Think of the traditional, often toxically masculine, romance hero. Now think about his polar opposite. Gentle rather than domineering, warm rather than arrogant male characters have grown increasingly popular in the genre. While cinnamon roll-sweet guys aren’t everyone’s drug of choice in Romancelandia, sometimes unconditional love and support is exactly what the doctor ordered.
★ Part of Your World
In a few short years, Abby Jimenez has become one of romance’s most acclaimed and popular authors. Her fairy tale-esque, opposites-attract fourth novel, Part of Your World, will only elevate her standing.
Alexis Montgomery is a 38-year-old emergency room doctor who comes from a long line of Midwestern medical royalty. When her car lands in a ditch at dusk in the middle of nowhere, a tattooed, hunky mystery man in a pickup truck comes to her aid. Daniel Grant rescues her and then drives away, thinking he’ll never see her again. But thanks to the extremely limited dining options of Wakan, Minnesota, Alexis and Daniel reunite and decide to give in to their attraction and spend the night together.
Alexis soon finds that there’s more to her hot rescuer than his looks. Gentle and kind, Daniel is something of a small-town renaissance man: He’s the mayor of Wakan, an artist and a bed-and-breakfast proprietor who caters patiently to his rescue dog and nurses his friend’s baby goat in his spare time. There’s also more to Alexis than meets the eye, but since Wakan is a two-hour drive from her work and home in Minneapolis, it’s easy to keep her weekend escapes and real life separate. The adorable town of Wakan and Daniel’s warm, accepting company provide a respite from Alexis’ struggles with a condescending ex-boyfriend who won’t accept that their relationship is over and a father who thinks she’s a slacker for not living up to the family name.
Jimenez is an excellent storyteller, and her special blend of humor and angst is polished to perfection in Part of Your World. Despite Alexis’ accomplishments, it’s not easy for her to push back on all the expectations placed upon her, especially since her elite family, ex-boyfriend and friends wield them like a cudgel. Those tensions and their age gap of 10 years provide plenty for Daniel and Alexis to overcome. But those stark differences also lend an almost Cinderella-like feel to Part of Your World. The hospital where Alexis works is called Royaume, and she even loses a fancy slipper (high heel) on their first night together. Daniel makes a worthy modern prince in this love story, which will enchant romance veterans and newbies alike.
A Brush With Love
In Mazey Eddings’ debut, A Brush With Love, Dan Craige and Harper Horowitz have the kind of natural spark Harper’s only heard of in the movies, even though their first meeting is an absolute disaster: Harper crashes into Dan at the dental school they both attend and smashes his class project. She offers to help him remake it, and their immediate connection only gets stronger from there.
But their romance is complicated by two distinct issues: Harper’s chronic anxiety and Dan’s ambivalence about graduate school. Full of passion and aptitude, Harper is at the top of her class and on the cusp of securing a challenging oral surgery residency. But Dan is struggling to get through his first year of dentistry school and is only attending out of familial obligation.
As their friendship and attraction grows, so does Harper’s anxiety. Maintaining laserlike focus on school is one of Harper’s primary coping mechanisms, along with strict adherence to habits and rituals. Eddings effectively communicates that for Harper, rules are a “life preserver in the choppy storm of anxiety.” A romantic relationship would undermine many of her adaptations and strategies, but holding the line against her attraction to Dan becomes increasingly difficult. For someone so in need of control, love is both exciting and dangerous, and the result is a spiral of anxious thoughts.
Despite the serious nature of Harper’s situation, Eddings’ characters and their relationship feel well balanced at virtually every stage. Both leads are lovably flawed; both have vulnerabilities and strengths. Anxiety doesn’t negate Harper’s talents or her competence either. When they’re working together early on in the novel, Dan is the one who’s adorably tongue-tied in Harper’s presence. It’s clear that he gets and respects Harper for who she is, even as he realizes the challenge that her anxiety presents, and their sweet connection is bolstered by meaningful conversations.
Harper’s mental health difficulties escalate to a more harrowing point than many may expect in the context of a romantic comedy. But even though what’s on the page feels heavier than what the illustrated cover indicates, Dan and Harper’s romance is well worth the journey.