Overall: 3.75 rounding to 4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Plot/Storyline: 4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Feels: 3 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sensuality: 4 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I tried to go into this book without comparing it to Nine Rules. I wanted to love it. I set my expectations high because of what I know of Sarah MacLean as an author, as opposed to what I thought it should be because of Nine Rules. In truth, it’s difficult not to compare the two for obvious reasons. But the characters are so different that you really need to judge it on its own merits. If you go into this expecting another Nine Rules, you’re going into it the wrong way.
I loved Nick. He’s so different from Gabriel. Gabriel is for when you want the arrogant, commanding, takes what he wants with no apologies alpha hero. Nicholas is for when you want the arrogant, commanding, follows his lovely heart and will give you the world if only you’d ask for it, gamma hero. He is my favorite kind of hero. He’s strong and protective, but with a sweetness and tenderness to him that just make you melt.
Isabel is about as unspoiled as they come. She’s a lady but has never had a single thing handed to her. She’s on her own, completely, and needs absolutely no one to take care of her. Only, she wants someone to take care of her. And those are two totally different things. At first, she doesn’t own that she wants that. She thinks she wants to be independent and it takes her a while to understand is that letting someone take care of you isn’t a weakness.
And Nick, all he wants to do is take care of her. He’s the guy who can’t help but fall for a damsel in distress. For him, it is a weakness. And it takes him a while to understand that a woman doesn’t need to depend on him to want to depend on him.
This romance is more gentle than Nine Rules. Nick doesn’t come on super strong but the chemistry between them is still excellent. In the beginning, there is a tentativeness about their relationship that makes you hold your breath, while they try to figure things out. They approach each other slowly. There is hand holding and caresses and gentle kisses and honesty. There is a lot more talking and sharing in this book. The beginning set a perfect tone, but it fizzled in the middle and the book lost some of its intimacy.
Nicholas has a much more interesting past than I expected. It was completely unexpected, in fact. I couldn’t have dreamed it up. Of course, after reading Nine Rules, I wondered how he got his scar. That was the point after all. But I imagined something…different. It was darker than I expected. And this is where the book started splitting into this weird dichotomy for me, where I simultaneously felt that Nick was super intriguing and also too mysterious, because Sarah MacLean simply didn’t develop his background enough. In fact, the whole reason he ended up meeting Isabel in the first place is glossed over even though it’s an important part of his history.
I felt like Nick was a bit forgotten in this book. We don’t get a lot of his inner feelings and I wish Sarah MacLean had spent more time on his wishes and worries. They were things we didn’t truly get until around 85% and that’s when the feels started hitting home and it was just too late in the book to have real impact.
The love scenes, while explicit and plentiful, were more about the mechanics than they were about feeling. I really expect more from her at this point. Approximately 10% of them were from Nick’s perspective and that is such a shame. It was too one sided. Especially since we have a book here where the hero loves first! Such a rarity that it was a missed opportunity for sure.
All things said, this was a pretty good romance. If I think about it against many other books I’ve read, it’s wonderful, but it did not quite meet the Sarah MacLean benchmark. There were things I loved about it and some things that just never quite reached its potential.