Four years ago, a car accident ended Zedekiah Harrow’s ballet career and sent Philadelphia Ballet principal dancer Alyona Miller spinning toward the breakdown that suspended her own. What they lost on the side of the road that day can never be replaced, and grief is always harshest under a spotlight…
Now twenty-three, Zed teaches music and theatre at a private school in Washington, D.C. and regularly attends AA meetings to keep the pain at bay. Aly has returned to D.C. to live with her mother while trying to recover from the mental and physical breakdown that forced her to take a leave of absence from the ballet world, and her adoring fans.
When Zed and Aly run into each other in a coffee shop, it’s as if no time has passed at all. But without the buffer and escape of dance—and with so much lust, anger and heartbreak hanging between them—their renewed connection will either allow them to build the together they never had… or destroy the fragile recoveries they’ve only started to make.
FAITH IN THE NEW ADULT CATEGORY: RESTORED
Me, trying to write a review for this:
Because how the ACTUAL fuck do I put my feels into words? This book is like some sort of White Whale of literature. One of those elusive tomes that rises up out of the deep and swallows you whole. And once you’re caught between its pages, you realize that the whole reason you kept stubbornly sailing the NA seas even after most of your friends abandoned ship was because you’ve been waiting for it to devour you all along.
This is how you write a second-chance romance.
“We’re each other’s fairy tales. Maybe that’s why we always come back to each other. Our story’s not finished yet.”
Four years ago, Aly and Zed, two young ballet prodigies with promising careers ahead of them, had just begun to realize that they weren’t really friends. That their love wasn’t platonic, and that what was growing between them was something you could build your whole life around. But then a tragic car accident tears them apart, and the two are left adrift, unable to bridge the gap that rises up between them in its wake. Bereft, they walk away from each other.
Four years later, they meet again by chance, in a coffee shop in D.C., and what follows is one of the most relatable love stories that I have ever read. Both Aly and Zed are struggling in their own right. The car crash scarred them, both physically and mentally, and neither ever really processed the resulting trauma or what they lost in the accident.
This is how you write a believable male voice.
“If I look at her, I will stop seeing her in pieces. I will stop seeing her as a braid, thin arms, nimble fingers, big eyes in a pale face. I will see all of her, all over again. If I look at her, I will fall to pieces, and I don’t know that I can put myself back together again. The last time literally almost killed me.”
I am so goddamn sick of alphadouches masquerading as romantic leads. I am so goddamn sick of reading a book from first person male PoV only to find page after page after page of f-bombs, grunting, and a one-track mind with a repetitive internal monologue that goes something like this:
“I MUST CLAIM HER. I MUST MAKE HER MINE. I WILL PEE ON AND AROUND HER UNTIL SHE ADMITS SHE BELONGS TO ME.”
These archetypes do nothing but reinforce a dangerous extreme of traditional gender roles. To quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, they put men into that small, hard cage known as masculinity, only leaving enough room for them to demonstrate, anger, violence, and lust.
I see enough of that shit in my day-to-day life and on the news. The last thing I want to do is read about it. Because, for the most part, I read to escape. I read to forget how shitty life can be and all the problems that plague our society. I don’t read to be reminded of them.
This male lead is the antithesis of those alphadouches. He’s passionate, emotional, affectionate, poetic, caring, understanding, but best of all, he doesn’t try to hide any of these facets of his personality. He doesn’t think that crying makes him any less of a man. He doesn’t try to dominate or sublimate the female lead.
HE READS LIKE A REAL, COMPLEX HUMAN BEING.
For that alone, I could love his character. But I love Zed for so much more than just that. I love him for the way his mind works. I love him for the way he sees the world around him. I love him for the way he loves Aly:
“My heart was still in her. It could never be in me, driving me to dance, when she carried it with her. I could almost see it pulsing beneath her skin.”
This is how you write a complex female lead.
Whoo, boy. I don’t even know how to describe Aly. I’m almost afraid to. Because if I tell you how much I related to her, I’d be giving up a piece of my soul in the process, and while I’ve written some personal reviews before, including one about being raped, I don’t think I’m ready to talk about all the ways Aly and I are alike.
Let me just say that she’s as real as Zed is, and, if anything, she’s an even more complex and complicated character. She suffers relapses, makes some heartbreaking decisions, and keeps things to herself. But she is trying. She is progressing. Her character growth throughout this was incredible, and so organic that, like Zed, I forgot she was a fictional character.
I love her as much as I do him. I love her flaws, her faults. I love her for her heart. I love her for the way she sees the world around her. I love her for the way she loves Zed:
“Zed, my first friend. Zed, who didn’t take any of my bullshit. Zed, who was never jealous. Zed, who shouldn’t have been in that car with me that day. Zed, whose fingers still ghost over my skin in my dreams. Zed. Zed. Zed. The end of the alphabet and the end of me.”
Oh, and if you can’t tell from all the quotes I’ve added to this review, Locke’s prose is a reader’s wet dream. It’s lyrical, enchanting, and as utterly captivating as her characters are.
BASICALLY, THIS BOOK WAS FUCKING AWESOME.
I have to thank my go-to reccing ball, Dahlia, for putting this book on my radar, and Aoife, for reminding me that I NEEDED to read this.
For anyone who loves a second-chance romance, or complex characters, or needs their faith in the NA category restored: