As 2021 comes to a close, I’m revisiting my 20 favorite romance novels of the year, and the emotional What If You & Me by Roni Loren makes the list! It’s the story of two broken people who find each other at the right time in their lives. They’re both struggling to move forward and stuck in a rut – but they’re stronger together. I loved this hero; he’s a man who was once larger than life, but now feels undesirable and unlovable, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Paired with a vibrant heroine, it was so great to watch him come back to life. The story is light and sexy with a neighbors to friends to lovers vibe, but there are so many deeper moments and such a layered storyline. It handles difficult subjects like mental health and assault, but does it in such an uplifting way. It’s an excellent addition to what is proving to be a unique and interesting series, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next couple’s story in 2022!
Read on for my original review, details on the series, and plenty of quotes to give you a feel for the vibe!
Why is there something so absolutely swoon-worthy about a grumpy werewolf of a hero showing his vulnerable side? I loved the raw intimacy in this neighbors to lovers romance, which features two broken people healing together. It pairs a fierce and resilient heroine with a lovable and hurting hero, and the combination makes for one compelling read. This slow-burning love story doesn’t get dragged down by the weight of their pasts (which contain MANY triggers), but there is plenty of emotion and heartache. We got a peek at this heroine in the first book in this series of interconnected standalones, and I was intrigued by her then. But this was so much better than I anticipated; I loved it from start to finish.
The story follows Andi, a true crime podcaster whose past has shaped the person she is today. While most people see her bubbly exterior, not many know about the emotional scars that she carries. So when Andi meets her new neighbor, she feels a connection to him. Hill lost the career he loved, the woman he thought he’d marry, part of his leg, AND his confidence as the result of one on-the-job accident, and now he’s struggling to get himself out of the fog of depression. But Andi is a ray of sunshine in his life, and she might just be exactly what he needed to find his happy again.
Please be aware that the story explores SO MANY different things that some readers may find triggering, from depression and mental health to sexual assault and much more. It’s all handled with care and only serves to make the story richer, but the themes are front and center throughout the whole book. I didn’t find this to be overly heavy or particularly angsty, but there are definitely moments of that.
The first book in this series was a very solid read, so I was definitely looking forward to this. The dynamic in this one is right up my alley – I love a kind and protective cinnamon roll/alpha combo, and that’s what we get with Hill. He is a guy who once had everything that he thought he wanted, but it was all taken away with one accident. That’s left him reeling, and Andi is his perfect complement. They fit together so well BECAUSE they’ve both had such traumatic experiences – they understand each other in a way that many others wouldn’t. That makes the growth in intimacy so very fulfilling; there’s a patience and care to the steamy scenes that’s both enticing and comforting. I loved the connection between these two, and there was never a dull moment for me. I am definitely looking forward to more from the series – this was an excellent read. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this heartfelt romance.
New York Times and USA Today bestseller Roni Loren blends heat and heart in this emotionally charged story of:
- A frightened woman longing to break free
- A wounded man searching for his purpose
- An unexpected friendship turned sizzling hot connection
- And an emotional climax that’ll have them both learning to let go
The world can be a scary place. At least, that’s what Andi Lockley’s anxiety wants her to believe. It doesn’t help that she narrowly escaped a dangerous man years ago, or that every relationship since has been colored with that lingering fear. But things are better now—she’s channeling everything into her career as a horror novelist and true crime podcaster, and her next book may be the breakthrough she needs.
If only her grumpy new neighbor would stop stomping around at all hours of the night.
Former firefighter Hill Dawson can’t sleep. After losing part of his leg in a rescue gone wrong, he’s now stuck in limbo. He needs to figure out what he’s supposed to do with his life, and he can’t let himself get distracted by the pretty redhead next door. But when someone breaks into Andi’s place, Hill can’t stop himself from rushing in to play the hero. Soon, a tentative bond forms between the unlikely pair. But what starts out as a neighborly exchange quickly turns into the chance for so much more…if Andi can learn to put aside her fear and trust in herself—and love—again.
Start the series today!
Each book will read as a standalone, but Yes & I Love You introduces our heroine, and there are a few appearances by this couple in What If You & Me. Plus, the book has a similar emotional, sexy tone.
Read my 4-star review here
About the Author:
Roni Loren is a two-time RITA Award winner and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she hopes her storytelling has. She holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental-health counselor but now writes full time from Dallas, where she puts her characters on the therapy couch instead.
More of the Best of 2021!
Top 20 of 2021: The Complete List – here
Best of 2021: Top Picks by Trope can be found here!
Best of 2021: My 10 Favorite Romance Series can be found here!
Best of 2021: My Favorite Covers can be found here!
Every 5-Star Romance Novel I Read in 2021 can be found here!
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