Satisfying and realistic romance

Among the many reasons I consider Jasmine Haynes the finest writer of romance these days is that she peoples her stories with humans I think I might know. Or I’d like to. Or I wouldn’t. Case in point: Tricia and David. Tricia has worked hard and has faced life’s challenges with grace and benign imperfection. David loved her all his life but married another and now (spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the previous superb West Coast novel Any Way She Wants It) they have a second chance at love together. He is reserved but learning to open up. I always enjoy a romance between two mature adults who know themselves and find a brilliant spark of chemistry between them and go for it. Obviously these two communicate well, and their scenes together amply demonstrate how two people who love each other can still get things wrong and figure it out and come back together again. Now case in point: David’s sister Judy. She is perhaps the most gloriously infuriating character Haynes has written to date. I have yet to encounter another writer who so plausibly captures a wholly self-interested, completely manipulative female frenemy quite as real as Judy. Judy is intent on subtly and not so subtly undermining the happiness of others and controlling the emotional situations of others. Judy is a character study in awful but all too real. I read fiction to examine how we as human beings might behave and relate to each other in interesting circumstances and Haynes always delivers the best. Luckily, she also delivers a satisfying ending. This honest review was written in exchange for an ARC of the novel.