Rachel Campbell is doing just fine on her own. The forty-seven-year-old divorced single mother of a nearly grown teenager, she’s also a shape shifter. She isn’t opposed to the idea of love, but she isn’t looking for it, either. But then state trooper Lee Harrison moves in across the street. He couldn’t be more wrong for her on paper, but he’s so attractive and interesting, ever-cautious Rachel is tempted to throw her own rules for dating to the wind.
Lee wasn’t expecting his neighbor to be a sexy bookworm, but that’s exactly what she turned out to be. She’s also twelve years his senior and has a serious bias against getting involved with law enforcement officers. Nonetheless, he’s compelled to try to break through her defenses. One of the good guys, he’s a man with paranormal abilities he’d prefer not to have. Little does he know that proving how trustworthy he is to Rachel is only the first obstacle they have to overcome to find a happily ever after.
Once again T.L. Haddix manages to flip the bird to all the tired tropes and themes that plague the romance genre. Every time I find myself on the verge of rage-quitting it, I dive back into this series to have my faith restored.
In this installment, Rachel, our forty-seven-year-old female lead, is the antithesis of the typical virginal Mary Sues that so frequently grace the pages of the romance genre.
She’s had *gasp* sex before. And isn’t *gasp* ashamed of it. She even has *megagasp* self-confidence. And she *supermegagasp* recognizes the fact that she’s an attractive older woman. She doesn’t cave to society’s expectations and don matronly attire, but she wears cut-off shorts and spaghetti-strap tank tops, because, DAMN IT, she looks good and she knows it. Say it with me now,
Instead of slut-shaming and girl-on-girl hate, this book is filled with strong female relationships. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. I can’t tell you how frigging happy I was to read about healthy, normal interactions between women for once. Say it with me now,
Instead of a mysterious older man, we have a younger male lead. He’s twelve years Rachel’s junior, and in a complete role-reversal, he’s the one who’s awkward around her. He doesn’t bully her, he never threatens her with physical violence, and he doesn’t go beast mode if another dude looks at her. He even trusts her to handle herself, knowing that she can, because she’s a grown ass woman. Say it with me now,
Their interactions ran the gamut from adorable, to gut-busting funny. Just look at their first meeting:
“You do not look thirty-five.”
“Yeah, well, I’d talk. Are you really Sawyer’s age?” He grimaced, his cheeks turning red even as she snorted with appalled amusement. “I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m always putting the wrong foot forward. I’ll go now that I’ve humiliated myself. Nice meeting you.”
With a quick salute, he turned and headed back toward his house.
Rachel, her mouth open with shock, waited for him to stop and come back. He didn’t. She scrambled to her feet and padded barefoot down the walk to the gate.
“That’s it? You’re leaving?”
He stopped on the other side of the street, turning to face her, his hands spread wide. “That was damaging enough, don’t you believe?”
She didn’t quite know what to think. “Um. I’m not insulted if that’s what you’re afraid of.”
“No?” He scratched his jaw. “Okay. Then I’d better not push it or you might be before I stop. See you around.”
And that’s this whole book in a nutshell. I read it with a mixture of SQUEEE, Awwwww, and LMFAO! Say it with me now,
Lastly, we have the “complication”. There’s always one in romance novels. Some thing that keeps the male and female leads from getting together for a little bit. Let me tell you, in this book, you frigging get it, man. It’s not contrived drama that keeps them apart, but deep-seated psychological trauma. But you know what, it’s not drawn out. And the character (I won’t say who, because spoilers) with said trauma is able to work through their shit with the help of their friends, and the person whom they love. SAY IT WITH ME NOW,
So if you, like me, are fed up with reading about doormat female leads and the ragebeasts who abuse them, give this series a try. Each and every book in it breaks the mold in so many ways.