I’ve only recently discovered Gun Brooke’s contemporary romances. Brooke has knocked a few out of the park, but all them have been solid romances with a good dose of angst (and sometimes a good dose of angst in a romance novel is just what you need).
This is Brooke’s newest and it’s set in the same town as two of her previous books, Coffee Sonata and Wayworn Lovers. As characters from each of those books are strong secondary characters in this one, I would suggest you read the others first so you aren’t trying to keep up with who’s who and some of the backstories. Although its nice to revisit characters you enjoyed and to have them connect with the new characters, I think the town of East Quay is hitting critical mass for lesbian musicians with tragic backstories.
Insult to Injury is told in first person POV, switching off between the two main characters – Romi and Gail. With the dual POV, the reader is able to empathize with both of the rather crappy deals life has handed them and how they perceive themselves and each other.
After running away from her aunt’s home at 16, Romi has been surviving on the streets of New York by signing in the subway stations. Picked up by the police in a case of mistaken identity, she manages to bolt and returns to East Quay to hide out in a secret bomb shelter in the now abandoned house she grew up in. Unbeknownst to Romi, the house has been purchased by Gail, a virtuoso violinist who is now recovering from a catastrophic car accident that has left her with a damaged arm and hand. It’s a bit of an odd (and could be uber-creepy) set up – Romi living in the basement without Gail knowing and the two of them running into one another outside the house and starting to build a hesitant friendship, but it works. The ending is a bit cheesy and overwrought, but overall I enjoyed reading the book and really didn’t care because I was liked the characters and the overall story.
Despite the hardship the last few years have inflicted on her, Romi’s still optimistic and,as she begins to build a new life in East Quay, she comes into her own. Gail, on the other hand, has some anger and resentment to work her way through but through her connection with Romi and the other women in East Quay, her frosty demeanor slowly melts. The characters work well together with a juxtaposition of social/economic status, age, and experience but at times there’s a bit of an imbalance between the two characters and Romi’s guilt and actions from staying in the house in the secret shelter is a bit overboard and slightly immature.
They both have a pretty traumatic backstory and plenty of reason to wallow in angst, but the overall tone of the book is more positive. This isn’t deeply introspective around the issues that the women have faced and is a lighter read than the set up may suggest. Gail is a bit harder to warm up to as she begins as a rather negative and angry character, but is humanized through Romi – both as you perceive her through Romi’s POV and also as Gail shifts her own perceptions and attitude in her own POV. There’s a nice bit of chemistry between the two that helps smooth over some of the story elements that may strain credulity.
Are the bumps and issues with the book – yeah, if you stop and think too hard. Regardless, I enjoyed reading this one – its a light romance that left me with just the right amount of “aw shucks” at the end.
Thank you to BSB and Netgalley for an advance copy that was provided for a fair and honest review.