I devoured books 2 and 3 in this series in a single day (plus a few hours because it was VERY late when I finally went to bed). On the one hand, tangling apart my thoughts of each book might be difficult. But this book ends in a stunning revelation, a different sort of pain than the ending to A Lesson in Thorns. That pain was closure, and this pain is a fresh hurt, so it’s easy to separate them into Before and After.

Before, the echoes from the prologue of book 1 continue to play out. Poe, Auden, and Saint clash against each other in the best and worst ways possible. I adore each one of these characters for different reasons, and Simone plays them against each other beautifully. Often, the angst in romance novels makes me want to smack characters upside the head. Here, I can only quote author Cara McKinnon in discussion with her about these books: “[Simone] has no qualms about ripping into her characters’ gaping vulnerabilities.” I cried and cheered for each of them in equal measure.

Though set in contemporary time, once again Simone uses language that makes these books timeless. These are not pedestrian stories of forgiving past hurts and negotiating the intricacies of polyamory. Simone elevates these characters and their relationships to the scale of nations clashing and natural disasters flaring.

And then there’s After, which is why I immediately tore into the next book. Because what an ending.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

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