Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Gah, I adore how female positive Jessica Peterson romances are. Story after story about women and the issues involved in living life as women hit your Kindles hard. She pairs these insightful, intelligent women with men who are still incredibly masculine but yet they have an emotional intelligence that allows them to partner with this type of woman. Southern Sinner, Peterson’s newest book, is more of this. Following the story of Hank, as he travels the world as a means to overcome the damage of his actions with his brother Samuel’s girlfriend, this book does so many things well. Let me tell you about all of its charms and the reasons WHY this should be on your Kindle this minute:
- By my estimation, Southern Sinner is one of Peterson’s steamiest books. Her hero, Hank, and her heroine, Stevie, cannot keep their hands off of each other, and this aspect of their relationship is the barometer for their eventual coupling. When these two meet in Vegas, they make a clear distinction about their physical needs: to basically “get off” and have fun. From the moment they become physical, they know that it is something different, but both of them are not interested in a relationship, given the challenges of their pasts. What I love about these moments is Peterson’s permission for her heroine to be both independent and $exual without consequence. This is powerful because it equalizes her partnership with Hank.
- Peterson is so careful in recognizing the impact of perceived gender roles and the attached expectations. This is mostly seen through the lens of Stevie’s characterization, and it takes up much of the story for this to find reconciliation. Even then, Stevie has to have an epiphany (thanks to her friends) in order to see it. The worry and fret that consumes Stevie’s character as she navigates her connection with Hank is insightful and provides much of the angst of this story. It’s never heavy in its exemplification. Instead, it acts as an impetus for thinking, for recognition, and for reconciliation.
- Peterson also uses Stevie’s character to discuss the ways that women often make themselves small as a means to create “harmony” within relationships and the detriment of this on those same relationships. I felt every one of Stevie’s words with this insight.
- Through Hank, Peterson deftly illustrates the challenges of a work-life balance, something that feels endangered with our own pandemic. Through his characterization, as it relates to this issue, one of my favorite parts is Stevie’s leadership towards helping Hank live a better life, focusing on self-care over industry.
- There is a beautiful message about loving the messes in life and in people. Life is not perfection; it is an amalgamation of messes, and true love means loving people in their message. It’s one of the most profound ideas of Southern Sinner.
- And of course the rest of the Beauregard family is here. It is here where the heart of the book resides. Through the love of this family, you’ll find healing and accountability, meted out in ways that will touch your heart.
- Lastly, and not most importantly, is an homage to Bridgerton. Calling upon the cultural phenomenon, Peterson uses it well to illustrate the complications of Stevie and Hank’s pairing.
I’m always ready to be underwhelmed by Jessica Peterson, and yet, each book reminds me why the moment her ARC sign-ups post, I sign up immediately. There are so many talented writers in romancelandia, but they don’t all write romance that challenges societal norms as they relate to women (and men by extension). Her stories, ones like Southern Sinner, challenge you and ask you to reconsider your accepted norms. Even more, in the end, you’ll find yourself a little bit changed at her book’s end.
In love and romance,