As a SUPER slow-burning angst fest, I’m having a very difficult time assigning a rating to this forbidden/taboo romance – but it’s so well done that I’ve got to give it points for originality. So let’s call this a 5-star with an asterisk read. Hartmann has crafted another complex, bittersweet romance that will rip your heart out before putting it back together. Make sure you’ve got tissues at the ready. However, personally, I think the first half could’ve been significantly shorter (like 150 pages shorter, lol) without losing any impact, which is why I struggled a bit. It takes a long, LONG time before this turns into an overt romance. Everything comes full circle in such a powerful way that I was able to (mostly) forget my earlier frustrations by the end. Would I have abandoned ship if I didn’t already love Hartmann’s writing? Very likely. But I could tell right away that this was a one-of-a-kind love story, and it certainly proved that by the end.
If you want to go into this with as little info as possible, then just know that you’re in for a TABOO, triggering story that slowly evolves into a romance. It’s always a love story at the heart of it, but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way until the back half. I’ll talk a little about the plot below – that’s your minor spoiler warning.
The story follows Brant and June, two people who became family by circumstance. After tragedy struck when Brant was young, he moved in with June’s family (his neighbors) and was a part of her life from the very beginning. She should’ve simply been the girl next door, a woman he would’ve fallen for in a beautiful, acceptable way. Except… that’s not how their love story goes. Most would consider them siblings, but that’s never felt like quite the right word for June. Tragedy took away Brant’s opportunity to fall for the right girl in an uncomplicated way, so his feelings for her are messy, confusing… and very possibly wrong.
So, let’s talk about that asterisk on my rating. I’m strictly a romance reader, so the first 200+ pages of this felt endless to me. There’s SO MUCH time spent on Brant and June as literal children, and that was uncomfortable for me. Which… I guess is kind of the point! We see the evolution of their relationship in these moments and snippets, small events over the course of YEARS that bring them to where they are as adults. I didn’t really think it was all necessary as I was reading it, which lead to some significant impatience and frustration on my part. But… those little snippets were essential to understanding the DEEP love that Brant and June have for each other. They struggle with these feelings that don’t feel quite right. Hartmann does such a good job of showing the friction, the confusion, and the forbidden nature of it all. If you’re an angst lover who adores taboo, then this will be right up your alley. It honestly never felt “wrong” to me, because it was easy to see that there was something different about them. I love some of the concepts that are explored, and I love that I was so invested in their happiness by the end. Sure, I could make a list of complaints about the plot, but this was so well done in other ways that I really don’t want to. It’s the kind of book that will stay with you long after you’re done reading, and I imagine that I’ll have equally complicated thoughts about it a year from now.
Want to know what happens to a man who barely claws his way out of a tragedy, only to fall right into the arms of the one girl in the world he can never have?
Another tragedy, that’s what.
When I was six years old, my father made a choice that altered the course of my entire life.
Because of what he did, the only girl I ever loved became the only girl I couldn’t have.
In a lot of ways, I did have her…
I had her first steps, her first words, her first smile. I had her milestones, her heartbreaks, her dreams. I had her heart so woven in with mine, I didn’t know where she ended, and I began.
Only, as the years pressed on, lines became blurred—and the blurrier the line, the easier it is to cross.
They say tragedy comes in threes.
For me, that was true.
The first one changed me, the second one broke me, and the third one healed me.
But at the center of all that tragedy… there is a love story.
And at the center of that love story,
There is June.
About the Author:
Jennifer Hartmann resides in northern Illinois with her husband and three children. When she is not writing love stories, she is capturing them through wedding photography with her own personal romance hero. She enjoys sunsets (because mornings are hard), bike riding, traveling, and that time of day when coffee gets replaced by wine. Jennifer loves tacos, and she really, really wants to pet your dog. Xoxo
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