I love when an author surprises me by making her characters so levelheaded and reasonable. In the beginning of the book we’re given the makings of a Big Misunderstanding. Both the hero and heroine are left angry and hurt because of a situation that a third party manipulated, although neither knows that. We meet them again years later and I thought the misunderstanding, and their getting past it, would be what drove the plot.
Thankfully, Johnson likes her characters to actually talk to each other. The misunderstanding was cleared up easily and Anna and Max were left without any grudges to hinder their falling in love. That was a huge relief for me, and smart of the author to boot. The conflict that we eventually see is much more convincing and realistic than any tired Big Mis could be.
If you are looking for likeable characters who take the time to build a genuine friendship together, then this is your book. Max and Anna spend a lot of time together and they’re able to build a solid foundation for their love. They laugh together, they open up about their feelings about things in their pasts, and they challenge each other’s views. Everything I crave in a relationship was right there between them. Watching then fall in love left me with a warm feeling. There wasn’t high drama and tempestuousness between them, so some might find their relationship boring, but I love that simple, slow build to love. This is what I crave at the heart of a Romance. Two people who genuinely like each other falling in love.
Although there isn’t any external angst, Anna and Max are two different people with vastly different dreams in life. Anna’s childhood was spent being trotted out like a show pony by her notorious, spotlight loving mother. She was forced to endure whispers and stares and now wants nothing more than to avoid society. She just wants to live in a simple cottage and enjoy simple pleasures without anyone gaping at her. That life doesn’t pair very well with a man who found freedom in that same notorious world. He loves the energy in London and wouldn’t be happy with a strictly country life.
Watching them work through their issues was wonderful. Their conflict had me sympathetic for both of them. There was no right or wrong person in the situation and that made it all the harder to see a workable solution. Even when they upset each other because of their differences, you still felt the love and regret underneath it all.
In addition to Anna and Max, we were treated to a great cast of side characters. Or perhaps I just thought they were so great because I enjoyed them in their own books? 😉 We get to revisit some of Johnson’s previous characters, like Freddie (love her!), and see how they’re fairing in their own HEA. We were also given an interesting villain of sorts. Anna’s mother was much more complex than a simple “bad guy.” Her actions and motivations were complicated and seemed to change depending on her mood. I honestly wondered about her mental state. She must have been an exhausting woman to live with.
Although we didn’t meet her in person, Max’s sister had a definite presence in this book. Given the mention we saw of her in the epilogue, I wonder if we’ll be treated to a book about her. I wouldn’t mind that at all. 🙂 But whether the next book is about her or someone else, I’ll be there regardless. I love the way this author can string together a tale.
“Adorable?” he asked again, slanting her pleading look. “Truly?”
“Not handsome? Or dashing? Or wickedly charming?”
Oh, yes. “Sorry, no.”
“You just ran into a tree.”