When this year began, I hadn’t read a Tessa Bailey book. Since April, I have attempted to remedy that situation by blazing through at least twenty, and I have loved every. minute. of . it. As her website states, Bailey writes “flirty and dirty” contemporary romances (emphasis on “flirty” and “dirty”), replete with super alpha heroes and strong women and the absolutely outrageous attraction between the two. I repeat, absolutely outrageous.
Runaway Girl, her latest book, releases today and it tells the other side of the story Bailey gives us in Getaway Girl. Here’s a synopsis for the uninitiated: in Getaway Girl, Elijah Montgomery, mayoral candidate, is left at the altar by his fiancée, Naomi Clemons. He gets a ride home from Naomi’s black sheep relative, Addison Potts, who is the owner of a dirty Christmas ornament shop. Hijinx—and romance—ensue.
I fell in love with Elijah and Addison in Getaway Girl—their love story unfolds beautifully from one page to the next in a way that leaves my heart singing. So I was curious to see how I would approach Naomi, who left, in my eyes, one of the most wonderful contemporary romance characters ever written--Elijah Montgomery--at the altar.
As much as I wanted to hold onto my entirely (un)righteous anger toward Naomi, I couldn’t do it. From the opening lines of Runaway Girl, Bailey writes Naomi as a character who wants what everyone really wants: to be understood, to be seen, and to be loved. Naomi is tired of being put on display; she’s tired of competing for attention and not being enough; she’s tired of her fiancé not knowing what wine she drinks; she’s tired of having a story already written for her and not feeling “worthy” of that story. Before she knows it, Naomi is ditching Elijah and heading for Florida in her wedding dress, determined to run into an adventure.
Unfortunately for Naomi, she realizes as a stranger is helping her pee over a gas station toilet that she has few marketable skills, and she has little money. So she applies to be a pageant coach…
Jason Bristow is a member of the Special Forces home on leave who is taking care of his sister, Birdie. He’s planning on returning to combat, but in the meantime, he’s willing to finance Birdie’s pageant aspirations. He hires Naomi to be Birdie's coach...or maybe it's more accurate to say that she hires herself.
Naomi and Jason couldn’t be more different: Naomi wants to have an adventure by pushing herself outside of her boundaries; Jason is terrified that he’ll lose someone again and wants to control everything around him to keep people safe. The attraction between these two will make you fan your cheeks, but will they act on it, knowing that it can only be temporary?
Bailey’s sensitive characterization of Naomi and Jason is a thing of wonder: we are privy to their fears and dreams, and I was rooting for them to accept the truth about themselves and what they wanted as much (okay, nearly as much) as I rooted for them to greedily grab onto their love story. There was one tiny part of the plot that I wasn’t entirely on-board with, but for nearly all of Naomi’s journey I was there, waiting for her to realize her own strength and cheering when she did.
No one writes a romance like Tessa Bailey, and Runaway Girl is another banner example. She’s mastered a combination of emotionally aching characters, sly humor, and sex scenes that leave you completely dazed, and it's romance kryptonite. I don’t know how she does it, but it’s gut-wrenching, heart-melting, and altogether inimitable.
**I received an ARC of this book from Tessa Bailey but all opinions provided are my own.
Give me that HEA, please.
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