Wednesday, August 26, 2020

One and Only by Jenny Holiday

This is it. This is how you right a bad boy romance without making it toxic. ONE AND ONLY filled my dark and frowny heart with pure joy. I normally run in the other direction when someone says "fluff," but someone in my romance group recommended this one and the summary sounded really good and I loved the cover, so here we are. Me, sitting in my chair. About to eat my words.

Jane is basically the mom in her friends group. Elise is the high strung one. Wendy is the chill one. Gia is the gorgeous one. And Jane is the one who plays everything safe and plans out everything. That's why she's the one who's jumping through all the hoops for Elise's upcoming wedding, even though she's become a bit of a power-mad bridezilla who seems like she's working on building her own personal reign of terror, one frosted mason jar at a time.

Elise has found Mr. Right in her fiance, Jay, but he has a black sheep of a brother named Cameron who seems like the very epitome of Mr. Wrong. If the rumors about him are true, he got his high school sweetheart pregnant and then didn't take responsibility, burned down a barn, and got dishonorably discharged from the military. Elise is terrified that he's going to ruin everything, which is why she has assigned Jane to "babysit" him. Poor Jane.

At first Jane finds Cameron super frustrating-- because he's a player and seems like a flake. But the more she gets to know him, the more amusing and even likable she finds him. Especially when she ends up in a bet with him: he has to stay celibate if she does some of his post-military bucket list items with him, like going to Niagra Falls or bungee-jumping off the highest point in Toronto. The more they do together, the more they genuinely like each other, but Cameron and Jane have some real hang-ups in their pasts that might pose a serious impediment to any semblance of a relationship.

I loved this book so much. It's so rare to see a book that takes two likable people and makes them fall in love, and makes them fall in love in an interesting way. Of course it helps that Cameron is basically a grown-up version of Patrick Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You and Jane is a YA author who likes to cos-play as Xena and go to Comicons. Jane and Cameron were fun to watch, and the sex scenes in this book were surprisingly steamy and risque! I was actually shocked LOL (in a good way). The perfect blend of light-hearted humor with serious emotional issues gave this such a cinematic vibe, I could totally picture this as a movie-- replete with the last act of redemption, which managed to be sweet and over-the-top, but not so over-the-top where I was like whaaaaat.

But perhaps the sweetest moment in this story is like the first time they're ever intimate and he just gets on his knees and puts his face in her hand. That nearly undid me. I was like unnffff. Marry him now.

The PTSD element in this book was SO well done also. Way too often, you see books that seriously underplay the effects of mental illness, or else forget about it entirely as soon as the two characters fall in love. I felt like it was handled seriously and respectfully here and even though Jane helped him, she was a comfort and not a "cure." I was so happy to see that in a romance novel, because I think normalizing mental illness in romance is so important!

If you like cute romances that take mental health seriously, have fantastic nerd rep, show how both fun and annoying weddings can be, and show a likable character falling in love (hot scenes included), I think you'll really love this book. It's one of the best romantic contemporaries I've read in a while.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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