For a hometown-style second-chance romance, for some fun literary references throughout, for a light mystery to carry forward the romance
English professor Athena Murphy is an authority on the novels of the Brontë sisters. But as they say in academia, publish or perish. To save her job, Athena decides to write a biography of C.L. Garland, the author heating up bestseller lists with spicy retellings of classic literature. Tracking down the reclusive writer and uncovering her secret identity, though, means Athena must return to her small midwestern hometown where Garland—and her ex-boyfriend, Thorne Kent—live.
Seeing Thorne again reminds Athena that real life never lives up to fiction. He was the Heathcliff to her Catherine, the Mr. Rochester to her Jane. Not only did their college breakup shatter that illusion, but they also broke each other’s hearts again a second time. Now she has to see him nearly every…single…day.
The only solution is to find C.L. Garland as quickly as possible, write the book, and get the heck out of town. As her deadline looms and the list of potential C.L. Garlands dwindles, Athena and Thorne bicker and banter their way back to friendship. Could it really be true that the third time’s a charm?
Athena and Thorne have a love story only a Brontë could write, and the chance for their own happily-ever-after, but first, they’ll need to forgive the mistakes of the past.
First of all, I haven’t actually read any works by a Bronte so maybe I was a weird target audience for this. xD Folks who have will probably get more out of the references and the constant Heathcliff references in the plot and from the characters themselves. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t familiar, though, because they were included naturally and added rather than alienated.
There are a few chapters from the Thorne’s perspective, just enough to give a little insight into his mind. I enjoyed those being sprinkled in, though I wasn’t always sure what decided when we would hear from him or not. The bulk of it is entirely Athena, though, and she is definitely the focused perspective and character.
One issue I had was that the characters seemed a bit hot and cold with each other, and not always with much (or any) reason. There’s a mystery about what exactly happened in their past (and in particular, in Seattle) that split them apart so violently when it seems clear from the start that they’re both waaaayyyyy still into each other. Little bits and pieces come out about it to put together the mystery, and builds the picture of their past more clearly as it goes on.
That might be enough for folks who enjoy that tantalizing little mystery element, but the crux of Athena’s life in this book is searching for a mystery author who hides their identity — and she needs to find this author in order to save her career. The pressure is on, and we learn about her town and family through her interactions with people as she tries to suss out who the author really is.
Their strange flip-flopping from feeling into each other to swearing they’ll never see each other again got really intense toward the end, when the culminating events felt kind of oddly timed. The order in which the plot elements were resolved didn’t seem quite right to me and left me feeling a bit confused as I got to the last chapters and was left thinking, But what about…? It did eventually all get resolved, but with a little bit of whiplash.
I am a sucker for a little mystery with my romance, so I was delighted that I was surprised by the question of the author’s identity not once, but TWICE towards the end. I loved guessing who it would be, and/or how it would resolve, and while the ending came out at my original guess, I had changed my mind probably ten times during the book so I was still surprised! I should have gone with my gut, I guess!
As for the romance itself, it’s absolutely the main focus of the book. Most of the conversations and thoughts of the characters focus on the romance element, with little bits about the author mystery and family feelings mixed in. If you’re in the mood for something that will keep a tight focus on the good stuff, this is it! I was in the right mood for it, and appreciated that I didn’t have to sit through existential crises and could get right to the frisky costume parties and literary innuendoes. 😁
Overall, yeah, I enjoyed this! It was easy to settle into it and enjoy the story knowing it would be pretty straightforward and linear. There were some side-themes of identity, family, and career goals, but overall the romance is the heart of it (with that dash of mystery).
Thank you to Books Forward and Annie Sereno for a free advanced copy of this title! This is my honest review.