Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️++
All In, Ashley Jade’s final book of her Complicated Parts trilogy, marks an end: an end to want. Fold, the first book of this series, began my adoration for Ashley Jade. It is the very first book I read from her. I wish I could remember how I came to find that book, but I remember that it ignited my love for her storytelling. Fold and Bluff were my initiation into the world of alpha-hole heroes and upending characterizations of heroines. I remember distinctly thinking about Kit, the heroine of this trilogy, for long periods of time. Ashley Jade was considering $exuality in more fluid terms before societal buzzwords or labels such as pan$exuality or demi$exuality were being bantered around. She was interrogating attraction and love between souls before we were really focusing on it as a larger population, and I was confused and intrigued and thoughtful about it. I’m sure there are LGBTQA scholars who might scream at her for her insistence on Preston and Kit, but I think she has done all of us in romancelandia a favor by playing with this notion in her Complicated Parts trilogy.
I have waited longingly for years for All In. When Jade finished Bluff, I was heartbroken. I could feel Kit’s pain, and I wanted to be absolved of it. This is romance after all, so I needed a happy ending for Kit and Preston, but Jade, the masochist, had other stories that needed telling, so I’ve waited, clearly the sadist in this relationship. And Jade, with this story, had work to do. There was much to be done to get Kit and Preston to a happy ending: absolving Kit’s hurt, explaining Preston’s side “business,” rectifying Kit’s grandmother’s agreement, and revealing and ameliorating Preston’s past traumas, all while finding a space for Kit and Preston. Like peeling the layers of an onion, Jade deftly and beautifully juggles all of her storylines. I will say that there is one moment (of which I will not divulge here so as not to spoil anything about this book) that I felt was remedied too quickly and hurried us away from it. To be honest, it isn’t necessary to linger there long for the rest of the story. Considering this book is 497 pages, I shouldn’t be curious, but I guess I wanted to see more of the consequences of it. That being said, this is neither here nor there to the overall story.
All In is emotionally painful, yet titillating and expressive in one fell swoop. There were times when I needed a quick TikTok break away from Preston’s outer meanness and Kit’s empathy that gutted her. Yet, as the story goes, as Jade peels those layers of their story away, you fall deeper into them, into their traumas, into their inexplicable attraction, and into their love. Jade forces us to consider that souls, not labels, not expectations, can become fated for each other no matter the outer package. That feels so important in the world of romancelandia, when everywhere we turn, we encounter tropes and genres and tradition. All In feels like a kick to that. There are definitely traditional parts of this story: the happy ending and the $exual connection between Kit and Preston. But Jade is so careful with Kit and her characterization, taking the time to mete out her feelings. She’s so careful in Preston’s evolution and healing. She makes her readers work for all of it, and you find yourself “all in” with their story.
Is waiting for All In worth it? Absolutely. Ashley Jade’s insistence on taking her time with this story was responsible, it is timely, and it needed to be told right now. Our society has caught up to the ideas behind her characters, and it’s made for a story that gives Preston and Kit the happy ending they deserve. Every turn of the page of this book was a revelation, and I’m thankful to the universe for drawing me to Ashley Jade. All In reminds me that she’s a very special kind of romance writer because, through the genius of her storytelling, she shows us what an “imperfectly perfect” looks like, and that love is both painful and joyful in equal measure. In a world that is far from perfect, that seems like an important lesson to learn.
In love and romance,