Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I fell in love with Ava Ryan with her Fairy Tale Billionaires. There is something I love about her romances. For one, they are contained to a shorter specific time, the heroes are a bit broken while her heroines are mostly self-sufficient, independent, and the impetus for the heroes to look inward and embrace love. In that series, the billionaires have stalwart, very masculine outer appearances, and it takes the heroines to help them expose their soft underbellies. I loved each of their stories because the chances of the Brothers Black readily falling in love is questionable, yet Ava Ryan carefully crafts journeys for them that poke at their emotional vulnerabilities. Their journeys pull you through her books.
With Ryan’s newest book, His Lost Love, the same qualities that I love exist: this is written during a fixed period of time even though the hero, Liam, and heroine, Mia, have history, serious history; the journey forward is fraught with trials and tribulations, yet the story ends in a sweet happy ending; and Ryan’s writing is once again seamless in its expression of Liam and Mia’s journey.
What feels different from the Fairy Tale Billionaires series is the heroes. Like the Black brothers, the outer appearance of Liam is masculine. However, Liam has a vulnerability that he readily shows. There are times when he does protect that vulnerability, but he is more apt to show his emotions, more than Mia, her heroine. As Mia’s brother and Liam’s best friend, Michael, plays a small part in their story, we also see that same emotional availability in his character. This feels very different from Ryan’s first series, and I found myself shocked at various moments in his and Mia’s story when he expresses his emotions. I’m not talking about anger (although there is some of that in the story) rather he readily shows tears, pain, and love in his eyes throughout the story. It doesn’t make Liam any less masculine either. Ryan doesn’t fall into the trap that female romance writers fall into when they emasculate their heroes unintentionally. Everything that makes Liam masculine exists even when he’s showing his heart. It made him my favorite character, to be honest. I read a review from someone who said she thought he read as stalkerish. That is definitely not the case. These two happen to show up in the same places because they have mutual friends and acquaintances. If there is any criticism of Liam, it is his waffling between using Mia to get over her and his undying love for her. It’s obvious that they are fated for each other. That he continuously moves between those perspectives makes his story frustrating at times.
My least favorite character in His Lost Love is Mia. I love independent, ambitious heroines. They are my favorite to read in romance. Yet, Ryan crafts Mia with invulnerability that circumvents her attraction to Liam. To be blunt: Mia annoyed me. Her words and actions don’t match, and I think Ryan took this too far in the story. We find out the reasons for her constructed walls against Liam around the 60ish percent range in the story, and you realize quickly that Mia is an active participant in her break up. From there, Mia holds tight to this forcefield. Again and again, she makes choices that make you want to scream at her. Ryan does explain it at some point, but the constant contention between the two of them causes the story to slow at points. I found my mind drifting from their story.
I do think His Lost Love is a strong foundational story for this next series, the Manhattan Billionaires. By the end of this story, you will be ready for the next book that I believe might focus on Mia’s brother, Michael. And this reader is ready for it.
His Lost Love is a story of second chances, of letting go of the hurts of the past to find your happy ending. Ava Ryan clearly and deftly expresses that message through the journey of Liam and Mia. If you like contentious (I wouldn’t call it enemies-to-lovers because they aren’t really enemies) stories about moving beyond the past, shaded by a spicy physicality between a hero and heroine, then you should read Ava Ryan’s newest book.
In love and romance,