Recommended Read, Review

Review: A Forest Between Us by Allie Winters (2022)

Crescent Pass, Book #1

Heat Factor: We really shouldn’t but we want to (and boy do they ever)

Character Chemistry: Attraction plus kindness is always a winning combination

Plot: Harper and Owen got Vegas married five years ago, and haven’t seen each other since. Now, Harper wants an annulment.

Overall: I really liked this book

“Oops we’re married” is such a fun trope. I don’t know why I like it so much. Maybe because it’s just so ridiculous. Or maybe because spontaneously marrying a stranger in a moment of crisis can reveal what you really value. Or maybe because once you’re tied to someone—legally—then you have to decide, together, what your path forward will be. Perfect romance fodder!

A Forest Between Us begins five years after the oops marriage, when Harper realizes that maybe that wedding that she thought was a silly tourist attraction actually resulted in a real marriage. Whoops. Does she even remember the guy’s name? No she does not. But the county records sure do, and she eventually manages to track down one reclusive Owen Taylor, resident of a tiny town in Oregon. For romance reasons, Harper decides that she must have an annulment instead of a divorce, which involves traveling from Chicago to said tiny town and getting Owen to agree.

Owen, for his part, didn’t remember getting married (there may have been copious amounts of alcohol involved in that decision), but he does remember Harper—and when she shows up at his door, he knows that she’s the one for him. Luckily for these two lovebirds, the lawyer isn’t available to meet with them until next week, and there’s the obligatory small town festival happening, so there are no rooms at the inn. What is there to do besides have Harper stay at Owen’s house for the weekend? Cue scenes of them hiking, awkwardly running into his family (I see you sequel bait!), and being cute and domestic. And falling into bed—they both know it’s temporary, they both know that sleeping together will hurt in the long run, and they both want it so badly anyway.

As a sidenote, I really like the dynamic of the hero having feelings immediately, while the heroine needs a bit more time—as long as the hero doesn’t get into creepy stalker watching her sleep territory. It’s a nice fantasy of courtship and being wanted, and I *know* it’s heteronormative and gender essentialist, but it just works for me. A Forest Between Us has this dynamic in spades.

Allie Winters was one of the first authors who contacted us about reviewing her work, back when we were baby bloggers. Ingrid had nothing but good things to say about her Suncoast University Series; Erin jumped all over the Bishop Brothers series. I figured it was my turn, and I was not disappointed. Why does this book work so well? I think it’s because Winters understands what makes a good romance book work. We’ve got all the tropes and beats, but with just enough of a twist that they don’t feel stale or enraging. 

Let’s talk about the black moment / third act break-up / runaway. (Skip this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers.) Ok, so normally, the third act break-up can be infuriating. But in this case, it’s the only possible conclusion to everything that’s happened. Harper has spent a week with Owen, and they’ve both caught feelings. But Harper’s life is in Chicago. She has a job that she’s good at. She has friends that she loves. She has an apartment and goes to brunch and does all the things you do when you’re in your 20s and live in Chicago and have some disposable income. From the beginning, she’s been very clear that she’s going home. After all, it would be completely irrational to give up your whole life and move across the country for a guy you barely know—if one of my friends wanted to do that, I would stage an intervention. So when Owen asks her to stay, she does the only thing that makes logical sense: she says no, tells him that it’s not fair for him to ask her to give up everything while he gives up nothing, and leaves. Because this is a romance, and the beat is needed, Owen goes after her; but it’s set up in a way that makes sense, given everything we know about these characters and their needs and desires.

I think what it really boils down to is that instead of rolling my eyes at Harper and Owen, I was given just the right amount of insight into their thoughts and emotions that I felt empathy for them (even when they were being utterly ridiculous). I was rooting for these characters to find their HEA in the face of what seemed like impossible odds, and I was so happy when they figured it out—and when it comes down to it, that’s what I want in a romance novel.

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.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

A-courtin’ we will go (the creep level does vary widely here)

Small Town Cuteness

Did I mention that Owen has serious lumberjack energy?

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