I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Edelweiss+ but all opinions provided are my own.
*Wheezes Good Lord* but does Tessa Bailey know how to write a romance that will all but slap you in the face with pheromones. I should be used to this effect considering how many books of hers I’ve read, but she still never fails to surprise, and I love it.
Love Her or Lose Her releases January 2020, and in addition to the all of the other Bailey signatures I figured I’d see—sexual magnetism, uber devotion between leads, drama and heart—I also knew that I’d encounter a trope that I don’t see too often, particularly in my contemporary romance reading: a husband and wife whose marriage is struggling.
In LHoLH, high school sweethearts Dominic (*mouth fills with saliva) and Rosie have been married for close to a decade. For a few years Dominic was in the military, and then he returned seemingly a different person. The last five years, Dominic and Rosie have increasingly lived in their home like strangers, only reconnecting one night a week when the pulsating attraction between them explodes like water gushing from a severely tested dam. (Lots of questionable metaphors in this review, huh?)
One night Rosie’s finally had enough, and she ultimately gives Dominic an ultimatum: go to therapy—the most unconventional kind she can find, because spite—or their marriage is over.
I’m going to be totally honest here: I’m more than a little in love with Dominic. It’s easy to see how and why Rosie’s saddened and frustrated by the state of things between them, but Bailey also writes Dominic sympathetically and hotly (?), and there’s so much good about him that you kind of want to hug him (kiss him?) even as you want to shake him into actually talking to Rosie. If you’re a fan of Bailey’s heroes, Dominic is likely everything you love condensed into one.
And Rosie sparkles as she makes a new life for herself, one in which she isn’t willing to settle for anything, and she’s determined to chase the dreams that she’s let slide over the last decade.
The state of their marriage is painful and raw at times, but it’s also obvious that they still love each other, and I thank Bailey for being fairly gentle with my heart. She skillfully portrays the dynamic between them, and thanks to the idea of love languages, I could understand how things got skewed despite their obvious feeling & attraction for each other. I did feel like 5 years of marital difficulty/strain seemed like an excessively long time plot-wise—and I also wanted some more overt discussion between Dominic and Rosie about what his military life was like—but both of those things are pretty easy for me to get past, all things considered.
Because this couple belongs together, and you can see that even through the pathos of the opening scenes.
A big part of the reason—at least in the beginning of the book—is sex, and spoiler alert, it’s as athletic and consuming as ever in a Bailey book. The sexual pacing and tension between the characters is *chef’s kiss, and in addition to being titillating, it also keeps the story from veering into too dark territory. Honorable mentions in the Thank You for Not Ripping my Heart Out category go to the hilarious therapist Rosie hires, the banter between Travis and Stephen, and the sense of community and fierce support of the Just Us League.
For me, LHorLH is second chance romance done right: some angst and pain but constant indirect assurance that the couple belongs together—and will find their way back to each other—so don’t you worry too much.
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