Tropes: romantic suspense; insta-attraction; professor/student; forbidden relationship; band of brothers; found family
Tia Louise’s Forbidden, the final book of her Hamilton Heat series, brings a complete and compelling end to the saga covering its four books. Wrapped in that favorite forbidden professor/student trope, Louise does what she does best: infuses an interesting, albeit predictable story into the steam of her characters, Dirk (Hutch from book 1’s little brother) and Reanna (his student with a secret). What readers love about Tia Louise’s storytelling is her capacity to draw up eroticism into her stories that provide titillating entertainment. Dirk and Reanna are instantly attracted to each other, and Dirk’s fight to stay away from Reanna is absolutely futile. Here’s the thing…if you love $ex with a side of story, this book and its predecessors are your reads. I have to admit, though. I found the predominance of Reanna and Dirk “hitting it” distracting. Don’t get me wrong. I love Tia Louise. Her Fight for Love series still echoes in my mind. But I’ve struggled with the Hamilton Heat series because it seems it is intended to infuse as much eroticism into its books, forgoing, at times, character development. This has been difficult for this reader because decisive and intentional character development is important. Louise can plot a story well, and she can draw on eroticism to increase the chemistry of her characters, but I needed more from Forbidden to believe that Dirk and Reanna wanted more than $ex. And believability is necessary for a forbidden, age-gap romance.
Tia Louise’s Forbidden provides a lovely ending to the threaded plotline of this series’s books. It entertains you while steaming your glasses…and other things. What it won’t do is tell you the “why” behind her characters’ choices. It will, however, underscore one of my favorite tropes: the found family. These qualities conspire to create a story that will entice but might not sustain your attention if you are looking for a bit more emotional development between its characters.
Tropes: second chance romance; single dad; single mom; widow; divorced dad
Two days out, and I am still reveling in Kristen Ashley’s Making the Match. Here’s the thing: I am loving the River Rain series. It’s a combination of older MMC/FMCs and younger ones. It feels multi-generational, and the cast of characters is as compelling as Ashley’s Rock Chicks/MMC/Dream Man/Dream Team series. Writing a world of characters so interesting that they feel real to you is Kristen Ashley’s superpower.
It was intriguing to enter Tom’s story. He cheated on Genny, and we should hate him. Right? Except Ashley is astute about marital issues. Decided in her characterization of him, Ashley makes it clear that his cheating is an exception, not the rule. And it’s complicated by the reality of his marriage to Genny. Tom doesn’t blame Genny for his indiscretion, but he expounds upon the complications of their marriage. For me, this was my favorite part of the book beyond Tom and Mika’s coupling. Marriage is hard, and it is easy to be derailed because both people are human. Ashley articulates this beautifully and deftly throughout Tom’s journey.
Make no mistake. You will leave this story having fallen hard for Tom and Mika even while grieving the loss of Genny and Tom together. I felt that indelibly as I was reading Making the Match. I adore Tom and Mika together. He’s a wonderful human, worthy of Mika’s love. Mike is a compassionate empath who truly sees Tom in a way that he’s never seen before. Except for some missteps early in their pairing, Tom and Mika are fated, and they steal a piece of your soul.
There are ideas about grief and acceptance, marriage and divorce, along with the humanity of people in relationships. There are characters upon characters in Making the Match that will make you smile, cry, and grow angry. I could live in Kristen Ashley’s River Rain series for a long, long time because each new chapter excites me for the future of this series.
You should really start at the beginning of this series with After the Climb to understand the impact of this story on this world. To me, Kristen Ashley is a gifted storyteller with the capacity to weave magic into her characters and her stories. Please don’t miss out on Tom and Mika, but read the others first.
I want to say something profound about Emma Scott’s Between Hello & Goodbye. I want to find all the words to tell people about the gravity of emotion in this story about instant attraction, but words seem inadequate to elaborate on the beauty of this story. Set in Hawaii and Seattle, Scott has created a story about choices and control and life.
Faith is a woman without direction. She is wildly successful at her job in advertising, but her life is an aimless journey of one-night stands and meaningless evenings out with friends. When she shows up late for an important meeting with a client, she’s forced to take a leave of absence to figure out her priorities. She goes to Hawaii to work on herself, away from men, work, and the friends who bring her down. While there, she has an accident and must be rescued. It is then that she meets Asher, one of the firefighters who rescues her. Asher and Faith are drawn to each other. While Asher would like to stay away from her, he can’t. Over the course of her time in Hawaii, they grow closer, but their time is troubled by her eventual departure. Asher has no intention of leaving Kauai to follow Faith, but he can’t let her go. Therein lies their initial issues. Is it possible for Asher and Faith to find their happy ending? If Asher isn’t able to let go of his control to protect his loved ones from pain, and if one of them isn’t willing to make choices to move and be together, it might not be possible. When tragedy strikes, though, their outlook on life changes. Will they find their happily ever after?
