I admit it. Unrequited love is my romance novel catnip. Those angsty books where they’re yearning for each other and deeply cut when they feel rejected and hopeless. It’s what gets my insides all tied up in knots and then sets off a thousand butterflies when they’re finally coming together.
What’s even better than that? Only when both characters are going through this at the same time. And this book is brimming with that. Their love is not actually unrequited. They both love each other but neither realize it, which just amped it all up for me. Instead of a sprinkling of my catnip, she poured a whole bucket full over the pages and drowned it in it. My inner cat devoured that catnip right up.
If my catnip is unrequited love, then Max and Aurelia’s catnip is each other. Only they don’t sit and munch down their catnip. They hiss and bring out the claws, like a couple of feral animals.
These two have loved each other forever, but neither of them are willing to admit it anymore after a falling out when they were children. Both hurt each other in ways that they didn’t realize and so every interaction between them was based on a huge misunderstanding that spiraled itself out of control.
Over time, they built up walls to protect themselves and then encased it in barbed wire to make the other feel as vulnerable as they do. One of them would try to get close and they’re pricked by that barbed wire, and they’re hurt. So they shore up their defenses, and add more layers of barbed wire. And then the other person get pricked and does the same. They’re so caught up in it that they can’t even see how it’s all become a self fulfilling prophecy.
Eventually the barbs are too sharp and their feelings too raw, so they just shut each other out. And you can really feel the hurt and anguish between them. The feeling of rejection and inadequacy and yearning and fear. And its justifiable. They are not all “woe is me”. Their feelings are not unfounded. They’ve done everything they can to make the other feel inadequate, unwanted and unwelcome in their lives and it seeps into every corner of their relationship.
And the last thing they can possibly do is admit the truth. That all they have ever wanted was each other. If they admit it, they’re opening themselves up to a brutal heartbreak. So I understand why they were so resistant and stuck on this circular torment.
I love this kind of book. The longing, the yearning, the angst. It made the tension in the book outstanding. The love scenes were excellent. Though perhaps lacked a little creativity. But the tension alone made up for that.
I was close to giving this book five stars for their love/hate relationship and all the feels alone. But there were a few things that keep me from doing that.
Somewhere around 60% of the book the weight of their past relationship is forgotten. I expected that they would talk about all the horrible things they’ve said to each other over the years and work through them, but they never did.
I thought the issue with Max’s past and what happened with his parents was underdeveloped and almost felt like an after thought.
The writing style is a bit stuffy. Lot’s of had’s and such’s. I know that’s because it’s an historical, but I don’t always notice it. I did here. It wasn’t enough that it would keep me from reading her again, but it was enough that I thought about it throughout the book. I think I prefer a slightly more modern style of writing, even for an historical.
The end was a bit rushed. Max does a very quick about face with his issues and it’s resolved within a matter of pages. I would have preferred to see him accept his feelings over time. The epilogue was also very short and not very satisfying.
Overall those negatives are not enough to make this anything less than an excellent book. So its a solid four stars.