Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
My first foray into Lexi Ryan’s stories began with Brinley and Martson’s story in Every Little Promise and Every Little Piece of Me. That second chance romance intrigued me but fell a little short for me in its evolution. I was interested, though, in the next book of Ryan’s Orchid Valley series, a friends-to-lovers romance between Kace and Stella, one of Brinley’s friends and co-workers. What I found is a story that captured me from the beginning as it evolves into an angsty story of two friends, one of whom has pined for the other for over a decade. The most impactful aspect of Ryan’s Every Sweet Regret is its exposition on women’s agency over their $exuality and the double-standard that exists for women when they embrace a $exually active lifestyle.
Yes, the chemistry between Ryan’s hero, Kace, and her heroine, Stella, is off the charts. There is a clear connection between these two. However, Kace’s struggle to move past his divorce and his mischaracterization of Stella keeps his feelings and actions at bay. Using the reality of modern-day dating, Ryan’s story finds Kace’s ex-wife creating a profile for him on a “hook-up” app, Random, where, guess what, he matches with Stella without him knowing she is Stella. It is here where the story becomes complicated because Kace doesn’t realize the woman he has begun speaking to on the app is actually Stella. Additionally, he decides to finally explore his chemistry with Stella creating all kinds of complications. While Ryan writes Kace as a do-gooder friend to all, a man who simply wanted his family to “work out,” he tends to be dense and disconnected from the truth of his feelings. It makes him more complex, adding an edge to this trope that can sometimes be mild. Obviously, the drama comes in the revelation of Stella’s identity.
The highlight of the story is Ryan’s development of Stella’s character. It is in her progression on the page that two truths come to light: (1) that people discriminate and perceive one’s identity based on their outward appearance and (2) that a woman’s $exuality cannot be overt because she is judged for her freedom to enjoy it. Stella knows what she wants, and she wants Kace. However, Kace’s shortsightedness about Stella creates their issues. Stella knows herself, and she believes in a potential future with Kace. She is insightful and strong, and she’s the type of heroine that you want to find a happy ending. For me, Ryan writes Stella in such a way that she is more interesting than her heroine in the first books of this series. Stella is complicated and interesting in a way that Brinley can’t be. This made Every Sweet Regret so much more compelling than the initial books.
Yes, Every Sweet Regret is a friends-to-lovers’ story, but it’s also more. It’s a suggestion that women should have the same freedom to explore their $exuality as men, instead of enduring the recriminations of society. Over and over again, Ryan is careful in reminding us that there should be no difference. This message underscored and created a gravity that seemed missing from the earlier books in the series. In the end, though, Kace and Stella find their happily-ever-after, and Ryan shows her capability at drawing you into a story, one that feels a bit necessary to read for its message.
In love and romance,