Love & Other Lies
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Abby is a vet in a small town. She’s fled to this town to escape her past, put it behind her and start again. When she moved in, she confessed her secret to the local townspeople by letter and charged them with keeping her true. If she slips up, goes back to her old ways then she has to move. In keeping with her new lifestyle, Abby tends to live a solitary life.
Rupert “Rue” Thorn is just passing through. He’s been on an adventure around Australia, ticking things off his list and putting himself out there. On his first night in town he’s looking for his accommodation when he comes across Abby attempting to free a dog caught in a wire fence. It becomes a team effort and Rue is immediately intrigued by Abby. She has walls up though and he wants to know why.
Abby tells Rue that he’s too nice for her, something Rue has heard many times before. So he reinvents himself as the sort of man he thinks that Abby might want – one that isn’t so nice. There’s no denying the chemistry between them and Abby thinks Rue is fine as he really is. It’s the secret she has that hangs over them, that makes her keep her distance. Because if Rue were to find out, she’s certain that he wouldn’t want anything more to do with her. Just when she’s ready to tell him and to put herself out there, Abby discovers something that changes everything.
This is such an interesting romance novel. I haven’t read Madeline Ash before but I have read some really positive reviews by bloggers whose opinion I trust greatly so I was definitely excited to read this. It’s loosely connected to a previous novel, The Playboy’s Dark Secret in that Rue is Dean from that book’s brother. He appears in the first book and likewise Dean and Rafi appear in this book but you definitely do not need to have read their story to read this one.
Abby is an amazing character – she’s really interesting in a way that I haven’t encountered before, especially in a romance novel. She has a big flaw, something that she has been working hard to overcome for a couple of years and that is still a struggle for her. The reader does find out relatively early what Abby’s secret is as it does make up a large part of her internal monologue and her remembrances of past moments and times in her life. I really enjoyed the way that Madeline Ash handled Abby and her secret. At first you wonder why on earth someone would do this, how it could happen. And then Ash gives her a background, a childhood that fleshes her out and gives her motivation and also makes the reader sympathise with her. I felt that Abby had been quite hardly done by in her early and teen years, not deliberately but it happened nonetheless.
Despite his semi-unfortunate name (I can’t get my head around Rupert or Rue, to be honest), Rue is a pretty sweet character. He’s also been told many times in the past that he’s just too ‘nice’ and when Abby feeds him the same line (over guilt of her secret) he basically decides to try and be an Alpha hero who doesn’t listen to what the woman says and takes what he wants and drives a hot car. Some of the scenes where Rue is playing Alpha are pretty funny:
Frustration gripped the muscles in her shoulders. “That’s it. I want you to stop this not-nice thing.”
“Too bad sweetheart.”
She stared at him. “Oh,” she said. “Oh, I see. Patronising pet names. What else did you read when you Googled how to be a jerk? Besides being inexcusably late for a date.”
Rue is pretty bad at being a jerk but occasionally he does manage to pull it off. He’s tired of being told he’s nice, he thinks it equates to him being boring but he’s actually the sort of person Abby needs, even if she refuses to see it. Abby needs someone who is going to be understanding and supportive, the sort of person who is going to help her every day. She needs to have someone who is 100% behind her, that believes in her and trusts her but is also willing to stick around if she slips. Abby has constructed her life in a way that is best for her at the time, but now her needs and wants are changing. Rue has made her want something more permanent. It started off as something casual, but now both of them want the long haul, if only Abby will jump in and take the chance.
The interesting conflict really lifted this book another notch for me, made it memorable. I enjoyed it a lot, particularly the evolution of Abby as a character as she opened up about herself and began to take those first steps forward actually involving people properly in her life, not just allowing them into the periphery. I think readers of The Playboy’s Dark Secret will enjoy the glimpses of Dean and Rafi. I’d definitely be interested in reading their story now after their cameo! I recommend this one for those who want something a little different, that explores an unusual conflict with depth and sensitivity.
Book #16 of 2015
Love & Other Lies is book #5 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015