I have had this one on my TBR as a contemporary romance to pick up next time I’m in the mood for one (I love sprinkling these in for fun between heavier reads). And then I moved it up the list a bit because I won the Kindle version in a Goodreads giveaway. Woot!
Rhiannon owns her own company, a dating app that works similar to Tinder (as a real world reference), that uses a “swipe” technique, but allows a little more control to the female involved in the swiping transaction (similar to Bumble). She’s strong and in charge, but some past relationships have left her with a lot of trust issues and a major wall around her own heart. Samson is an ex-football player, dealing with some of his own issues with long-term relationships and family. He and Rhiannon have a great single night together after “swiping right” on each other, but then Samson’s personal life pulls him away. When they meet again months later, Samson now working on a campaign for a rival dating-based company, work-life throws them together over and over again. Will they be able to overcome their separate baggage and realize they are actually made for each other?
This was a really fun contemporary romance with a lot of unique features that made it particularly relevant in the current-day landscape. First, and obviously, is the way that dating apps and websites play a major role both in Rhi and Samson meeting, as well as in a more general way throughout the plot. For all that these apps are ubiquitous in real-life dating these days, I cannot say I’ve ever seen them in a romance novel before. And I liked that. Nothing makes characters more understandable than when they have to deal with such recognizable issues as ghosting, dick pics and more. In addition, Rhi’s past relationship issues, which she alludes to from the start of the book, but slowly get more and more revealed as time goes by are a pretty solid literary example of the current #metoo movement (with many elements that recall such famous cases as the Weinstein one…so beware before going in if emotional abuse and fear in a relationship are triggers for you in any way). And it’s developed well, with the whole story coming clearer as the novel goes, in a way that felt realistic and not forced. And I liked the way Rhi’s outlook on what happened changes as she realizes that perhaps she isn’t alone, and that while she’ll have naysayers, with every passing day, there are more and more people willing to believe the victims. It closely mirrors the way our own country has developed the past few years and while what has happened (and been covered up) is horrible, there’s also a sliver of hope in the change that was good to see. And finally, Samson’s side-plot situation, dealing with the long-term challenges of repeated head injuries suffered by many football players, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTI), was also very timely. This is an issue that the NFL has long pushed aside, but with more and more players coming forward about their struggles, as well as increased research on the dangerous side-effects of these repeated traumas, it’s a topic that’s really come into the spotlight over the past few years. Overall, like I said, this was well-written as far as significant recent events in real life, and I enjoyed that aspect.
Looking at the romance part more closely, since that plot is, at base, what the rest of this novel was built around…I liked that a lot too. It felt like a really natural flow, within the context. Rhi and Samson both clearly felt a pull towards each other, one that neither fully recognized nor knew how to follow through on. It kept them coming back to each other. But with that, it was still a well-paced coming together. There were plot devices to push them apart (of course, because that’s how romance novels work), but those were all believable within the story. And the length of time it took for them to figure out their respective sh*t and decide to take this chance on each other in a mutually agreeable time/way fell out nicely. As a side note to this, I loved how powerful a women Rhi was, and how not only was that something Samson understood and supported, it was part of what attracted him to Rhi in the first place – that extra piece is a level that is not always attained by romance novels. And though she loved being (literally) held tight by him, she would have remained just as strong without him. They read like a real partnership to me, each filling in other’s holes in what felt like a healthy way, without compromise (just mutual effort), and I appreciated that.
Last point, since this was a romance novel, I want to comment on the steaminess. For me, this was a mid-level steaminess romance. There were a few good sex scenes, but nothing spectacular. To begin with they were primarily flashbacks to their one-night situation, before the book started, which did allow them to start much earlier than they otherwise would have. And the language used was very typical sex language, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there are some traditional words, like shaft, that I personally struggle to take seriously in context. Just a heads up if that’s something you feel too.
Overall, I liked this one! The elements of real current-day life were great, and interwoven smoothly with the more conventional romance parts of the plot development. Rhi and Samson’s relationship developed in an authentic way, that felt healthy to me, and I always value that. And really, I was just entertained while reading this, which is exactly what I look for when I’m picking up a contemporary romance.