At Your Most Beautiful – Harper Bliss

I have a complicated history with Harper Bliss’s books. My first one was Seasons of Love. I thought the writing – first person, present tense – was interesting but the story made me very uncomfortable, I don’t remember why. I read a few more books, enjoyed some more than others, then translated The Road to You for a French publisher and that was it for me, until now. I didn’t care for the characters. It’s not just that I didn’t care what happened to them, I actively disliked them. I found them both terribly unpleasant, which wouldn’t have mattered much if I had simply been reading the book but since I was working on it, I spent several months with them. After that, I decided Bliss wasn’t an author for me. But after years of seeing my friends praise to the skies each new Bliss book, when my friend Rach, at Les Rêveur, asked if I wanted to review this one, I felt the time had come to try again (you can read our joint review here).

So, what is this book about? Her son is away for the summer and Maya is trying not to feel sad and lonely. When her neighbours’ daughter shows up, Maya is happy for the company. Quinn is young and fun and bold, and Maya really doesn’t mind the attention. A weekend of seemingly innocent flirting leads to an incredibly hot and unexpectedly memorable night. At the time, that’s all Maya is ready for. When they meet again ten years later, the attraction is still as strong and Quinn still as irresistible. But is Maya finally ready?

If there’s one thing Bliss writes exceedingly well, it’s sex. Lust. Chemistry. Maybe the other way round and, okay, that’s three things but you get the gist.

Unlike the characters from those books I read years ago, I really liked Maya and Quinn. I liked them so much that I’m willing to forget Quinn’s ridiculous tattoos that made me think of slogan t-shirts or pseudo-philosophical social media memes (Rach disagrees with me on this). Quinn is self-assured, cocky (which Maya loves), and unapologetic about her attraction to older women, despite her family’s misgivings. She’s a lot more aware of her vulnerability at thirty-four than she was at twenty-four. She’s been hurt more and when she meets Maya again, she’s just out of a very unbalanced relationship and feels heartbroken. While she may appear to get over her broken heart very quickly, I think she mistook a bruised ego for a broken heart or – and I find this theory more romantic – Maya is the one and every other woman, including the ones she thought she loved, was a way for Quinn to pass time until Maya came back into her life. Maya is more complex, more scared too and one of the best things in the book was watching her get over her fears.

I don’t know how Bliss did it, I found the connection between Maya and Quinn completely believable, from the start, even though we don’t get to see them do much more together than dance and have sex. Somehow, the author manages to make it feel like more than lust even as she insists on all the physical details and reactions, to convey an emotional link through what is not said rather than what is described. That said, even though I enjoyed reading this book a lot, once I tried to write about it, I struggled to remember more than “the sex was good” and “I liked the characters”. It does the job but it didn’t touch me deeply. I will, however, start reading Harper Bliss’s books again.

4-stars

At Your Most Beautiful @ Harper Bliss’s website

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