Usually, I try to do a spoiler free review, but the squee in me will not be contained this time. So be warned, spoilers abound here!
First things first, content and trigger warnings. There is mention and discussion of chronic illness for multiple individuals, discussion of infidelity, plagarism and unhealthy relationship dynamics. Possibly triggering would be the discussion of sexual encounters where one of the MC’s consented without wanting to, because he wished to make others happy. Some boundaries are pushed during one drunken discussion by two characters, but boundaries are set hard and respected. One of the MC’s mothers is emotionally abusive and says some painful things during the book, which could be triggering for some.
Next, what makes it rate hitting the blog. We have black woman author, white man demisexual, discussions of trauma, chronic illness being discussed openly and the practical needs of it and people with complex family histories getting HEA’s! What’s not to love?
Now on to the squeee!
So I’ve enjoyed Talia Hibbert’s Ravenswood series so much so far, but this is likely going to end up being my favorite book. The characters, Zach and Rae, are part of the same core group of folks we’ve seen in her other books but we haven’t had their stories yet. Zach is Nate’s younger brother (Hannah’s partner in Untouchable) and works as a smith. Rae is Hannah’s best friend, a divorcee who moved to Ravenswood under a cloak of mystery with three cuts on her face.
They have the most adorable set up, where Rae comes by every day walking her dog Duke (who is a tiny bear that I wish to steal) while Zach is totally coincidentally taking his break outside at the smithy. She tells him stories she’s cooking up and he enjoys the heck out of it and occasionally helps pick apart a problem.
This man is straight author candy and I love it.
So Zach and Rae meet every day and hang out, but never really seem to go further. Then, one night, they decide after a few drinks with friends to go wandering to have an adventure.
Note: This is where the boundary pushing occurs. You can probably skip these pages if you’d rather not see it. Its referenced throughout the book and truthfully, you won’t miss much by doing so. Rae learns quickly and realizes how she’s fucked up and owns it. Zach feels good for having his boundaries respected and for laying down the law instead of trying to go along.
So, its awkward, they make up and do some good communicating. Then it comes out that Rae has a convention to attend as a fledging author and needs some help to feel confident and good as her ex-husband will be at the conference. So Zach offers to be her fake boyfriend for the weekend. Trope heaven! Oh and they get to the hotel and there’s only one bed! Even more tropes!
I won’t spoil the convention for you, because there’s lots of fun, twists and turns here. Let’s just say that the fakeness starts to flake off pretty quickly, both start realizing their feelings and pants feelings for each other, misunderstand each other, have hot fun times and then have one critical misunderstanding.
As we return to Ravenswood, we get to witness Rae taking down her emotionally abusive mom on the phone for the first time as she squares herself up to talk to Zach and be honest and open with him. They talk, they kiss, its fucking perfect and cute. I want a Duke plushie to snuggle.
tl;dr BUY THIS BOOK! Its so cute and fluffy and though there are some parts where things could be rough, they are dealt with well and in a gentle way. Both of the characters learn from each other and their own burgeoning self esteem to stand up for themselves and what they want and its just beautiful. Their relationship makes sense on the most fundamental level and if I wrote fanfiction, I would write screeds about their happy life and the new puppy they buy that Duke loves and them moving into Zach’s house and making it less scary to the neighborhood kids.
Also, the dirty talk? Hooooootttttt. *fans self* You won’t regret that.
5 stars out of 5 stars and its going on my comfort reads shelf. Can’t get much better than that!
Until next time,
Not Just a Buzzword
*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I will hoard it for fluffy feelings until I am old.