think: “she is me and I am her.” This goes far towards telling you that Luciano and Ruby will find each other and live happily ever after. But life has to intercede and make it difficult, and it’s poetic. What it does is make the epilogue the best part of this book, and it is.
I know that I’ve spent most of this review talking about Ruby. Yet, the depth and gravity of Ruby’s character are impossible without Luciano. The Luciano of The Forbidden Man is the same. He is stalwart and strong and handsome and $exually adept. He’s incredibly internal and it grounds him. Underneath that exterior lies a man who simply needs love. In the fulfillment of his relationship with Ruby, that is revealed to him. Halle unfortunately doesn’t make it easy for him. Yet, in making it difficult, it breeds a story that burrows deep, entrenching its truth in you. Does this book have the same forbidden, edge-of-your-seat feeling as The Forbidden Man? No. Instead, it feels like Luciano: deep, internal, and beautiful. I love the story Karina Halle wrote for Luciano and Ruby in The One That Got Away. Honestly, it feels like a memento of 2020, and its ending reads like a promise for all of our 2021s.
In love and romance,