Between Hello & Goodbye is the type of romance that sneaks up on you. I had read the blurb for this book, so I was anticipating some angst. Every turn of the page was met with anticipation for the angst of Scott’s story. As such, I crawled through Asher and Faith’s story, ready for the happy ending because these two characters run the gamut of emotions. Both of them are stubborn and strong-willed, characterized as such to build the tension of their coupling. There is an emotional investment easily made in Asher and Faith’s journey.
Emma Scott’s Between Hello & Goodbye is a beautiful reminder about the precariousness of life and the need to live it fully. Be sure to have a box of tissues with you when you read it. You won’t regret it.
Let it be known that, I, Professor A, do solemnly swear that Saffron A. Kent’s Hey, Mister Marshall, the final book of her St. Mary’s Rebels series, is its best story. Yep, I said it. It’s my favorite of the four. Don’t get me wrong. I ADORE the first three, but there was something missing for me in those first three stories. In this final story, that missing part was found.
Now, I was reading a review on this book by another reviewer the other day when I was supposed to have finished this story for review BUT alas, I’ve been in jury purgatory and my hours have been swept away from me for purposes of the justice system. Sitting in my jury box, my errant thoughts were focused on Alaric and Poe. So, reviewing my inbox on my breaks, a review came into my inbox for this book, and I wanted to know their thoughts. And they gave this book a “3”….A 3!!! What? Even more, they commented on Alaric wearing a pinky ring and Poe acting like a teenager as two of their reasons for assigning this book that grade. And I rolled my eyes. I know I shouldn’t judge my fellow reviewers, but it became obvious to me that readers of SAK can get lost in the surface details of her books and miss the brilliance of her storytelling.
Here’s the thing. SAK makes moves with intention in her stories, including Hey, Mister Marshall. For one, she uses symbolism and color to both market and connect you more deeply to her characters. Each of her heroines, for example, is assigned a color. That’s intentional. If you want to understand why each corresponds to a particular color, you should do some color analysis to understand it all. Yes, it’s a keen marketing strategy, but it’s more than you believe.
That pinky ring that the reader didn’t get or like. That was key to HMM because it is like a collar or an anchor to Alaric’s past, the thing that strangles his dreams and capacity to both give and receive love. It’s a symbol of a tradition that keeps him jailed in his past. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like pinky rings. That SAK has the capacity to craft this type of symbolism and metaphor in her stories is a huge ARROW to her gift as a writer.
And Poe acting like a teenager, ummm…yeah, she is one. It would have been easy for SAK to remove “teenage-esque” traits out of her St. Mary’s Rebels FMCs, but she would do herself a disservice in doing so. We need Poe to act out. It is partly because she’s a teenager, but it’s more about feeling unloved and unseen. Alaric’s want to dominate her as a response to his past with her mother is wrong. If Poe had readily accepted that without acting out, she wouldn’t be normal. She already isn’t a normal teen given her past. And we see her maturity from that past later in the story when she recognizes a kindred spirit or soulmate in Mr. Marshall. She acts appropriately for her age and life experience, so again, I rolled my eyes at the miss of this other reviewer.
Like her other stories, SAK creates broken worlds with imperfect people. They are titillating and downright dirty. And many of her readers focus on that. However, it’s the emotional gravitas of a book such as Hey, Mister Marshall that makes me pine for more stories from her. The reason that HMM is my fav of the four isn’t the age gap or the spiciness of it. It’s the message of found family for two people who have lived lives feeling unloved. Their experiences are not much different, and your heart bleeds for the wounds inflicted on them as children. That’s where I connected with Alaric and Poe. This is where the depth of storytelling draws you deeply into SAK’s newest book.
When you read a tome from Saffron A. Kent, don’t take it at face value. Granted, she spends much creative time, building the facade of her book. But to get hung up there, you’ll miss out on her magic, her dexterity in the creation of souls that both grab at your soul and make your eyeglasses steam. Hey, Mister Marshall is the perfect end to an already delectable series.
“Selfishly, we all want things, but doing what is best for the other person is what love is.”
