I can see why this became so popular all of a sudden – it reminded me a lot of Meet Me Halfway and The Brightest Light of Sunshine, which were both easy 5-star ratings for me. And this was definitely a solid 4-star read. I always love the combination of gruff, tattooed hero with a sweet single mom, and adding in the neighbors element was a definite win as well. I loved that this hero was such a sweetheart (only to the heroine and her young kids, of course!), and that he fell so hard and fast. He was determined to get his girl and make her little family his own, which was super swoon-worthy. He’s loving and protective, broody and intense. It’s cozy and tender most of the time with just a little bit of bite, and I had no trouble bingeing the whole way through. My only issues are very minor – these opposites attract in the best of ways.
The story follows Hadley (21), a woman who thought she’d be with her high school sweetheart forever. She had their first child right out of high school and is pregnant with their second one when she discovers him cheating. It’s the final straw, so she moves out on her own. Unfortunately, Hadley’s new neighbor is a grumpy, intimidating man who is definitely not very welcoming towards her little family. Elijah (30) soon feels guilty for the first impression he made, and he gets to know Hadley’s daughter better. Spending time with Hadley and her kids ends up being a much better experience than Elijah was anticipating, and it’s not long before he starts to think of them as his own. But Hadley just ended a relationship with a guy who took awhile to show his true colors, and it’s tough to envision a man like Elijah wanting to stick around for the long haul.
This really finds its footing once Elijah and Hadley become friends, with a slow-burning friends to lovers-style relationship. I wasn’t quite as emotionally invested in the first portion, which is why this loses a star from me. I also couldn’t handle hearing “God Bless America” as a curse word one more time, lol, because it’s used a LOT in the first half. Those are basically the only drawbacks for me – the rest of this was great. I liked Hadley, but it was Elijah who stole the show here. There’s something so immensely compelling about a “bad boy” who is just absolutely smitten with a woman AND her young kids, and there were SO many great scenes with Elijah showing his sweet side. I also loved that he was willing to put in the work, and he wanted to make it clear that he was all in. The age gap could’ve easily gone awry since Hadley is a little sheltered and naive, but she’s so grown up from being a mom that she had no trouble handling Elijah. The opposites attract scenario worked, and the whole thing was simply low angst and endearing. Cozy and sweet. So it’s the kind of 4-star read that easily could’ve been a 5-star for me with a slightly stronger start. Either way, it was very solid.
Make no mistakes about it. I know what I look like to others. Young, government-aided, pregnant mom. They see Lucy on my hip, and they see a mistake. I mean, why else would someone have a child so young, right? They couldn’t be more wrong. I’m too busy most days between parenting, work, and finishing up my last year of nursing school to let their judging gaze tear me down until he moves into the vacant house next to the apartments I live in.
His cold, blunt observation of us doesn’t differ from any other stranger. He doesn’t know me, but he’s already painting a picture of who he thinks I am in his mind. He judges my very round belly, Lucy’s inability to leave him alone, the bags under my eyes, and the fact that I couldn’t care less what I look like anymore.
He’s a rude guy. Stays that way for months too. Then something happens, I’m not even sure what. Judgmental Guy decides Lucy and me—as well as baby Eli, are worth his friendship.
Turns out, Judgmental Guy isn’t too mean—okay, he kind of still is. But he graduates to Elijah. I build an unlikely friendship with him which deems it necessary for him to start smiling around me and my kids.
I’m wrong again. Elijah isn’t rude. He’s terrifying. His strange acts of kindness are unraveling me. Elijah is only my friend.
Oh, fudge. I think I’m wrong.
About the Author:
Romance with a bit of everything else.
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