Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“He’s as broken as I am. I don’t know why, but I can see it as plain as day. Maybe two broken people can heal each other?
And therein lies the crux of Ava Harrison’s Tempted. Is it possible for two broken people to heal each other? Drew is a nightclub owner struggling to live an abundant life in the shadow of loss, while Bailey is a rehabilitated drug addict trying to put her life together with little support and a shaky spirit. When these two meet, Harrison sets them off like fireworks. In the beginning, both Drew and Bailey resolve to stay away from the other, but they fail miserably. As their story progresses, it’s clear that they are “meant to be,” but their journey isn’t an easy one with outside influences seeking to derail their “happily ever after.”
Here’s the thing. I really, really wanted to love this story. I adore a broken hero and heroine who find completion in each other, who are able to help the other heal through their love. Those stories make up some of my favorite romances. Harrison does craft Bailey in such a way that you understand the consequences of her addiction. Harrison also shows her readers through her rendering of Drew the complexities of living after the death of a beloved especially when you play a part in that loss. Where I struggled with Tempted was in its pacing and its inability to develop into the emotional gravitas that the story requires. I think one of the biggest inhibitors to this is the shortened chapters of Tempted. There are 67 plus chapters in this book, but each chapter is fairly short, which means that the readers become engrossed in a particular moment of Drew and Bailey’s story and then find themselves moved on to another moment of their journey. This doesn’t allow the reader to become invested in Drew and Bailey’s lives because it never feels as though it goes deep enough. With the existential wounds that Drew and Bailey carry, you never feel the true depths of their pains. You receive them at a surface level so they never penetrate into your own feelings. I wanted to feel Drew and Bailey’s pain, their brokenness, but the story never allows for that.
What does Ava Harrison get right in this story? Well, the chemistry of her characters is clear. They are steamy together, although she doesn’t explicitly deliver that on the page. She offers up moments where it’s clear that they pine for each other physically. Yet, the scenes are not developed out in ways that other romance authors might. Even without the candor of a $ex scene, Drew and Bailey burn for each other. That’s clear.
The overarching theme of letting go of your past is also clear in Tempted. Anyone with the traumas of Drew ad Bailey’s pasts knows that therapy and moving forward are necessary towards healing and living more abundant lives. Harrison deftly allows this idea to percolate throughout her story, and at its end, she resolves it so that her hero and heroine find their happy ending.
If Tempted was one of the essays that one of my students had written, I would push for cutting out certain moments and working towards making stronger transitions between each of the points of the story. That, I believe, would have gone further to develop the depth of emotion required for this story.
If you are a fan of the broken hero and heroine trope, then Tempted is a worthy read. If you love a wealthy hero and a heroine whose socioeconomic profile places her at odds with her hero, then you will love Tempted. I think Ava Harrison has maintained her brand with this newest book; I’d simply love to feel the depth of her story’s emotions a bit more.
In love and romance,