I was so excited when I saw this one on the new books shelf at my local library because I read Thorne’s first book, The Hating Game, last year and loved it so much. It’s definitely one of my favorite contemporary romances. Anyways, I was naturally super excited to stumble across this new release. And with the weather starting to warm up as we head into Spring, a little romance seemed perfect.
Darcy and her twin brother, Jamie, met Tom when they were 8 and he moved in across the street. Since then, he has been an integral part of both their family and their relationship as twins. And even though he’s technically Jamie’s best friend, and therefore romantically off-limits, Darcy has always held him up as the standard for the perfect guy. Now Darcy and Tom are spending a lot of time together, sans Jamie, as Darcy helps him with the renovations on a cottage she and Jamie inherited from their grandmother. The sparks are really flying and things get muddled as Darcy decides that, for sure, she can no longer stand Jamie having the greater claim on Tom. She wants more.
This was just as quick and compulsively readable as Thorne’s first, although the writing itself was sometimes weirdly jumpy/disconnected (I found myself having to reread a couple sections). Still, I pretty read the entire thing in one sitting because once I was invested in the build-up to the *cough* climax of the story, I couldn’t put it down until I had gotten there (and by then, of course, it was almost over, so I may as well just finish). There was definite chemistry between Darcy and Tom that was both palpable and convincing, right from the start. I was into it. I also have to give big props to the author for Tom’s character. He is wonderful – so realistically conflicted and genuine, given his past with the twins and the current under pressure he’s under (both self-imposed and otherwise). Also, he is absolutely one of the healthiest examples of a man that I have ever read in a romance novel. His emotional openness, general honesty and the respect he has for Darcy is the model of what a good man should be. Mmmmhmmm, strong and sweet – a guy can be both. That…that I loved. (And yes, perhaps it bordered on unrealistic, but isn’t that what this genre is for?)
On the other hand, I was less enthused with Darcy and Jamie. They both seemed a bit more like caricatures than fully developed characters, extreme personalities that were just much less relatable. And though there were moments when they were given more depth (Darcy especially of course, because since she is the narrator, we are in her head a lot), particularly in the last quarter or so of the novel, it just didn’t feel like quite enough for me. And to be honest, I actually really disliked Jamie. Again, I know the story is from Darcy’s POV, which may have been part of it…but he was just kind of a really shallow person, in my opinion; much too domineering/condescending. And really both of them were selfish to the point of unbelievability and un-redeemability with Tom. I struggled to get past that.
As far as the plot, it was a cute setting for a contemporary romance. The construction site environment left a lot of fun openings for creative interactions. It could have gotten really cliched, but I felt like the author skirted those pitfalls pretty well and set Tom and Darcy up with a number a really convincing conflicts and moments of closeness. Darcy’s heart condition was an interesting addition to the plot. I actually liked that being there – it definitely gave her character more depth and really explained the reason she was so into proving strength and independence, past just claiming that it was a “character trait” of hers. It also helped explain some of the dynamic between her and Jamie (and how it was shaped to be that way throughout their childhoods and onward)…though not perhaps enough to offset how much I didn’t like Jamie. Plus, it’s not something I’ve seen much before, so that felt very original. And as a small note, Darcy’s friend Truly was a great side character and I laughed out loud at her small business, Underswears (it’s definitely a business I could see being successful in real life too). Great little details with that side-plot.
Overall, this was a solid romance. I did not like it as much as The Hating Game, that’s for sure. First, I like an enemies-to-lovers trope more than a childhood-friends-turned-lovers trope. It’s just a personal preference; it is what it is. But in addition to that, I struggled more to empathize with these characters and so my investment in their outcomes was just…less. However, there were some great steamy parts, a fantastic build, and fast writing. For sure Thorne remains a contemporary romance author whose books I will continue to pick up!