Corinne Michaels’s newest story, Help Me Remember, grabs you from its very first chapter. It’s everything you love about her storytelling: angsty, impeccable in its details, and engaging. Help Me Remember launches us into a new series from Michaels, the Rose Canyon series. If this book is any indication, Michaels will have another popular series under her booklist belt.
The story follows Brielle. As the book begins, Brielle awakens in a hospital bed with various injuries and a lack of her most recent memories. She also awakes to the death of her brother, Isaac. Additionally, in order to protect the efficacy of the investigation, her family and friends won’t give her details about her past. Devasted by the loss of her brother, and wanting to find answers, she enlists the help of his best friend, Spencer, to investigate her life. She has always loved him from afar, so her feelings of connection to him don’t seem out of place. As the story progresses, they find clues as to the person who killed her brother and assaulted her, but she also finds herself falling deeply for Spencer. When portions of her memory return, however, she can’t believe what she remembers and it threatens to derail her future.
I love an amnesia story within a romance story. It drives you further into the book as the protagonist gains their memories bit by bit. If written well, the pacing of the book is fluid, and that is definitely the case with Michaels’s story. Brielle’s memories are revealed at moments when you think the journeys of her hero and heroine might derail or slow. Little by little, she pulls you deeper into their story. I hated to put it down to adult because their story is compelling. Even more, the villain isn’t obvious until it’s revealed. Then, the story takes on its normal progression into the happy ending for her main characters.
Brielle is a compelling FMC. There are moments in her journey when Michaels could fall into traps, namely when Brielle struggles with memories of her former boyfriend. At first, I was worried that Michaels would lead us astray for much of the story with that storyline. Thankfully, she resolves it quickly and focuses us on the developing relationship between Brielle and the MMC. The incremental development of that allows for a building of chemistry that entices the reader and makes it believable. My only criticism is Brielle’s response to the revelation of her love interest. For me, it seemed a bit manipulative of Michaels. Any long-term reader of Corinne Michaels knows her penchant for creating angsty stories, and this feels like a move on her part to re-create the angst of the earlier stories on her booklist. And frankly, I didn’t think this story required it at the level it was crafted. Now, having read many of her former books, the angst of Help Me Remember is tame. I simply believe that the general suspense built throughout the romance could have been enough to connect emotionally with her readers. Again, my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth.
I’m excited for the Rose Canyon series books to come. The next one is teased a bit at the end of Help Me Remember, and it promises some second chance romance, a trope that Corinne Michaels creates with aplomb. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense with a side of angst, you’ll love her newest book, Help Me Remember.
To read Louise Bay’s The Mister Series is to be delighted in her complicated heroes. There is no one hero more complicated and mysterious than Andrew Blake in her newest offering, Mr. Bloomsbury. In fact, what does he do before noon? While we find out near the book’s end, the gruff, man of few words, Andrew, dominates the imagination of Bay’s readers. What is most refreshing about her story is its heroine, Sofia, an Italian-bred American who strong-arms her way into his assistant job. From the moment Andrew and Sofia meet, the book explodes even with a rarely speaking Andrew. At the outset of Mr. Bloomsbury, you cannot help but pine for these two to find their stride as their attraction is palpable. Interestingly, it’s difficult to ascertain what that might look like given Sofia’s unwillingness to accept any of Andrew’s chiding, and Andrew’s insistence on maintaining his status quo. As the story progresses, however, Sofia’s challenges ignite something in Andrew that allows him to show her secreted away parts of himself. This allows for them to draw closer, and we earn an Andrew who feels humanized by the end of the book. The messaging of Mr. Bloomsbury is compelling: men supporting women in their chosen fields without reducing them, the economy of speaking and the intentionality of words for their effect, the reconciliation of a parent and a child after decades of hurt and misunderstandings, and most importantly, the flexibility one has to change their personal rules when life changes.
The best parts of Mr. Bloomsbury?
**Sofia and Andrew’s igniting chemistry
**Sofia’s reconciliation with her biological father
**Sofia’s intelligence offering up solutions to Andrew’s problems
**Andrew’s alter-ego and its play for Sofia
**Andrew and Sofia’s spirited bedroom activities
**Andrew and Sofia’s quick fall into forever
Where did the book fall a bit short?
The ending. Not the last chapter. That is a delight. I love when Louise Bay brings the Mister heroes and their significant others together. It’s a couple of chapters leading up to it, the way that Andrew flips a switch and falls headfirst into forever with Sofia. For me, that felt rushed in a way that the rest of the book wasn’t.
