Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
One of the challenges facing college students is mental health. There is much being written about the need to improve the mental health of our college students. With Allie Winters’s Under Pressure, the hero and the heroine’s story elicits thoughts about overcoming mental health challenges brought on by anxiety and the impact of past trauma. When you enter this story, you are met with a hero with so much disdain for life that it seems unbelievable that he’ll ever find anything interesting about Winters’s heroine. Except that Winters’s heroine is extraordinary. Under Pressure utilizes the classic trope of opposites attracting with a grumpy, loner hero and a vibrant, intelligent heroine whose example challenges our hero to be better.
Under Pressure tells the story of two psychology students vying for the opportunity to intern in their university’s Stress Center. For each of them, this would be a perfect stepping stone to launch themselves into their grad programs after graduating. Mia, the heroine, notices the hero, Tyler, in a mutual class the semester before. She is drawn to his intellect and his voice. On meeting him face-to-face, she is also enamored with his eyes and his good looks. Unfortunately, Tyler is rude and only interested in school and a possible position in the Stress Center. When Dr. Pierce, the faculty member who oversees this opportunity, determines that Mia and Tyler should work together on their respective studies, merging their ideas, Mia and Tyler must determine if they want the opportunity or pass on it. Knowing that the experience would be an important one, they agree to work together, but there are complications from the start. For one, Tyler prefers working alone, and he now has to include Mia, and whether he wants to admit it or not, Tyler is drawn to her just as Mia is drawn to Tyler. As their experience progresses, things turn hot and heavy under the guise of friends with benefits as Tyler has no interest in girlfriends and relationships. Unfortunately for Tyler, Mia gets under his skin and everything becomes complicated.
Like the other Smartypants Romance books, Under Pressure inspired by one of Penny Reid’s worlds. Under Pressure is the first book of the newly created Lessons Learned series. Inspired by Reid’s Hypothesis series, the focus of this book, mental health, is grounded in a new adult world. As Tyler and Mia traverse their story, the reader is met with the challenges of anxiety and past traumas in the lives of the characters. As a response, Winters shows how one of them uses therapy and meditation to confront their mental health crisis while the other character tries to power through it to no avail. When that character finally embraces the need for help in overcoming their mental health challenges, the story becomes righted suggesting that Winters’s message focuses on the need for outside help to alleviate mental health issues.
This book has one of my favorite tropes: opposites attract. Especially in the case of Under Pressure, Tyler is such a difficult character to like as he struggles with maintaining anger and loneliness to handle life. When faced with a character like Mia who takes each challenge as it comes with grace and tenacity, there is no way that he can continue in his ways. Winters does a superb job in pacing out their journey, making us wait for Tyler to recognize a need to change. Winters deftly crafts their experience to both repel and attract the reader. There is just something special about Tyler and Mia together, and you can’t help but root for them to the very last page.
Allie Winters’s Under Pressure feels like an important book in the Smartypants Romance universe at a time when mental health challenges are a serious focus. To illustrate this message through the course of her story feels necessary. That message, however, never overpowers the romance of Tyler and Mia; instead, it highlights the capacity of love to support us when we don’t feel very together. I think that’s the big takeaway from Under Pressure, and it makes for a compelling read.
In love and romance,