A man and woman battle feelings of worthlessness as they tentatively learn to love and trust again in Collins’ debut romance novel.
Mike Michaels and Emma Randelli have each fought their own deeply personal battles. Despite abuse-ridden childhoods and terrifying adult experiences, they’ve both been surprisingly successful, yet they’re barely functional emotionally and unwilling to be vulnerable to others. When they meet by chance and romantic sparks fly, both begin to wonder if they’re meant to experience something more. This deft novel alternates narrators between chapters and moves seamlessly between the past and present. The dual narrative structure allows both characters’ stories to develop smoothly and independently, and they ultimately guide the pair to a life-changing moment. The result is a fast-paced, intricate narrative that builds anticipation. However, the novel doesn’t solely rely on its clever construction: Its deeply emotional story explores such difficult topics as sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder without ever feeling melodramatic or heavy-handed. Collins crafts a compelling cast of characters, led by the withdrawn and brilliant Mike and the recalcitrant Emma. Mike, an orphan who fought to survive childhood, is an equal mix of Adonis and Einstein. He’s a doctor and a former Marine who teaches himself ancient Greek in his spare time, and readers may find him a little too good to be true. His warmth and sensitivity save him from becoming a caricature, however, and his redemptive journey provides the novel’s backbone. Collins also shines a light on the far-reaching emotional effects of abuse, and Emma’s battle with self-punishment is heartbreaking and realistic. The book also includes other, equally colorful personalities, including the rough yet gentle Tigrito, whose tender care of a young Mike is one of the novel’s shining moments.
A beautifully crafted, redemptive love story.