This is the book that I was most excited to get at RT. When people saw that it was out in the wild, the most inhuman noises were made, and it was worth all of those noises.
ALL OF THEM.
So much angst. So much pathos. EVERYTHING HAPPENS SO MUCH.
Nicholas and Livvy are the scions of a grocery store partnership dynasty, started by their grandfathers after World War II. Ten years before the book began, Nicholas’ mother and Livvy’s father died in car accident, and Nicholas’ father bought Livvy’s mother’s share of the company for pennies on the dollar, leading to a schism the likes of which the grocery world had never seen. Livvy and Nicholas were a very happy couple until that point. Then Nicholas dumped her, Livvy left town, and in the intervening ten years, Livvy would text Nick to come to her on her birthday, where they would bang in the ancient and honorable tradition of “only one night, no one needs to know.”
Everyone has this idea that there is no way this plan could go wrong for them, but then it always does.
But her last birthday, Livvy didn’t summon Nick, and Nick was like, “Welp, I’m gonna wash the girl right out of my hair” but then her mother has a medical crisis. Livvy comes back to town and finally, it’s time to deal with all the festering crap. Will Nick and Livvy figure their shit out? Or even make a decision that they even could figure their shit out?
What I loved about this story is that here were two families who let themselves be defined by one event…but they were different events. For Nick’s family, and specifically his father, it was the car accident. For Livvy’s family, it was the fact that Nick’s father cheated her mother out of their share of the company. Everything all of these people have done in the intervening ten years all lead back to those two moments in time.
Rai has described this as, “Romeo and Juliet without all the sexism crap and with an HEA” and….kind of? I mean, feuding families, yes, but it’s missing a bunch of the other elements that make up R&J. Children of feuding families falling in love is not exactly a trope that Shakespeare made up, and I know I’m being a bit snobby right here.
I very much liked how Rai worked in the history of the Japanese Internment Camps during WWII. Livvy’s grandfather was a child of Japanese immigrants, and when they were sentenced to a camp, they gave most of their belongings and assets to Nick’s family. Luckily, Nick’s family held them in trust for Livvy’s family and didn’t steal them (that was a thing that happened), and the two families were inseparable…until they were separated by a series of TERRIBLE CHOICES.
There’s a lovely through line about tattoos and the art people put on their bodies and the reasons for the art they choose. We’ve had a post or two about the book-related tattoos some of our delightful Bitchery have, and I know how deeply personal tattoos are for people, and that’s no less true here.
Often in books (not romance, I mean books in general) side characters can feel under-developed. They just sort of exist to nudge the plot along while the main characters get all the character development. One of things Rai has taken the time to do is make sure she knows what the motivations are for all of the supporting characters. They all have their own inner lives. We don’t spend a lot of time dealing with the needs and wants of Livvy’s sister-in-law (as an example), but I believe that Rai knows what they are, and that made her breathe on the page. Nick’s sister, Livvy’s mother, Nick’s father… all of these people are full characters in their own right.
In certain moods, I love me some angst, and this had SO MUCH ANGST. SO MUCH. Nick and Livvy were SO DAMAGED by the actions of their parents. Because families that have a fuck ton of money have the ability to use that money to bully younger generations, they both felt like they could not simply walk away from the mess together. (Please note: Livvy’s family no longer has their fuck ton of money, and Livvy is the one who walks away.) It’s so complicated, and so messy. I highly suggest reading this with a big glass of wine or a pint of ice cream (or both, don’t let me limit your experience).
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