I enjoy quite a few forbidden romance tropes, but nothing has me breathlessly turning the pages like a love story with a significant age gap between the characters. And while in real life a relationship of this nature might even give me pause, age disparity in fiction is like catnip for me. I seek it, I relish it, I get high on it, and when I come across a book so well-written that the love story eventually eclipses the forbidden quality of it, I become utterly spellbound. In this novel, we are hit with a scenario that is designed to makes us flinch, but once again, Penelope Douglas showcases her knack for creating compelling central characters and thus reversing all our expectations about them. She delivers a multilayered love story that strikes every emotional chord along the way, a story that is beautifully complicated, infinitely angsty, and completely impossible to put down.
It’s always the same wish. Every candle. Every time. I want a life I never want to take a vacation from.
Sitting next to a perfect stranger in a darkened movie theatre is not the way Jordan Hadley expected to spend her nineteenth birthday, but those few careless hours spent laughing, smiling, and forgetting her life beyond those four walls end up being exactly what she would have wished for. And when the credits begin to roll and the lights come up, a small part of her wishes she didn’t have a boyfriend waiting for her at home. That those hours spent in the company of a handsome stranger could have been the beginning of something new. Until his identity is suddenly revealed and instead of saying goodbye to him, she finds herself moving into his house the very next day.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been at ease long enough to forget the stress hitting us at every turn. We haven’t smiled together in a while, and it’s starting to not come naturally anymore.
Forever the level-headed and responsible type, Pike Lawson has spent the past two decades of his life focusing all his energies on building a business and taking care of his son, all the while putting his personal life on indefinite hold. Now in his late thirties, all his visions of falling in love and building a family feel like a distant dream that would never be.
That train I was waiting to catch raced by me without stopping. There probably wouldn’t be a wife, and I would never know what it would be like to have my kids grow up seeing me every day. At this point, I’m too used to being on my own that I’m like an only child.
So when his first crush in twenty years ends up being his son’s girlfriend, he fights the attraction with everything he’s got. But regardless of how many times he tells his heart that the girl of his dreams would forever remain off-limits to him, every single thing he learns about her makes him feel more and more like she is exactly where she belongs—living under his roof.
She’s staring at me, but I refuse to look at her, because I’m afraid my eyes will say something more or give away something teetering on the edge of my brain that I don’t want to face yet.
While her relationship with her boyfriend deteriorates each day, we watch Jordan’s friendship with Pike only grow fonder as time goes by. In their friendship, she finds all that has always been missing from her relationship with Pike’s son—common interests, similar priorities in life, a sense of belonging—and soon, her only moments of happiness become those spent with the man she is not supposed to look at, let alone long for.
Special, remembered, happy. He makes me happy. Happy in a way that my boyfriend should.
By capturing perfectly the mounting attraction between Jordan and Pike and never allowing it to overshadow their growing emotional attachment, the author allows their love story to flourish as it unfolds. We feel them fall in love, we watch their struggle not to succumb to their desires, we feel feverish when they finally do, we hurt for them when the author breaks them wide open, and we love every single prickly, angst-infused second of it. Once all the taboo aspects of this romance begin to fade before our eyes, all we see are two friends slowly falling in love with one another, and the sheer beauty of it is blinding. I loved this book like crazy.
“Time passes by you like a bullet and fear gives you the excuses you’re craving to not do the things you know you should. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t second-guess, don’t let fear hold you back, don’t be lazy, and don’t base your decisions on how happy it will make others. Just go for it, okay?”