The Graciella Series, Book #3
Heat Factor: It’s kind of an instant, angry, heated clash and then it burns but in a more friendly and less publicly appropriate way
Character Chemistry: This is absolutely a case of matching wounds meeting matching wounds but it actually made sense to me…THIS TIME.
Plot: Cass is on the tail end of a deeply traumatic experience—so traumatic she loses her sense of smell, and unfortunately she’s a food writer. She regains it when a really attractive farmer accidentally throws manure all over her, and then they get in a really rude argument, and afterwards they pretty much start matching themselves right up in ways that are understandable and steamy.
Overall: This was a really sweet read and it did surprise me in a lot of lovely ways.
So, it’s probably predictable by now that given a book where the characters experience a fairly jarring dose of trauma, I’m going to pick it apart to bits. Trauma is my jam, folks. We all know this.
Cass experiences a real doozy of a trauma and afterwards hits some really incredibly well described phases of processing that trauma—she turns into a numb lump for a while, followed by a phase of desperate attempts to feel something, physical symptoms like losing her sense of smell (and she’s a food writer!), and then finally taking some time and space for herself to process and re-meet herself post trauma. Spoiler—I loved every bit of Cass’ mess. I LOVED that this is a woman who experienced a massive life upheaval and she dealt with it in messy ways, because it felt very real. I did not feel like the author was somehow protecting Cass’ purity by having her process this trauma in ladylike ways.
What surprised me was that Adam, who I expected to be a more stereotypical hunk of farmer meat, ended up being 1. Somewhat substantially younger than Cass, 2. Emotionally intelligent to a remarkable degree, and 3. Very verbal in his, erm, lovemaking. Adam has his own trauma from growing up in a dysfunctional family and watching his older brothers leave him behind. Now that they’re reunited and growing their family farm and legacy, Adam is keenly aware of the residual feelings that resurface, and he knows how to deal with them in healthy ways. He’s the horse whisperer of the farm, which truly fits his personality, and he’s the family member who brings the lightness and humor to their outfit. So when Cass rolls in desperately needing some time to herself, I’ll be honest, I was concerned Adam was going to roll up his sleeve and fix all her issues for her.
No. Not exactly.
I mean, he does help her regain her sense of smell by throwing manure all over her and kind of shocking her into a reaction. But, actually, Adam sits patiently (see: the horse whisperer connection) and lets her process at her own speed while he provides support, humor, and kindness.
When a real earth-tilting surprise jolts their newly-forming little world, Cass and Adam end up having to decide what kind of relationship they want going forward with much bigger stakes on the line. This is where I feel like the story was both better than I anticipated and moved a little more slowly than I would have liked.
I would have liked to see both of them process things in front of me a bit more—but I can’t argue with how satisfying it was to watch Adam recommend and support Cass in getting therapy, or in how both of them easily accommodated and supported each other’s dreams. It was kind of soothing, in a way.
I really respect how difficult it must be for romance authors to navigate their characters having relatable and messy life situations, handle those situations in ways that contribute to a healthy happily ever after, and make all that work with an engaging plot–so if it unfolds a little more slowly, sometimes that’s actually really okay with me. I would absolutely read the first two books in the series, but it was no trouble reading this one on its own.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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Food writers means lots of lovely details about food. I want more of that!