Loveless Brothers, Book #3
Heat Factor: Back scratches give it all away
Character Chemistry: Yep. Yes.
Plot: Best friend’s sibling with a temporary timeline twist. Also tree murders.
Overall: This contemporary romance leveled up
Y’all, this book far exceeded all my expectations. I expected a fluffy contemporary romance with a satisfying best friend’s sibling trope. I got a bunch of extremely satisfying adult behavior. And also a very satisfying best friend’s sibling trope.
The hangup with this best friend’s sibling romance isn’t so much about keeping the relationship from June’s older brother. The hangup is that Levi knows that his relationship with June might jeopardize his relationship with her brother, his best friend, but he also knows that June is only in town temporarily, until she can find a journalism job anywhere in the world after being laid off from her last job. Levi knows his heart’s going to break when June leaves, and he doesn’t want to lose both relationships if he can help it. Of course that gets messy.
Let’s talk about what this book does well. It might get into spoilery territory, but it’s honestly what I believe is worth talking about and what’s unique with respect to this book.
Relationships change lives.
Much of what annoys me about contemporary romance is that the protagonists are involved in some life-altering romance that is So Different From Every Other Romance, but when it comes to the point, they still behave like independent operators. Now, there comes a point in a relationship when one really should ask, “What is more important to me? Making this relationship work or … not?” And maybe that’s the conversation that these contemporary romance authors are focused on. They just write the conversations where that decision making is occurring in a maddeningly unsatisfactory way, like the protagonists still don’t get that it’s not a binary him vs. me and his goals vs. my goals. It should be something like, “Is this relationship so important to me that I am prepared to work with my partner to make good decisions for both of our lives?”
Noir doesn’t let June and Levi make the right decisions off the bat, but she does an exceptional job of getting them to the point that they realize they have this decision to make. June gets scared and Levi reacts poorly. And Levi, with his house and his job and his family, is established. He would have to give up the life he’s built to be with June if she gets a journalism job anywhere. It’s a lot to risk. For her part, June never intended to stay in her hometown, so why would she change her operating status based on some brand new relationship? After applying and applying and applying for jobs, she makes a decision. With the help and wisdom of his brothers, Levi considers her decision and makes one of his own, at which point we take this book to the next level. June reevaluates where she is, and we go from “if I give up my dreams for a man, I’m going to regret it” to:
I realize, all at once, that this is what love is. It’s the happy moments and the laughing together and making out at stoplights and the looking forward to seeing them every single day, but it’s also the simple, astonishing fact that now I have to take him into account.
Suddenly what I do matters to another person, and somehow I was unprepared for this.
Instead of getting stuck in some kind of binary me vs. him headspace, Noir gets June and Levi to a place where they can truly be partners and make decisions together, supporting each other.
Valuing oneself is important.
As I mentioned above, June has a moment when she feels she needs to decide between living her dream and being with her love, and she concludes that if she gives up her dream for a man she’ll regret it. Okay.
But what happens when it’s the dream on paper, but the reality doesn’t match it? June wanted to be a journalist so she could do serious, investigative reporting. When print journalism is dying and there’s a limit to what jobs can be found, does writing about the small town’s holiday weekend and parade still satisfy the journalism itch? Does the work environment matter or not? Is the dream still worth it if the work environment is toxic, but if you stick it out for a couple of years you could move on to something better? How much of oneself should be sacrificed in the interest of the dream? Basically we end up in the classic job investment trap–you’ve put in so much time and effort that quitting feels like something you couldn’t possibly do–except that June hasn’t even invested in much more than months of job searching. Just imagine making yourself suffer for years because of some nonsense story you’ve told yourself. Bleh.
Noir does an interesting spin on this narrative, as June considers what she might be willing to commit to for herself vs. what she is willing to commit to when she’s thinking about Levi in the picture as well. And what we end up with is an opportunity for June to think about what’s really, truly best for herself, which she couldn’t do while she was wallowing and thinking of herself as an independent operator. It’s fabulous.
Basically, we get a little bonus of seeing the partnership that makes life better, even when at first glance it seems impossible.
There’s a fun mystery involving tree murders that allows June and Levi to play together in the woods. Levi is the Chief Arborist for the National Forest Service, so he’s very “mountain man” with long hair in a man bun (referred to as a knot in this book, because I guess man bun is not sexy?) and a beard. And flannel. Yum. June’s brother isn’t just a toxically masculine bro for no reason. I think. I think it has a bit to do with his PTSD, but I can’t be sure…maybe he’ll get his own book and we’ll find out for sure. Besides, June lectures him on why he shouldn’t be such a caveman. And Levi has four loving brothers (the rest of the series, if you’re interested), and what’s not to like about that?
But best of all, we get this really thoughtful consideration of a healthy adult relationship, even with a healthy dose of drama, and it makes me want to pump my fist and cheer!
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