When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.
Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.
Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.
Spoilers: I would like to talk about the issues I have with this book. Since we’re all romance readers and we know they end up together, it’s not that spoilery. But I do go into some detail on what I have issues with. If you prefer not to know some of the details then skip this review.
I’m going to start this review by saying this book did not work for me. Initially I did like this book. It has cute moments but the more I read, the more I realized how much I hated it. I want to talk about women’s relationships. The way women are described and used to uplift the heroine bothers me a lot.
The premise of this book stood out to me. Harlem set, this book centers around a group of brothers mourning their mothers death. One brother, Jesse, hopes to save his mother’s beloved knitting shop, Strong Knits. I love that concept of a tight knit, close corners city romance. A hero tries to save his mother’s dreams? Look that just gets me all sappy. It makes me think about our associations with material objects generally considered to be feminine.
I hate small town romances and this book seemed perfect for me. Then I read it and the more I read, the more angry I got.
Let me just set things out for you. Jesse is a playboy, a little sleeping everywhere really. Women are basically just plastic sex toys to him. A day goes by and he throws it out.
Where Jesse is a rebel, Kerry is a nice girl. She has ‘not like other girls’ plastered onto her face. Both are consumed by their repuatations. Kerry: teacher, family friend, proper lady well respected by the community. Her reputation acts a throne when we come face to face with Erika. ‘Sauntering’. ‘Body Defying Physics’. All this does is inspire that Erika is not a good girl but a particular type of sexy girl. A sex pot, only made and written for guys like Jesse to sleep with.
Descriptions are frequently the way the author creates hatred for ‘the Other Woman’. The author uses ‘recycling’ for trashy woman. It is not coincidental that Kerry immediately hates Erika and then the author relates recycling to the scene with Erika.
Erika’s not seen as human. She has no feelings. She’s just a tool for the author to create hatred for the Other Woman. A a piece of trash forgotten by Jesse in Kerry’s eyes. What’s more disapointing is how I expected this to be a feminist romance.
Let’s talk about Jesse’s mistreatment of women.
While Jesse acknowledges his mistreatment of women, it’s really impossible for me to see him as a hero because of how he sexualizes and treats so many women. They’re like trash to him, particularly women like Erika. Jesse and Kerry are certainly perfect for each other in that regard. I personally was disgusted by the time I finished the book. Women have been asking men to be treated as human beings. Women deserve to be treated like human beings. Sex does not mean cis men have permission to treat women horribly.
Look. I don’t expect all female relationships in romance to be perfect and lacking complexity. But I do expect some acknowledgement and awareness of growth. I saw no change or acknowledgement of Kerry’s perceptions of her best friend.
If there had been some knowledge and awareness of Kerry’s internal misogyny than that might have been more interesting to me. I have to ask myself ‘who would describe their friend in this way’? And I’m not totally sure it’s healthy to be making negative comments about your friend wearing sexy exercise outfits, even if she’s not going to the gym. I just don’t get why that side comment had to be made? And why are we constantly getting policing from Kerry on Val’s interest in sex? That just seems to be a complete lack of awareness to me. Val’s a young woman. What? She can’t have sex? I support that. I wish the heroine had as well.
Misogynistic female friendships are boring. Pass.
Then my head blew off when I read the possessive behavior coming from Jesse when their relationship started to develop. Trying to act like she ‘belongs’ to him when she gets hit on, blowing up at his brother for putting his ‘paws’ on her, and disliking it when her boss is talking to her. The ultimate thing hat made me want to cut a bitch? Jesse getting jealous and then having sex with her (albeit with her permission) like he’s trying to stake his territory. It just felt gross to me that they have sex immediately after he pretends not to be mad and jealous, like he needs to spray his pee on her or some shit. Self assured guys don’t need to act like possessive jerks. That’s not an alpha, that’s an asshole. The women in this book deserve better than that type of behavior.
For me, it’s quite difficult to love a book when everytime the heroine comes face to face with other women she turns on her slut shaming habits. I’m not a fan, basically. I would also recommend checking out Mina’s review from Mina Reads. She also addresses some much needed concerns. She’s also ownvoices and I recommend following her opinions because she’s honestly one of the best romance reviewers out there.