Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
Penelope Ward’s The Assignment is an apt reminder that the enemies-to-lovers trope reigns supreme in the world of romance. Her newest story follows Aspyn and Troy. Troy dated Aspyn’s best friend in high school, and he cheats on her. This triggers Aspyn, and she spends the rest of their time in high school meteing out justice on him. The story begins when Aspyn is tasked with chaperoning one of the residents of the retired living home where she works. The man’s grandson fails to follow the rules; therefore, the administration determines they require a chaperone on their outings. It turns out that the grandson is none other than Troy, Aspyn’s high school nemesis. From the start, these two argue, bickering back and forth over their disdain for each other. However, this is simply foreplay. As the story progresses, Aspyn and Troy recognize developing feelings for each other. Unfortunately, Troy’s time in their hometown is temporary. Is their connection transitory, or will they find a forever together?
The chemistry between Aspyn and Troy is clear from the beginning of The Assignment. Ward has crafted it so clearly that, as a reader, when they finally move past it into deeper feelings, you actually miss it. These two are clearly fated for each other, but there are complications at the outset. What this does for the story arc is highlight the vulnerability of love. Aspyn’s familial background underscores her disdain for cheating which causes her to fight falling for Troy. She struggles to become vulnerable with him, and she self-sabotages their relationship. Similarly, Troy believes he isn’t worthy of love, so he too wrestles with becoming too vulnerable with Aspyn. Over and over again, these two miss out on connecting out of fear. This creates the emotional depth of Ward’s story.
I do feel that there are times when Ward fails to create deeper connections between the characters. For example, Troy adores Kiki, Aspyn’s niece who she is raising, but their relationship felt transitory at times. I was hoping for a more visceral emotional connection between them. There are times, even, when I thought Aspyn and Troy’s relationship lacked a stronger emotional bond. There is clearly chemistry, but I’m not sure that The Assignment made me feel the depth of their love.
The Assignment highlights some of the best elements of the enemies-to-lovers trope: clear fire between the hero and heroine, a slow devolvement into undying feelings, and the evolution into forever. As she has done previously in her other books, Penelope Ward shows us that she’s a master storyteller in this newest story.
In love and romance,