4.5* – At first, all that matters is sex. The MCs hook up through a dating app and meet for casual sex. Neither uses her real name (Abby for Amy Spencer, Ellen for Ellis Hall). Neither wants a relationship.
The first time goes well so they keep meeting on Thursday afternoons. One week, they both have to cancel because of work. And end up in the same meeting, Amy as the chief of surgery at the local community hospital, Ellis as the consultant hired to suggest budget cuts. While they agree their weekly trysts need to stop, the two women also realise they’ve come to mean more to each other than just sex. The more they get to know each other, the more difficult it becomes to stay apart.
I love medical romances, even if this one is a bit light on the medical, but it makes up for it by not falling into the formulaic romance trap. It’s very angsty in a non-artificial nor forced way. The situation makes the relationship complicated, for real. The characters are not imagining obstacles, they’re not avoiding communicating with one another, they’re not creating problems just for the sake of it. Beyond the conflict of interest they could be accused of at work, both Amy and Ellis have other complex circumstances to deal with. Amy’s elderly parents refuse outside help when it’s obvious they need it more and more, and one of the surgeons working under her is making too many mistakes. As for Ellis, she’s trying to rekindle her relationship with her ex’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Mia, who has been living with her grandparents since her mother died.
That’s one of the parts I prefered in this novel, watching Mia go from sullen teenager to radiant young woman. I also enjoyed the side story of Kate, Amy’s best friend, who lost her wife two years ago.
I’d also like to point out how tricky beginning a story with a sex scene can be, especially between two strangers. It’s usually used as a way to show a character getting bored with meaningless sex and ready to open up to the love she will find with the other main character. Here, the strangers are the ones who will fall in love with each other, they are the main characters, so the author has to find a way to convey intimacy, or at least the possibility of intimacy between them, create chemistry almost without words. They don’t crave the other yet, they crave touch, any touch. That’s not intrinsically sexy and it means Richardson has to work even harder to convince readers first that the sex is hot and second that something more could happen. And boy, does she convince! That opening scene is as steamy as can be, and Abby Craden’s narration makes it even more so. And the something more seems to come naturally in the subsequent meetings.
One of the things I like best about Tracey Richardson‘s novels is how relatable her characters are, even when they’re so different from my own world. I’ve written before that Richardson is a very generous writer, who seems to always want to give her readers more. That sometimes results in books that could have ended a few (or many) pages earlier. I didn’t get that feeling too much here, either because she restrained herself or maybe it’s just that I can’t get enough of Abby Craden’s voice and always awesome narration. Whatever the reason, the length felt right. And this might well be my favourite Tracey Richardson book so far.