Over and over again, Louise Bay crafts heroes and heroines that simply fit together and amuse her readers. In Mr. Bloomsbury, the attraction between Sofia and Andrew is off-the-charts fun, as they learn each other in each passing chapter. I’m a fan of grumpy, sullen, heroes of few words. When you partner him with an intelligent, independent woman? The result is incendiary, and I’m here for that.
I often wonder how writers can say so much in the limited pages of a novella. Take one look at Laurelin Paige’s newest offering, Slash, and you realize it’s a master class in the form, much like the course taught within her story. Page after page, you find the heartrending, complicated story of Camila Fasbender, the sister of Edward Fasbender, Paige’s hero in her Slay series. The profession of truth that litters the pages of Slash overwhelms you in a way that feels both traumatic and essential. If I could give this novella a different title, it would be “The Persistence of Patience.” In that patience, Paige elaborates on some essential truths about life.
What I know from reading Laurelin Paige’s booklist is her ability to create these alpha men who consume their heroines. Donovan Kincaid is still my FAVORITE alpha hero in all of romancelandia. Yet, her hero in Slash is nuanced. It could be that we aren’t treated to his point of view in Slash. Quite honestly, it doesn’t feel necessary. What you learn quickly from this story is the erotic nature of patience. Hendrix Reid’s capacity for waiting is his romantic superpower. Paige has crafted him with equal amounts of empathy, persistence, and intuition. These qualities might seem to emasculate him; they don’t. Instead, they match brilliantly with her heroine who requires the capacity of these qualities.
Camila’s characterization is profound. Her being epitomizes trauma. And it feels necessary to read her story. The messages of Paige’s Slash reside in Camila’s portrayal. How do we live an abundant life after surviving it for so long? How do we become vulnerable so that we can be “seen” in our totality? How do we honor both the small and big moments of our life? How do we see our scars as more than their trauma? Over and over again, Paige’s articulation of Camila’s pain resonates and pushes against the scars of her readers, and it makes for a beautifully wrought, intentionally drawn story of healing. In her afterword, Paige explains that parts of Camila’s story didn’t need to be told in the pages of her novella, and I agree because the depth and gravity of Camila in this small space are pained enough that this shortened story form allows you, as the reader, to breathe through the difficulties of her story. Any longer, and I think it would feel like punishment, and her romance might be overpowered. Instead, the way that Hendrix loves Camila through her journey towards becoming vulnerable plays out exactly as it should. I found myself grabbed by Paige’s prose, thrown into Camila’s story, and upended by her truth. This is the art of Laurelin Paige’s Slash.
Paige says it best in her Author’s Note: “When the world feels fragile and broken and unsure, I needed to believe that fragile and broken and unsure is still beautiful.” That is the essence of Camila’s story. It is also the truth that love will see you through your pain. Paige’s Hendrix shows us how to love broken people, how to love humanity. Underscoring this axiom is the art of Paige’s writing. And one can’t help but wonder if Slash isn’t an apt representation of Paige’s own art, rife with anointed words, carefully composed characters, and a story that reminds us that we all bear some hurt and there is a fellowship in that knowledge. That it simply takes someone else “authentically see[ing]” us to be “free.”
Karen Frances’s newest book, Collision, a book situated in K. Bromberg’s Driven World, is an insta-love, angsty romance that revs your engine. Frances is a new writer to me, as well as K. Bromberg. Given that I am new to both of these ladies but intrigued by the universe being curated by K. Bromberg, I opted to read this book simply because its qualities piqued my interest: playboy alpha-race car driver (I didn’t realize he was Scottish…SWOON!) hero, self-possessed, intelligent, articulate journalist heroine, and a meet-cute that sizzles. It seemed evident that there would be fireworks in Collision. For the most part, there were.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is that it is set in the UK. The hero is a playboy-ish, fast-driving hero. Yet, he’s Scottish. You may wonder why that intrigues me. Well, I read books all the time, and most of the time, the setting is the US. Having traveled through Europe last summer, I always enjoy revisiting places where I traversed. Plus it’s always intriguing to gain experiences from other countries. Just seemed like a positive for Collision.
Additionally, there is Insta-chemistry between Ellie and Ryan. From their first meeting, as I suspected, these two sizzle. It also creates one of the issues for me with this story. I know that fiction is imaginary. I get it. However, if an author makes the choice for the characters to fall instantly for each other, then I want it to feel believable. Ryan, an admitted playboy as Ellie’s purpose is to rehab his image through her writing piece on him, only has eyes for Ellie, and for most the book, I was curious why. Yes, Karen Frances offers up Ryan’s reasons, but I don’t believe them. Why her? While rehabbing his image, what piqued his interest in her that he wants her over other women? If a hero is promiscuous, I want to know what turns his head to a straight path.
