You know how girls are told that if a boy pulls their hair, it’s because he likes them? It’s terrible parenting but that’s what I was reminded of when reading about Lillian and Ivy. They also remind me of the tantrums kids throw when there’s too much happening and they can’t contain all the excitement. Ivy and Lillian together are their very own brand of sensory overload. As overwhelming as it sounds, it’s actually beautiful and powerful. Spindrift, the first Seal Cove Romance, was one of my favourite 2020 books, I’m already convinced Night Tide will be on my 2021 list.
Ivy Holden is the new vet at the Seal Cove Veterinary Clinic, where Lillian Lee works. Ivy was Lillian’s nemesis in veterinary school, hatred pulsing between them at first sight. Seal Cove is Lillian’s safe place and Ivy’s presence disrupts the life she’s carefully constructed, a life already upset by a recent breakup. Even though Ivy seems to have somewhat mellowed in the six years since graduation, Lillian can’t bring herself to trust her. They also apparently can’t stop hurting each other any more than they can stop wanting each other, and they keep letting the pressure out in all the wrong ways.
There are so many layers to this story. On the surface is the mutual hatred. Lillian hates Ivy because she’s rich and privileged and arrogant but she also hates that she forces her to reflect on her own privileges. Lillian grew up with two mothers, one of whom isn’t white, and while she’s witnessed racism against her non-biological mother, she’s never been a direct victim herself. Nothing, however, has ever come easily to her, except for her moms’ love and support. Ivy, on the other hand, loves her privileges but won’t be reduced to them. She’s a lot more complex and interesting than the mean girl persona she tried to convince Lillian of.
Ivy’s seemingly effortless life comes with a certain amount of pressure to be perfect and what she feels is conditional love from her parents, which makes explaining why she left Colorado for Maine all the more difficult. Ivy lives with chronic pain but as terrified as she is of her feelings for Lillian, she’s even more terrified of the pity disclosing her condition would entail.
There’s so much more to Night Tide than hatred and privilege and irresistible lust and passion so strong you don’t know what to do with it but I won’t delve further into the depths of this book and its characters. You don’t want my take, you want the real thing, and to read this book as soon as it’s available to you. It’s raw and rough and pretty much perfect.
On a side note, keep your eyes peeled for a mention of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Captain Marvel t-shirt and an ice cream parlor, then a witch, wasps and the East Australian Current. Don’t let these combos distract you from the story but let’s admire the way Anna Burke inserted them into her writing.
I’m sure Night Tide could be read as a standalone but why would you want to do that when Spindrift was one of the best books of 2020? Lillian and Ivy don’t exist in a vacuum, there’s a whole network of friends and coworkers Anna Burke introduced in Spindrift, which you’ll enjoy even more in Night Tide if you’re already familiar with them. Also, I didn’t mention the animals but of course there are animals.
There’s probably a lot more of Lillian and Ivy in me than I thought because damn, I love how much Anna Burke’s books hurt. It takes a very talented writer to get away with such an unhealthy relationship and make the reader nevertheless root for the characters to make it work somehow, to get out of the spiral of hell and find their way to happiness.