I haven’t read a book that has touched my soul, like this one, in a very long time, but then again, Abby Jimenez continues to prove she can do no wrong. Set in the same world as Part of Your World, this is the story of two emergency room doctors who, after a bevy of wrong first impressions, become each other’s safe place at a time in their lives when they’re both feeling adrift and alone. Jimenez just knows how to create characters that make you feel like you’d step in front of a moving train for them, characters that embody a certain type of strong that is selfless and kind, characters that linger in our minds long after the book ends. Equal parts heart and heartbreak, yet every romantic’s dream come true, this is Abby Jimenez at her best—making us want to live in her stories forever.
I was getting farther and farther away from the me I’d planned. Of the life I had planned. In two weeks, I’d no longer be married. I would, from this day forward, be alone.
Dr. Briana Ortiz’s personal life is a disaster. Her divorce is soon to be final, her younger brother needs a kidney donor, and she is back living in her childhood home because she feels paralysed by the mere idea of moving on. The only thing that she feels she still has any control over is her career, and she has her sights set on the top job in emergency medicine at Royaume Northwestern. But an obstacle appears in the form of Dr. Jacob Maddox, a hotshot transfer from another hospital, who seems to be after the same promotion. She hates him at first sight, reading his aloofness and lack of engagement with fellow colleagues as arrogance and conceit, only to soon realise that her first impressions of this quiet gentle man might have been all wrong.
My anxiety was well managed at work. I was assured and confident in my interactions with my peers and subordinates. I was an excellent physician. But she had me flustered just by looking at me…
Just like Briana, Jacob is at a turning point in his own personal life, which, coupled with a new, unfamiliar working environment, only adds to his chronic social anxiety. After the worst possible first week at his new job, where he manages to antagonise everyone he meets, he decides to write a letter to Briana to explain himself and apologise. But one letter soon turns to many more, and before they know it, their letters and notes have become the only thing they both look forward to in a day.
“Have you ever heard that quote if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid?”
“I will never judge you for how you climb a tree, Jacob. And you should know that you are an exceptional fish.”
As their friendship grows, Jacob becomes Briana’s one calm port in the storm that is her life, and her protectiveness of him begins to know no bounds. In her desire to shield him from anything and anyone that might cause him distress, she agrees to pretend to date him to save him from his family’s scrutiny at an upcoming wedding, even though she knows all too well that she is falling for a man who might never love her back.
“What does this one mean?” she whispered.
“This one what?” I said softly. She opened her beautiful eyes and looked at me.
“This quiet,” she said dreamily. “I know all of your quiets. I know when you’re alone with me and you’re quiet, it’s because your brain is still. And when you’re in public and you’re quiet, it’s because your brain is loud. But I don’t know this one. What’s this one?”
I held her gaze. “This one’s you.”
Little does she know that, for Jacob, loving Briana was never a choice. He’s loved her for as long as he’s known her, so when their friendship finally turns into more, Jacob is the happiest he’s ever been. And so is Briana.
“This is what it feels like to be truly loved. I’ve never felt it before. And I didn’t even realize it until just now.”
He smiled at me gently. “Yes. This is what it feels like.”
But just as they begin to find a way to truly be together, Briana’s panicked flight response kicks in, and she pushes away the only man who’s never hurt her. Because, a lifetime of abandonment and grand exits by all important men in her life has made it hard for Briana to believe in love and acceptance, and her urge to flee is simply too great, even when it involves sabotaging her own happiness.
“You won’t like me once you really know me, or you’ll find someone else or you’ll want something different and then you’ll leave. So just do it now. Save me the trouble.”
Abby Jimenez weaves a slow-burning romance that is heartbreakingly beautiful from beginning to end, a story about the broken pieces of ourselves we carry on through life that can make us blind to what’s right in front of us, and how something new and beautiful can be made from the sum of our broken parts. I wish I could read this book for the very first time over and over again.
“We’re all a little broken, Briana. We are a mosaic. We’re made up of all those we’ve met and all the things we’ve been through. There are parts of us that are colorful and dark and jagged and beautiful. And I love every piece of you. Even the ones you wish didn’t exist.”