Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

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The first rule of book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

Source: complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I rather liked this book's approach to mending a strained marriage. Gavin finds out his wife Thea has been faking it in bed and his entire world just crumbles. It's a massive blow to his ego and stirs up every insecurity he's ever had about himself throughout his life. His immediate reaction is to leave and then Thea asks for a divorce. The book opens with the guys - his teammates and other assorted gents - visiting him at his hotel room and telling him that they're going to help him save his marriage but he has to be a willing participant and keep an open mind. Their solution is rather unconventional - reading romance novels, in this particular case, a Regency that seems to perfectly fit his current messy love life. 

Just like Gavin, I was skeptical. I felt a lot of it was wishful thinking that the guys would talk this way and discuss serious feminist issues with sincerity. I'm not saying it's not possible but personally, it forced me to reconsider whatever conditioned thought I had about guys and their opinions on romance. I didn't know what to make of their romance reading except that it was rather original and intriguing. Segments from the Regency title (Courting the Countess) make an appearance throughout the book providing a framework for Gavin to follow. He really is hopeless but bless him, he's honestly trying. I have to say the guys are hilarious in this and Gavin's initial cluelessness gives them plenty of fodder but their hearts are all in the right place. I think it was almost halfway through that I started to really enjoy the story.

As silly as the guys' shenanigans were, there were elements of the story that gave me much to ponder. The book started out with Gavin firmly in the wrong by overreacting and walking out on Thea. It heavily focused on his transgressions but barely touched her issues until a couple chapters towards the end. Thea has so much baggage brought on by her parents' dysfunctional marriage and subsequent relationships such as fear of abandonment and feeling like an outsider. There is a ton, A TON, to unpack there and when she finally has that much-needed moment of introspection, it seems to fix itself rather quickly. It felt flippant to me especially since Gavin did most of the heavy lifting to improve himself when her backstory was just as crucial to the problems in their marriage. The problem being that she never communicated her feelings to him. They never talked. It feels like a huge power imbalance to expect the world of your partner when you never clue them in to your needs or worries in the first place. I empathized with Thea at the start but once I got to the end I wished she had been more a part of rebuilding the marriage in the first place. I kind of resented her later because of that. But not as much as I resented her sister's presence. The protective sister (understandable) who keeps inserting herself between Thea and Gavin (not okay) and stirring things up about him to her (definitely crossing the line). Once again, there's a backstory but until you get there, Liv is too much.

The Bromance Book Club presents an unorthodox and entertaining way to looking at marriage and what it takes to make it work. It also hints at something broader, so yes, I'd happily recommend it to others. I believe it initiates a deeper discussion about the characters and communication in relationships, and I'm certain that every reader will have a different take on them that I would love to hear!

~ Bel

Monday, January 13, 2020

The One For You (The Ones Who Got Away #4) by Roni Loren

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The highly-anticipated fourth book in Roni Loren's unforgettable The Ones Who Got Away series.

She got a second chance at life.
Will she take a second chance at love?

Kincaid Breslin wasn't supposed to survive that fateful night at Long Acre when so many died, including her boyfriend—but survive she did. She doesn't know why she got that chance, but now she takes life by the horns and doesn't let anybody stand in her way

Ashton Isaacs was her best friend when disaster struck all those years ago, but he chose to run as far away as he could. Now fate has brought him back to town, and Ash doesn't know how to cope with his feelings for Kincaid and his grief over their lost friendship. For Ash has been carrying secrets, and he knows that once Kincaid learns the truth, he'll lose any chance he might have had with the only woman he's ever loved.

Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review

It seems almost weird to be such an avid fan of this series that follows the lives of four friends years after they survived a school shooting. Weird because it's a god-awful event that brought these people together, otherwise they might not have ever crossed paths. The friendships that sprouted from that brought hope and love into their lives, and the strongest of bonds that'll stand up to any challenge.

Kincaid and Ashton are both survivors. Best friends in high school with Aston nursing the biggest crush on Kincaid but never coming forward with his feelings. Things changed dramatically after that night and later when Ashton couldn't take it anymore, he moved away. Kincaid always felt that he left her behind so she had to heal and get on with life on her own without her most trusted friend by her side. Now that he's moved back to Long Acre temporarily after a break up and to write his next book, they have to make peace and get along. Ashton still loves her but Kincaid has been in love with a ghost this entire time - her boyfriend who died in the shooting. That's always stood between them. But now that they're older, and Ashton is not as timid about expressing his feelings, he's willing to let it all out there even if he hasn't quite figured out the rest of his plans.

I loved that these two had a friendship before this. They clearly got each other and had fun. Their reunion may be uncomfortable for a bit but at least they're working through it. I like that there is communication between them instead of waiting for a good portion of the book for them to be honest about their feelings. Kincaid, for all her bravado and upbeat personality hides her insecurities well which is obviously harder to do when Ashton knows her best and knows how her family history affects her. And Kincaid knows why, other than the shooting, that it's hard for Ashton to come home. The toughest part of this unexpected reunion is that they finally have to confront certain truths about that dreaded night. They have to separate fact from fiction which is painful but necessary if they are to repair and rebuild their relationship. 

The reason this series is so powerful to me is because it looks at what the survivors go through years after a shooting. The repercussions don't go away with thoughts and prayers. They are intrinsically tied to that event forever and it's hard to carve out an identity away from that, something that Kincaid, Ashton and the town of Long Acre know too well. Long Acre is still perceived as a morbid tourist destination attracting spectators rather than investors, and its town folk have to figure out how to re-brand itself, so to speak.

I knew The One for You was the last book but I was surprised by how I was not ready for it to end. I actually had to read the epilogue twice to accept it. I also had to wipe away a tear after that. Kincaid, Bec, Taryn and Liv thought they were alone after their tragedy but together the found friendship and unending support. The epilogue was so satisfying for me because they each got their happily ever after and that's the most you can wish for someone who's thriving after overcoming the worst. 

~ Bel