Just based on the blurb, I know this book would be for me. Yes, yes. I am one of those readers that like the sort unrequited love, slow-burning, hero is emotionally unavailable trope.
And I am not even so sorry because this book ticks every single one of those things for me.
Young love is strong. First love is powerful. But what you don’t know when you’re young—what you can’t know—is how long life actually is. And the only dependable thing about it, besides death and taxes, is change.
Stanton Shaw is an ambitious, up-and-coming DC lawyer who has been in love (or so he thinks) with his high school sweetheart forever. They have a daughter together but they don’t live together and they didn’t even get married. What they had was a convenient arrangement and shared parenting responsibilities.
Sofia Santos is also an ambitious, up-and-coming DC lawyer who works with Stanton and has a FWB (friends with benefits) arrangement with him. Their chemistry is explosive. Plus, they like each other as friends and respect each other as colleagues. There were no spoken rules to their arrangement. Both of them know exactly what those benefits are and they make no apologies for it.
Then Stanton finds out that his high school sweetheart is getting married and worst of all, she’s not getting married to him but to another guy. So Stanton sets out to “storm the castle” and win back his lady with the help of none other than Sofia. It’s kinda hard to explain it but their mutual respect and friendship made Sofia the most viable choice as wingman for Stanton but it also brought a lot of complication.
Stanton is the quintessential Chase hero. Good-looking, confident, arrogant and honest to a fault. And oh, stubborn. Really stubborn. I’ve always loved the way this author writes his heroes because they don’t always behave themselves. And some of the things they say are just—face-palm worthy it always comes from an honest place.
Stanton, I liked very much but it was Sofia whom I loved. I was glad Emma Chase gave us her POV because it allowed readers to get inside her head, making us privy to her thoughts and motivations. But yes, I love her take-no-prisoner attitude, her vulnerability and loyalty not just to Stanton but to her friends as well.
He turns to me with open arms—expecting a hug of course.
Because I have a vagina.
And like so many, he functions under the belief that penesis shake hands, vaginas hug.
Kudos to Emma Chase for writing a career driven woman without making her into a caricature. She owned her ambitions and her sexuality. If this had been any other book, Sofia could easily well be the other woman whose sole purpose was to make the life of the heroine a living hell. I’ve met a lot of Sofia’s in my years of reading romance; they’re the girls/women that the hero distracts himself with, while waiting for his twu luv. And I just love how Emma Chase succeeded in subverting that trope. Sofia could have easily been the villainous OW in this story but she’s not.
Not to say that Jenny (Stanton’s HS sweetheart) was because she definitely was not the villain either. She had layers to her and I understood why she made those choices. All of them have some irritating qualities, but it’s those qualities that made them all the more endearing to me. I wanted to hate Jenny. Not gonna lie. It would have been too easy to paint her as a shrew who lets go of Stanton because it was convenient but I can’t. Again, Emma Chase steered clear of those conventions and found a way to make them, if not likable, relatable.
I truly understand why this book might not be for all romance readers out there. There are parts that weren’t easy to read, parts that truly broke my heart. Parts that almost drove me to hit Stanton upside in the head. It definitely won’t be comfortable because most of us operate on an ideal that our hero is supposed to fall at the heroine’s feet in worship the moment he meets her and he’ll immediately be sure of his feelings. First loves trumps all but this book subverts that very idea. And I loved it. It’s a less than ideal and complicated love story but no less romantic, IMO. So I’m going to put myself out there and recommend this one.
My only minor hiccup was that I really, really want more of Sofia and Stanton all loved up. That ending felt rushed to me even with the long-ass epilogue. I simply wanted more, not because I wasn’t convince of their HEA but simply because I want to read about Stanton getting googly eyed at Sofia. Maybe some bonus scenes for them, Ms. Chase?
A Washington, DC, defense attorney, Stanton Shaw keeps his head cool, his questions sharp, and his arguments irrefutable. They don’t call him the Jury Charmer for nothing—with his southern drawl, disarming smile, and captivating green eyes, he’s a hard man to say no to. Men want to be him, and women want to be thoroughly cross examined by him.
Stanton’s a man with a plan. And for a while, life was going according to that plan.
Until the day he receives an invitation to the wedding of his high school sweetheart, the mother of his beloved ten-year-old daughter. Jenny is getting married—to someone who isn’t him.
That’s definitely not part of the plan.
Sofia Santos is a city-raised, no-nonsense litigator who plans to become the most revered criminal defense attorney in the country. She doesn’t have time for relationships or distractions.
But when Stanton, her “friend with mind-blowing benefits,” begs her for help, she finds herself out of her element, out of her depth, and obviously out of her mind. Because she agrees to go with him to The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Mississippi, to do all she can to help Stanton win back the woman he loves. Her head tells her she’s crazy…and her heart says something else entirely.
What happens when you mix a one-stop-light town, two professional arguers, a homecoming queen, four big brothers, some Jimmy Dean sausage, and a gun-toting Nana?
The Bourbon flows, passions rise, and even the best-laid plans get overruled by the desires of the heart.
Emma is an avid reader. Before her children were born she was known to consume whole books in a single day. Writing has also always been a passion and with the 2013 release of her debut romantic comedy, Tangled, the ability to now call herself an author is nothing less than a dream come true.
ARC is provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest book.