Heat Factor: It starts out really emotionally heavy and gets lighter and steamier as it goes.
Character Chemistry: In the beginning it’s hard to see how much they have in common beyond their mental health issues, but they do end up building a fun, relaxing relationship together.
Plot: Aja has a panic attack in a grocery store right when it’s about to close, and is helped by a stranger—who happens to be her Bingo buddy’s grandson. Both of them have serious mental health issues, and an instantaneous connection that develops into something more (whether they’re ready for it or not).
Overall: It was so heavy in the beginning I had a hard time rooting for anything but more therapy for the two of them—but they did end up creating a really beautiful relationship.
I paused starting this book for a few days, thanks to the author’s very helpful and specific content warning (simply because I was having a really challenging week and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to process the book with a fair mind) and I’m glad I did—because it was fantastic!
The story opens with Aja having a really intense panic attack in her small town’s grocery store. She’s new in town and of course, worrying about having to see these people again is making it harder for her to use the tools she has to settle, pay, and get out of there. And that’s when she meets Walker—a stranger who sits with her so she’s not alone while she’s pulling herself back together.
When she goes to Bingo a few nights later, she discovers that her elderly Bingo buddy’s absence was because she’d had a fall and her grandson (Walker!) is in town to help her. They bond over peach cobbler and Bingo, and over their shared mental health struggles. Aja has generalized anxiety disorder, and Walker has complex PTSD.
This is where I was really starting to get anxious myself, because at that point in the story I was so invested in their wellbeing as individuals that I had a hard time believing they should be embarking on a relationship together. But then they both end up taking small steps to open their lives to other people, on their own and on their own terms–and I really started rooting for them, separately and together. Meeting each other might have been the spark that started the change, but both characters became more dynamic and multifaceted–more real. Romance is for everyone—including people who have to work a little harder to get through the day.
The best part of this one was that when things started getting steamy, Aja and Walker agree to only hook up if one of them wins Bingo at their nightly game. So they both start getting REALLY into the game, and things get really hot and intense when they’re between wins. So they’re essentially building a lot of emotional intimacy while their lack of physical intimacy is just cranking up the tension. FanTASTIC.
The setting was also kind of sweet and dreamy–a small town in South Carolina, where everyone knows everyone. It’s the middle of summer, so everyone is hot and kind of tired. Peach cobbler. Fourth of July. Really, it’s the perfect time of year for this one.
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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