Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
If you haven’t read Laurelin Paige, there is something you should understand about her romances. They usually involve heroes most would term “alpha-heroes.” These are men with decided views on life, and controlling situations is their superpower. It’s actually quite interesting how she oftentimes quiets them. She tends to write duets or trilogies, and the first book or two are narrated through one point of view: the heroes. As a reader, it’s maddening as you encounter these overtly dominant masculine overtures through the specter of the heroine’s voice, and you long for the hero’s point of view, to read their longing for the heroine. Because that is key to a Paige romance: the hero falls decidedly hard, usually against his own better judgment, for the heroine of the story. It becomes a requirement of her heroes to do so, and the heroine’s point of view encapsulates it in a way that makes us distrust the hero’s motives. What does this mean: her heroines oftentimes are unreliable narrators. In crafting her romances this way, it creates a tension that drives her readers forward, and you can’t help but gorge on the manna of her stories because the trials and tribulations of their journey are heartfelt and oftentimes angsty. Yet, her heroes exist in a world of dominance, deftly positioning their heroines in emotional, mental, and physical spaces that can make the reader feel uncomfortable, given our own world. I’m sure many of us would rebuke a Paige hero (even though we might fantasize about that level of dominance). In a #metoo world, romance can problematize heroic constructions.
Enter Laurelin Paige’s Man in Charge duet. With Man on Top, Man in Charge, and now, Man in Love, Paige has aptly written a hero in Scott Sebastian who is challenged by his privilege and his gender. One of the most insightful aspects of reading Man in Charge and Man in Love is the internal dialogue of her hero, specifically in Man in Love. What Paige has done is evolve her typical Paige hero into a “woke” representation of a modern-day hero, one perched ready to acknowledge his shortcomings so that he can become a better partner for his heroine. And this, my friends, is an exciting turn for romance, whether we want to admit it or not.
Man in Love, Paige’s final book in this duet, is the continuing story of Scott Sebastian and Tessa Turani. I will provide no story summary because the blurb for this book offers enough, and I don’t want to spoil anything about this book, given that Paige left us with a cliffhanger in Man in Charge. What should you know?
- The chemistry between Scott and Tessa continues on its fiery path. This is also one of my favorite parts of a Laurelin Paige romance. They are so darn hot, and Tessa and Scott are no different. Their $exual tension bleeds off the page. Yet, it’s also their emotional connection that draws you into their journey.
- I mentioned Paige’s undercurrent of discussions about privilege in my Man in Charge review. This conversation continues in Man in Love. When Scott ponders how Tessa makes him “a better man,” he’s noting how she challenges hiim to see the world beyond his privileged one. Interestingly enough, Scott and Tessa’s lives are very similar while seemingly dissimilar. Each is struggling with various restrictions to their freedom. One would think that Scott, with his family’s money and legacy, would have the most freedom, but Paige explores that his freedom is restricted if he follows his family’s expectations for him. His familial responsibility restrains him in ways he doesn’t realize until Tessa. Like Scott, Tessa is hindered by her lack of resources and the mindset of “settling.” Until she meets Scott, she doesn’t realize that her mindset is hindered, and it’s the potential cause of feeling caged by her job, her friendship, and past love relationships. Paige enters us brilliantly into this discussion of privilege forcing us to question its impact on our thinking. While it would seem counterintuitive to engage in these discussions about privilege, racial injustice, and gender inequality, romances provide the perfect platform as love as a vessel for empathy is the answer to remedying these issues.
- As I mentioned earlier in this review, Scott Sebastian’s characterization is the best part of this book. He is similar and yet different from Paige’s other alpha-heroes. There is a compassion and empathy in him that cause him to question his life, but he still maintains his alpha-hero status. What I especially loved is Paige’s focus on the ways in which Scott espouses some traits of toxic masculinity, namely in his want to protect Tessa from outside forces and his “speaking for her.” Yet, Paige has crafted a bold, intelligent, insightful heroine in Tessa, and she confronts him when he acts as some of Paige’s other heroes have acted. From a reader standpoint, you understand this to be a typical move for romance heroes, but Paige seems to be upending and placing a magnifying glass over those toxic traits in romance heroes. That discord between them is a conduit for re-thinking aspects of romance that aren’t always healthy in their depictions of masculinity and femininity.
- And one final favorite facet of Paige’s Man in Love is her portrayal of female friendships. When I read Man in Charge (and I’m fairly sure I mentioned this in my review), the movie Working Girl came to mind. Figuring that I had it right, I was pleasantly surprised when Paige notes it as her inspiration in her end note. In that explanation, she points to a serious flaw in the original movie: the way in which a female power relationship undermines equality for women in the workplace, casting a female as a villain towards the heroine of that movie. In Man in Love, Paige absolutely rectifies this error. She casts a keen vision for setting a place for all women at the table of humanity, and it challenges the reader to be mindful of the ways we potentially denigrate our own $ex. That’s a powerful message, thoughtprovoking and important for our society today.
Laurelin Paige’s Man in Love provides the perfect ending to her Man in Charge duet. It’s a respite from our world with dissension and ugliness at every turn. Even as her characters encounter potentially unsurmountable troubles, Paige deftly guides them to an ending that challenges us, engages us, and leaves us swooning with adoration. This duet is an apt example of the ways in which romancelandia can embrace contentious societal issues and spin them into productive solutions for change. Writing should reflect humanity and challenge us to become better humans. And Paige’s Man in Charge duet is continuing that charge.
In love and romance,