Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
The title for Tia Louise’s Trouble is bantered around in its story. However, while there is “trouble” for her hero and heroine, Spencer and Jocelyn, and while they are “trouble” to each other, the real trouble comes for the reader…a heart kind of trouble. Louise’s newest book is everything you love about romance: a hero whose emotional walls are firmly intact that they earn him the moniker, Mr. Freeze, for his imperious, cold demeanor, a heroine who is a bit messy but able to melt the freeze of the hero, a threat to the heroine and her friend who causes the hero to become his best self, protective, and so much steam that you almost need the hero and heroine to spend all their time in the bedroom. All of these qualities conspire to create a story that pulls at your heart in Tia Louise’s newest book.
The story follows Jocelyn, the cousin of the heroine in Louise’s more recent story, Twist of Fate. Believing her boyfriend will put a ring on her finger, she finds out quickly that his intent is the opposite, as she catches him cheating with his secretary. Without a home (he had asked her to move in with him), a stronger list of massage clients, and a ring, Jocelyn moves in with her friend, Courtney. Before the day she catches her boyfriend in the act, her cousin is married to Scout, the hero of Twist of Fate, and she engages in a steamy encounter with Daisy’s former boss, Spencer, a curt, proper, stoic man. They are drawn to each other, but her sense of obligation to her boyfriend stops them before they can go “all the way.”
Needing money after the drama with her now ex-boyfriend, Jocelyn is pulled into helping Spencer and his business partner, Miles, with their gala. Spencer and Jocelyn are drawn to each other; however, Spencer has learned to hide any vulnerability and insists on any connection to be entirely physical and temporary. However, Spencer can’t seem to “shed” his interest in Jocelyn.
What this does is lead to a tether between Jocelyn and Spencer with Spencer fighting his growing connection to Jocelyn in ways that seem mean-spirited and hurtful while needing to be close to her. As her friend’s life becomes more and more endangered that it begins to threaten Jocelyn’s life, Spencer steps in to protect them all. However, maintaining his emotional walls grows more precarious as Jocelyn shows him that he can be more and want more from life and relationships.
Heroes such as Spencer are my favorite type of romantic heroes. They are damaged by their pasts, and they need the love of their heroine to “save” them from themselves. As the story progresses, Tia Louise slowly lowers Spencer’s emotional walls, kneading him into the type of hero that makes readers like me cry. His past is horrible, but Jocelyn believes he can be more, and this binds them more with each turn of the page of this book. For me, Spencer’s journey/evolution is the best part of Trouble.
As a heroine, Jocelyn is everything you love. She’s independent even when she struggles with the consequences of her love life. She has the capacity to punch through Spencer’s emotional walls, and her tenacity is her best trait. I think the thing I love the most about her story arc is her willingness to embrace setting boundaries with Spencer once she realizes he needs more from his life. In many romances, the heroine “can’t help herself” and she continually moves her boundaries, undermining the tension of the story. Tia Louise holds fast to setting Jocelyn’s emotional boundaries. The one time that Jocelyn changes them Louise creates this emotional moment for both Spencer and Jocelyn that breaks your heart, and it reminds you that you must hold fast to protecting your personal boundaries.
In fact, that is the essence of Tia Louise’s Trouble: the importance of vulnerability to a healthy relationship. This quote from her book says it best: “[t]he real lesson I learned from this man is love must be shared with something that can be lost. Giving it to possessions only diminishes its value. Love becomes priceless when you have to earn the right to keep it. True love takes risk. It takes vulnerability. Only then have you found something irreplaceable.” By casting her story in Spencer’s world of antiquities, a world predicated on owning “things” that seem intangible, Tia Louise shows us that the true intangibility of life is loving with vulnerability. Yes, this story has steam. Yes, her characters’ journeys are profound. Yet, it’s this overall idea that makes Trouble an important read. Life’s trouble lies in our inability to give love freely to others so that we can gain it in return.
In love and romance,