Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Nothing makes me happier than a new romance in Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series. The community that Bowen has crafted with her Bruisers and Bombshells is one you can’t help but want to revisit time and time again. It could be the backdrop of hockey for those of us who love that sport, but for me, it’s the characters Bowen so deftly creates with this backdrop in mind. The community in these stories makes us find ourselves in Bowen’s books and her characters.
In her newest story, Love Lessons, we are confronted with people who judge a person’s outer qualities first, struggle with the value of imperfection, and have shown resilience through past traumas. Her characters, Ian and Vera, are imperfect people, and Bowen crafts them as a reflection of our own foibles. There is a realness in her storytelling, allowing us to see ourselves in her characters. I have a friend who is dyslexic, and she finds a bit of herself in Ian’s characterization. This is the power of Bowen’s storytelling, and it’s why a reader like me returns to her stories without thought.
Love Lessons is opposites attract, summer fling, sports romance. Ian and Vera are an unlikely couple: she’s buttoned up, exacting, and loves fashion so she showcases it on herself, while Crikey is tattooed, foul-mouthed, unkempt, and looser with his life. Their attraction and chemistry are clear from the start, and there is nothing better than a hero who helps a heroine get a little messy, and there is nothing better than a heroine who helps a hero see his personal value when his past has left him feeling lacking. There is indecision and discord in their coupling, but there is also sensuality and sentimentality in it too. For those of us who love a little hate-to-love in our romance, you won’t be disappointed. For those readers who love a fraught relationship, there is something in Love Lessons for you too.
In addition to the compelling journey of Vera and Crikey, we are returned to the lives of Bruisers from earlier Bowen books. She beckons us back to her world, and she gives us more nibbles from the lives of some of our favorite team members. We are also treated to the extravagant world of Neil Drake’s Lake Como. And this Bowen fan wants a vacation there immediately.
Love Lessons is a comfort, a ramble through a world that feels familiar to a long-time Sarina Bowen fan. It’s a reminder against judging a “book by its cover.” It’s an admonishment about embracing imperfection because it’s what makes us real and human and relatable. Ian and Vera are an apt example of Sarina Bowen’s impressive capacity for breathing reality in a world of romantic fiction.
In love and romance,