“Ten years is way too long to still be hung up on a woman who tore your heart out.” Michelle “Mitch” Mitchell – what were her parents thinking? – and Lilly Tan met in their first year of high school. When Mitch’s parents threw her out for being a lesbian, Lilly’s aunt May took her in. A few years later, Lilly left northern California and moved to Georgia. A decade later, her aunt’s health brings Lilly back home to help take care of the family’s bar. When Mitch and Lilly reconnect, it becomes obvious really quickly to both of them that their feelings for each other never changed. Now all they have to do is forgive one another… and themselves.
Mitch is this strong bite-the-bullet kind of girl, or at least was as a young adult. Homophobic parents and schoolmates who make fun of butch teenage girls will do that to you. Ten years later, she’s a respected firefighter, content with her life, her dog, her best friend Fish. She’s not a girl anymore and faced with the opportunity to get the love of her life back, she’s not letting lack of communication and fear get in the way of what is obviously meant to be. Lilly, who grew up as the only non-white kid around (her father was Korean), felt the need, after a while, to broaden her horizons. When her aunt May calls for her, she has to decide whether she wants to leave the life she’s lived for years, her new business, her new girlfriend, and make the journey – both physically and metaphorically – back to where she came from, with all the memories she left behind.
The reason the relationship didn’t work the first time is so stupid and annoying and I would have hated it had the characters been older. But there are mistakes you make when you have almost zero life experience that you hopefully won’t repeat ten years later. The author made it fit both characters’ personalities and their reactions to it were also consistent with who they are. In the years they lost with each other, they grew, they learned, and they bring their new selves, as well as their old ones, to this new version of their relationship.
There’s also a second storyline in the background, a small twist that explains a lot about some of the secondary characters and their actions, as well as fascinating and at times breathtaking glimpses into the work of firefighters.
In the Black is a slow burn second chance romance. Just as in his Heart of Gold books – which, as historical novels, are very different from this contemporary romance – L. Dreamer creates lovable characters. They all feel very approachable, like people one could meet tomorrow and become friends with.
I love second chance romances and one of the reasons I love them is that the chemistry between the characters is acknowledged from the start. They loved each other once already, chemistry is a given. L. Dreamer paints it through glimpses of memories, hearts flutters at inconvenient times, adorable unintentional double entendres and all sorts of awkward and cute moments. The result is a very slow burn and loads of sparks all along.
The ending is a bit rushed and the explanation for that is that, despite the words “The end” on the last page, there’s actually an epilogue. You will need to subscribe to the author’s newsletter to get it. While I dislike this marketing strategy (which the author said she wouldn’t use anymore), I strongly encourage readers to get hold of this epilogue, which rounds up the story nicely.
Whether he writes historical novels or contemporary romance, L. Dreamer knows how to craft characters you’ll want to root for.