Okay, so I absolutely adored Beautiful Dreamer and was stoked to read Ms Brayden’s newest book. I was expecting a wonderfully sweet and endearing slow burn romance with engaging characters, witty banter, small town shenanigans, Henley shirts – hell I was expecting sunshine and unicorns. What I got was …angst. Gloriously heart-wrenching angst. The highs were euphoric and the lows were devastating. At points I had to put the book down and take a calming breath as the story unfolded.
Hannah Shepherd an independent bookstore owner who is struggling to keep her business afloat. When she has the opportunity to host a book signing by one of the top romance writers, she jumps at the chance to bring more clients despite the fact that she’s a bit of a book snob who’s never read a romance. Enter Parker Bristow, bestselling novelist, internet influencer and darling of the talk show circuit. Despite her fame, Parker is down-to-earth and charming. An easy rapport develops as she invites Hannah for dinner. There’s a phenomenal chemistry between the two – physically and intellectually – and their attraction quickly escalates.
This is an on and off again romance – which totally cranks up the angst-o-meter. As a reader, you know that they belong together and the more they are apart the higher the frustration – dating other people or stupid insecurities just make you want to throttle them both. Call me a book nerd, but I found the scene where the two of them are relaxing on the couch reading their books almost as hot as the sex that happens soon after. So often romances are all about the physical attraction and there’s not much time for talking or spending time outside the bedroom. The level of comfort and compatibility between Hannah and Parker just amps up the raw physical attraction that the two share.
The story is told from Hannah’s first person POV and you get a front row seat to the gamut of emotions she experiences. Considering herself staid and boring – she’s resolved to settle for a relationship based on friendship. With Parker, she’s swept up in the intensity of the attraction and the brightly burning, all encompassing passion. Parker is bewildering and addictive – and despite the pain and betrayal Hannah’s unable to resist the pull of the depth of her feelings for her.
After I read Back to September I was pretty much wrecked and had to take a few days to formulate my thoughts for my review. Once the angsty high that had completely sucked me into the book wore off, I began to have some misgivings with Parker and her actions. If I had been a character in the book, I probably would have offered to knock Parker around on Hannah’s behalf. Okay, I probably would have given her a really stern glare – while her back was turned – and surreptitiously played “You’re No Good” on constant repeat in the bookstore. I’ve gone back and forth on this – and what I’ve settled on is that Ms. Brayden is a talented writer who is able to completely bewitch her readers. On paper, Parker’s actions were cowardly and callous and put Hannah through hell; but, in Ms. Brayden’s book, it freaking worked.
Postscript: I haven’t read a lot of Ms. Brayden’s novels, but I did notice that a plot device used (twice) in Beautiful Dreamers was used in this book as well – I’m hoping that this is coincidence and not a signature plot device as its a pretty heavy handed way to get the MCs back together.
Thank you to Netgalley and BSB for providing an advance copy for review.