There’s some forbidden with this relationship. Given that Ellie is reporting on Ryan, that they fall for each other makes for some questionable journalistic ethics. That forbidden, however, ramps up their chemistry even more, making it burn brighter.
This story is not linear at all. Belying Ryan and Ellie’s journey into a romantic relationship is a bigger story. This bigger story becomes emotional and adds a gravity to Frances’s romance. Ideas about family complicate the romance, and it creates additional fireworks in Collision.
Even more, one of the ancillary characters of the story, Felicity, is your preeminent Mean Girl, and her subterfuge adds another layer of drama to this journey. While we are not meant to like Felicity, without her, the forbidden aspects of this story would not exist, and the tension necessary in storytelling would be lost.
Obviously, Karen Frances’s crafted connection with K. Bromberg’s Driven series in an overt way through Ryan’s burgeoning relationship with Colton and Rylee hits on feelings of nostalgia for Bromberg readers and illustrates Karen Frances’s ability to write within and outside of Bromberg’s universe in a meaningful way. While I haven’t read the Driven series, at no point did I feel lost when Colton and Rylee join the story.
Karen Frances’s Collision is a fast-paced romance sure to speed your pulse. From Ryan and Ellie’s banter to their chemistry to their journey while challenged by outside issues, Frances makes it easy for us to turn the page. In the end, Collision finishes first at the finish line. If you love K. Bromberg, you will absolutely want to read this book.
I admire writers who take a character and redeem them in some way. If you can make me adore a character who I formerly felt any number of contrary feelings: anger, annoyance, disdain, etc., then you win me over easily. I guess I’m an easy “lay” in the world of romance. This brings me to Sara Ney’s Hard Fall, her newest book in the Trophy Boyfriends series. If you read the first book of the series of standalones, Hard Pass, you’ve been introduced to Trace “Buzz” Wallace, and he isn’t a character you readily enjoy. He’s a pest, he’s vain, he ingratiates himself into situations, and he’s the kind of guy you love to hate. And Sara Ney decided to write him a romance. To be fair, he began to show readers his “true colors” at the end of Hard Pass when he acted like a matchmaker for her hero and heroine of that book. It piqued my curiosity enough that, once I realized Hard Fall would be Trace’s story, I one-clicked that pre-order fast.
Thankfully, what you find with Trace’s book is a whole bunch of hilarious witty banter between Trace and Ney’s heroine, Hollis, Trace and his brother, Tripp, the NFL player, and Trace and his mom. All of these relationships conspire to bring you a romance that makes you laugh at the absurdity of one “Buzz” Wallace, swoon when he acts as Hollis’s protector, and leave Hard Fall with a huge smile on your face.
Yes. I can say it. I love Trace Wallace. I’ll be honest. The Trace of Chapter 1 did not ingratiate himself to me. Not. At. All. Your love for Trace is a slow-burn. It takes a while to warm up to him. However, this occurs when you realize that there is more to this seeming “man-baby.” It also comes about because Ney’s heroine, Hollis, calls him to be more.
Hollis Westbrooke is the granddaughter of the Chicago Steam owner, the professional baseball team for which Trace plays. She is also the daughter of its General Manager, and she has made choices in her life to distance herself from her father’s choices. This has created some tension between her and her father, but she lives her life on her own terms. When she meets Trace, like many of us, she prejudges him. To be honest, some of that prejudgment is fair based on his initial experiences with her. But here’s the thing. Trace is like a fungus and he grows on you. And he woos Hollis over to him through some traits that are unexpected.
The crux of this book is that one’s initial impression isn’t always fair, and it oftentimes doesn’t epitomize the totality of that person. Through funny interactions, absurd moments, and some serious situations, Hollis and Trace realize their ability to complement each other. This makes for some serious chemistry, some heartfelt moments, and some laugh out loud experiences.
Hard Fall is the type of book you read easily. It’s meant to make you laugh and swoon, and it does just that. Sara Ney brings some parts of her Douchebag series into her crafting of Trace, and if you’ve read that series, it reminds you of all the ways you love Sara Ney. If you haven’t preordered Hard Fall (or read its predecessor, Hard Pass), and you need a little funny in your life right now, then grab them now.
