Overall Grade: 4.5
Tropes: single mom; outsider; adversaries to lovers; next-door neighbors; small-town romance
I’m fairly certain that my favorite part of a hate-to-love, enemies-to-lovers, adversaries-to-lovers romance is the banter. There is something delicious in the back and forth between the MMC and FMC as they work out their attraction. The chemistry burns the pages of the story, and you can’t wait for them to finally throw themselves at each other, unable to stay away from each other. This phenomenon is the reason you should be reading Willa Nash’s The Brawl. Ronan and Larke are everything you love about this trope with the added benefit of their proximity to each other.
The Brawl has become one of my favorite Willa Nash stories. For one, Ronan is devilish, but also ignorant of the ways of Calamity. One minute, he’s that delicious romantic hero, striving to win the heart of Larke, the offspring of local royalty. The next minute, he’s being handed his behind as he realizes he doesn’t know enough about the local culture to make the right decisions. I love a hero who struggles with the security of his heroism. This imbalance ameliorates the power dynamic between Nash’s FMC and MMC. He’s oafish and debonair in one characterization.
Through Larke’s characterization, Nash illustrates the plight of the single mom. Thankfully, Larke has a support system, but Nash highlights the complications of relying on it. Even more, Larke’s story arc showcases the trials of being raised in a small town where everyone thinks they know your business, but they rarely do. Being the gossip fodder of the town can create problems. As Larke and Ronan begin to fall for each other, Nash adds this complication to her story.
Adding to these delicious characterizations is a story arc with plot points that seem ridiculous at their surface. However, as the story progresses, the depth of the story shows the reality of families. Ronan’s lawsuit is not simply a lawsuit; it’s a magnification of a young girl’s personal plight. Nash crafts this so well that she keeps you suspended in her story, carefully drawing it out until the right moment. For me, the pacing of The Brawl is one of Nash’s best.
If you love the banter of two people set in opposition to each other, then you will adore Willa Nash’s The Brawl. If you love a hero who knows what he wants and goes after it, this story is for you. If single-mom romances are your catnip, you won’t want to miss this one. This romance is probably my favorite Calamity Montana series book.
In love and romance,