Reese Walker hasn’t left her Chicago apartment for too many days for most people to count – but she, of course, knows exactly how many. Her job as an audiobook narrator is the perfect excuse not to have to go out and deal with people. The only person she really can’t escape is her intrusive older neighbour Judith. A long-overdue bill for the rehab clinic treating her sister pushes her to agree to a job in New York. Her childhood friend David will produce the audiobook for bestselling author Arden Abbott’s latest book. Working with David would make getting out of her comfort zone okay, especially since the pay promises to lighten her financial burden, but what is not okay at all is Arden is micromanaging everything, making Reese stop every five seconds to change the way she pronounces seemingly mundane words.
I knew I had to read this book because of something KJ wrote in her review. I also knew it would be hard. I’m not as much of a recluse as Reese is (even though the pandemic isn’t helping me feel sociable), I definitely don’t run from feelings (read my reviews if you have any doubt), but I can relate with almost everything else. Dealing with panic attacks, noise invasion, people. So much so that I’m not sure I breathed correctly for more than a couple of pages while reading this book.
Reese and her headphones is me declining invitations or just not going to the grocery store. When interacting with people sucks the energy out of you, you have to learn to give yourself time to recharge. Spoons and all that. This exchange between Arden and Reese mirrors almost word for word some I’ve had with my wife:
“You do it not to be anti-social but so you can be social for longer?”
“So it’s like stepping outside for air, only it’s more stepping inside for quiet.”
However, even though it would be easy to focus on Reese and all that feels familiar, it would be unfair to both Arden and the book. At first, Arden appears as gorgeous but cold. An ice queen. Soon enough, however, it becomes clear that Arden’s search for perfection is rooted not in her personality but in her need to prove to the world – and to her agent in the first place – that she’s reliable despite the bumps in her life recently. This book and its audio version are a second chance she can’t miss and that’s what her attention is on, until she and Reese realise they like spending time together not as colleagues but as friends then as more.
The chemistry in this book isn’t of the slam-bam-I-want-you kind. For Reese, it’s more “you’re hurting me, why do I like you?” until she gets to know Arden better and the hurt disappears. Since the story is told solely from Reese’s point of you, we don’t know what Arden feels and she keeps blowing hot and cold at first but the looks she gives Reese say it all. The first kiss scene is sweet and heartbreaking, the second kiss is full of joy and once they finally get to it, the sex is scorching hot.
While Reese is out of her comfort zone in almost every situation and every place, Arden isn’t without her own issues. I really liked the way Bexley handled the topic of sobriety and agency. How easy it is to lose control and how hard it is to get it back. I also love how Bexley shows both women so preoccupied with their own battle that they don’t immediately see the efforts demanded of the other and how they both open their eyes, so to speak, to the other’s struggles and that fragile balance between supporting and overwhelming, between understanding and acceptance. People are messy and make mistakes but when you find the right person for you, the one who doesn’t take energy from you but feeds you with energy instead, it makes it all worth it, as Reese finds out.
Despite how complex these topics are, Lucy Bexley manages to keep her novel on the light and heartwarming side, with quirky wit, a healthy touch of sarcasm and obvious tenderness towards her characters. Must Love Silence is Lucy Bexley’s first full-length book (and my first by her). It tackles sensitive issues with care and the solemnity they require but with a romcom feel at times and a good sense of humour that make this book a very enjoyable read.