“Because the one is supposed to get you, accept you.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged”, that a single reader of romance in possession of a couple of bucks and a few pennies, must be in want of an Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romance. That’s right. I’ve decided that Jane Austen and Ilsa Madden-Mills are an apt pairing given that the same tenets that drive my love for Jane Austen also drive my adoration for Ilsa Madden-Mills’s brand of romance. What are those tenets? Here goes:
One handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul requiring a tenacious, headstrong, obstinate heroine to mend those broken parts into wholeness
One tenacious headstrong, obstinate heroine with a certain set of quirks and imagination who infuses a certain level of humanity into the handsomely swoony alpha-hero with a bit of a broken soul
Some carefully-plotted story with just the right amount of angst, steam, romance, and humor, all of them combining to keep you engaged from page 1 to the very end.
A happy ending so carefully wrought that you can’t help but tear up over both the pleasure of the moment and the pain of having to leave characters whose characterizations make them seemingly real, new friends.
Yes. Each tome of the Ilsa Madden-Mills’s booklist brings these set of qualities that inspire one-clicks in Amazon at the announcement of a new book, impatient waiting for said book, constant visits to IMM’s Facebook page for nuggets of the forthcoming book, and, on receiving said book, a careful, but expedited read of her newest romance. Around and around the merry-go-round that is Ilsa Madden-Mills’s romances go because she writes romance that makes you pine for entry into her romance worlds. That’s right. If I had my way, I would jump feet first into the worlds she creates because they captivate her readers with characters, story, and the promise of love. And, once again, Madden-Mills has crafted a story that brings all of these qualities together in her newest book, Not My Romeo.
Am I being overly effusive? Possibly, but it’s simply the way I am with IMM’s stories. I’ve only been reading romance over the course of 2 ½ years, and I read mostly indie authors such as IMM. I’ve read only one of the traditionally more “popular” romance writers, missing the others. Ilsa Madden-Mills was, I believe, the third romance writer whom I read her entire booklist, at the time, in one sitting. Her stories captivate me as a reader because they portend to be innocent and light at first glance, but deeper into the story, we are met with deeper, more troubled issues. This is definitely the case with Not My Romeo (of which, I could not put down once I began reading it). Her hero, Jack, is complicated. According to his surface, his life seems perfect, as he’s a wealthy NFL player. Yet, we find out quickly that, underlying that handsome facade lies hurts, and those hurts have caused his life to be upended based on public scrutiny grounded in conjecture and gossip. I believe the saying “never judge a book by its cover” resounds in Jack’s story. And, as a staple of Madden-Mills’s romance, Jack needs some mending. He’s complicated, and IMM, as she does so often, brilliantly crafts a heroine who brings light to his life.
“He watched you like you were the sun to his moon.”
Enter Elena. You learn very quickly that this woman who bears her own wounds offers a soft place for Jack’s hardness (both literal and figurative) to land. She is the IMM heroine: tenacious, headstrong, obstinate as a protection for her own heart. I think my favorite moments between Jack and Elena in Not My Romeo happen as a result of Elena setting boundaries for herself and instituting them. There are several times in this story when it would be easy for Elena to take Jack’s offerings even though they are limited. However, in doing so, she could never be his heroine because he requires someone who can break down his heavily-fortified walls. In denying him, she causes him to question himself. This is the romantic gold of IMM’s stories. If you want an easy read from her, you will find it interwoven with some hard truths about life through the actualization of her characters. It’s why I love her romances. She aptly combines the difficult with the effortless. This is what keeps you reading until the very end.
I think when you look at a story such as Not My Romeo you have to understand that our pasts impact our future selves. This is very clear in Ilsa Madden-Mills’s story. Whether it’s abusive behavior, whether it’s poor choices we’ve made, or whether it’s how other’s have treated us, they leave behind excisions that eventually scab over and scar, but they can never be new skin again. As such, these scars create a weakness that influences our choices in the present and the future. For both Madden-Mills’s characters, those scars impact their ability to be present and make choices that bring about their happiness. And this is the story’s biggest truth. We have to allow ourselves to move beyond those weaknesses, to not let the scars of our past influence how we live abundantly in the present. Even in Jane Austen’s time, this particular “truth was self-evident,” as she wrote it into her novels. Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, political upheaval, and racial tensions, we could focus on the weaknesses of the time as Jack does for much of Not My Romeo. However, as Ilsa Madden-Mills carefully walks us through his journey with Elena, we realize that making better choices in the spirit of love will leave us with a happiness beyond our imaginations. I loved Not My Romeo. It wasn’t a story that I wanted to leave, and I imagine you will feel the same. So grab this one quick.