Dear Enemy is intense, it’s rich, it’s pretty much as magnetic as you’d prob expect if you’re familiar with Kristen Callihan’s other work. By the end of it, my heart was happy and satisfied and also mildly exhausted from all the feeling. I felt as if I’d gone on a real emotional journey. Like I had done some hard introspection and retrospection and fallen in love along the way.
Macon Saint and Delilah Baker were adolescent combatants who are brought back together through the antics of Delilah’s kinda awful sister, Sam—who also happens to be Macon’s high school ex. Now a thriving and confident chef, Delilah hasn’t forgotten how cruel Macon was to her as preteens & teens; for his part, famous actor Macon privately recognizes how horrid he was and has his own Delilah-related scar tissue.
Against their better judgment, they forge an agreement: Delilah will be his assistant and chef until her sister Sam returns with what she took from Macon or for a year, whichever comes first.
There are so many things that I want and need in order for a bully-type romance to grab my heart and Dear Enemy has it. Macon’s done much of the work on his own but he has another breakthrough or two in the book and they’re big ones. He’s remorseful and willing to give Delilah what she asks for; he’s worked through some of the insecurities and fears that troubled him and that contributed to him lashing out as an adolescent, even if he isn’t totally unaffected by them today. That’s what really makes Dear Enemy feel different to me from some other bully romances I’ve read, like LJ Shen’s Vicious: he’s a different person now.*
I love, love, love how thoughtfully Callihan portrays the effects of what Macon and Delilah said to each other and how Delilah shows how it’s possible to be extremely confident and also occasionally dogged by doubts when you're not like how others tell you you should be. (I love how Macon is also dogged, though his triggers are different.) And how Delilah takes a flaming sword of words to the notion that “boys are meanest to the girls they like the best."
And I love how Callihan takes their past—the site of their former battles—and turns it into a source of common ground for them, something the characters recognize as the book progresses. It's kind of amazing how she does it, actually. Dear Enemy is a gorgeous book written by a woman who is familiar with the heart, who writes beautifully of the ways we can hurt and love each other, and at the end of the day, I loved it.
*Let it be known that I didn’t like how he still called her “tot,” especially since it bothered her so much in the past. He doesn’t seem to have malicious intentions and she still calls him “con man,” but he doesn’t seem as bothered by his nickname as she was, and that makes a difference.
Dear Enemy is out on March 31st. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my complimentary ARC; all opinions provided are my own.
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