4.5⭐️ – Haley Cass hasn’t released a lot of books yet but I’m always looking forward to the next one, and it’s been like this from the beginning, right after Those Who Wait. Her writing is refreshing and dynamic, and, combined with the stories she chooses to tell, it gives me all the feels. And I know that whatever happens, I will root for the characters.
Brooke Watson is very good at her job but when it comes to talking about it in front of hundreds of people, not so much. Especially when she’s asked at the last minute to fill in for someone else at the conference. Then has to give her own presentation too. Could the day get any worse? When Taylor Vandenberg materialises in front of her, Brooke’s body reacts the way it has in these circumstances since she was twelve: with unwanted yet undeniable attraction. Taylor left Faircombe, Tennessee, as soon as she could to go discover the world and at forty-four is still as enthusiastic about her travels as ever. Meeting her brother’s best friend far from home is unexpected but welcome. Making Brooke smile, even as she can’t help teasing her, has always been an especially gratifying challenge. They’re grownups now though, and maybe the teasing and smiling hold more weight? Especially when, for the first time since she left twenty-five years ago, Taylor finds herself in Faircombe for more than a couple of days.
I wasn’t sure about Taylor at first. She sounded fun but a tad too pushy for my taste. She grew on me very quickly though, as I realised the word that kept coming to mind in relation to her was tenderness. There’s a lot of tenderness in the way Taylor looks at Brooke and thinks of her. I also believe one of the reasons Brooke gets so upset at how Taylor teases her and makes fun of her grumpiness and seriousness is probably because these traits of her own personality irritate her, and she can’t get herself to trust that Taylor actually finds them endearing.
As far as she can remember, or at least since she was twelve, Taylor’s mere presence nearby has always affected Brooke. And as much as she wants to dislike Taylor and what she represents – freedom? –, Brooke can’t help but want her. The feeling is mutual, even though Taylor is a lot more honest with herself about it. Brooke denying herself, fighting the attraction, makes the moments she surrenders even sexier. Cass plays off the contrast between tactile Taylor and Brooke’s aloofness splendidly.
Haley Cass writes extremely romantic stories, and In the Long Run is no exception. Brooke isn’t seen as romantic by most people, but Taylor knows better. Romantic gestures aren’t necessarily grand gestures, it’s also in the little things, the attention. I used the word tenderness above, Cass casts a very affectionate eye on her characters (main and secondary), and it makes them all the more lovable.
The best scenes, for me, are when both Taylor and Brooke are on the page at the same time, and thankfully, we get a lot of that. Not that the rest of the book isn’t interesting, it sets the scene and shows the characters’ layers. But their interactions are delightful. I love that they’ve known each other their whole life and know one another so well but still discover things about the other.
As I’ve come to expect from Haley Cass’s books, I loved the MCs but there are a few secondary characters that absolutely deserve to be mentioned as well. Taylor’s siblings Ben and Savannah, Taylor’s niece Jo, Brooke’s assistant Marisa, the town gossips, the cats… They’re all part of Taylor and Brooke’s journey.
My only real issue with this book is that it’s too long. Haley Cass doesn’t write short books and while it’s not a weakness per se – I’m not asking for less story –, some parts could have been a little tighter, less wordy.
I also want to mention one scene that really resonated with me as a reviewer, and I’ll try not to spoil it too much. Taylor documents her travels on her website, and her readers follow her recommendations. At one point she explains to Brooke that the reason they do is that they trust her. And she can’t let her heart, her history, her desire to please someone she cares about interfere. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, because let’s be honest, when you’ve been reviewing for a while, you interact with authors, and along the way, you find that you like some as people, beyond their books, sometimes more than their books. Some even become friends, because we’re all human, and we have books and more specifically sapphic fiction in common. And once in a while, you find yourself having to review a book by one of them. And you can’t let whatever you think of them, positive or negative, influence that review. Because there are people who trust you to be fair and honest and to let your personal feelings aside. You owe them that fairness and that honesty. You owe it to the authors (I find that I’m often harsher with my friends’ books, actually, which isn’t fair to them either) but first and foremost to the readers. So yes, Taylor’s words echoed very precisely with my own experience. And I hope that, like her, I succeed in giving every book I read a fair chance, no matter who wrote it.
Back to this particular book. With In the Long Run, Haley Cass gives us, once again, lovely characters, and a heartwarming story of coming home when you least expect it.