Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“Need me like I need you. Let me in, Dandelion.”
In the spirit of football players at Waylon University (the fictional university set in Ilsa Madden-Mill’s series of football players), I Promise You, Ilsa Madden-Mills’s newest book in her series of standalones, finds its own space. From the first book of the series, I Bet You, to I Dare You to I Hate You, Madden-Mills has skillfully written heroes and heroines who capture your heart at every turn of their story. To date, Blaze Townsend, the hero of her book, I Hate You, holds my heart. With I Promise You, Dillon McQueen made a grand attempt to overtake that title, but alas, Blaze still holds the top stop. That isn’t to say that Dillon isn’t dreamy or engaging. In fact, Dillon is a hero much like a complex wine. There are “notes” to Dillon, and you have to pay close attention to “breathe” them in. I personally loved the complexity of his characterization because Madden-Mills plays with the idea of facades: the figurative masks we put on to hide our hurts. From the beginning of this book, Madden-Mills craftily makes us believe that Dillon is a typical playboy BMOC until we learn very quickly that that is furthest from the truth. For this reader, give me a straw and let me guzzle that up because the realization is that Dillon will lead us on a journey of discovery. At the end of it, there will be a grand truth about life. And that is indeed the case with Madden-Mills’s story.
Like Dillon, Serena has learned to hide behind her care for others. She pursues taking care of her sister and her grandmother instead of introspectively looking at the wounds of her past relationship. In fact, if I had to find a thread that binds Serena and Dillon together, it is the impact of past hurts on the development of potential relationships. It is this connection that binds the reader to this story. We have all felt this hurt. Some of us process it in therapy, some of us lose ourselves in other parts of life to hide from it, and some of us, as we see with Dillon and Serena, hide our pain behind carefully constructed walls, keeping others out as a way to avoid the pain. This is one of my favorite messages found in literature. It’s possibly because I have endured the same experience as Dillon, and as Madden-Mills knit his journey, I could find myself there. I rooted for him hard as he pursued Serena. For me, this is the magic of Ilsa Madden-Mills. She is ridiculously talented at creating characters who feel as we do. They aren’t just characters in a romance. They are us. And Dillon and Serena evoke that same magic that you find in all of Ilsa Madden-Mills’s stories.
There is easy banter with these two. There is undeniable chemistry between these two. There is some angst belying their story. But Ilsa Madden-Mills writes wise ancillary characters (Nana is my favorite person of the story) to lessen the pain. She weaves a story that leads to the most deliciously satiating of endings. And she offers you hope in the happy ending of Dillon and Serena. There is so very much to love about I Promise You, and if you have read anything by Ilsa Madden-Mills, you will walk away from her newest book, shaking your head in disbelief as you realize that she has done it again. She has written another book that makes you drunk with happiness and love.
In love and romance,