This post includes reviews of the currently available books in the Lonely Hearts series:
- His Kind of Love (#1)
- The Colors Between Us (#2)
- Love Comes After (#3)
- Until You Say Otherwise (#4)
His Kind of Love (Book 1)
This dark romance is deceptive, in that even as I was low-key horrified at the depths to which Gabriel insinuates himself into Joel’s life, I couldn’t help but cheer for them to have a happily ever after. Make no mistake—Gabriel is obsessive and stalkerish. His connection with Joel goes back years, and he often prioritizes what he thinks is “best” for Joel without considering the real-life consequences. However, real life is always messier than imagined perfection, and Gabriel’s carefully laid threads quickly unwind once he gets to know the younger man.
Joel doesn’t make the same decisions I necessarily would under the same circumstances, but Hawthorne makes it clear to the reader that he is well-aware of the choice he makes to stay with Gabriel after the first set of reveals. It’s romantic in how both men revel in the connection between them, in that twisted way that dark romance emphasizes. It’s the second set of revelations that throw a wrench in the works, but luckily Joel has his best friend to support him as he processes and eventually makes decisions about his future going forward.
Fans of Hawthorne’s other work won’t be disappointed, even if there are subtle indications that this is an early work by the author. I look forward to continuing this series.
The Colors Between Us (Book 2)
Not going to lie: At times, this book was hard to read because I saw so much of myself in Roland. Hawthorne depicts both the lows of how depression can mess with a person’s mind and the emotional pain that can accompany loving such a person. My depression has always come with a healthy dose of anxiety, but many of Roland’s ordeals are familiar nonetheless, such as the blandness of life, how easy it is to stop medication once it causes you to feel better, and even losing my art. However, Hawthorne walks that fine line between allowing the reader to sympathize with Roland but not necessarily empathize with him. He’s not a tragic hero; he’s a person struggling with a mental illness and leaning into self-destructive habits.
But that doesn’t mean such people are undeserving of love. As the fellow parent of three Siamese cats, I was already predisposed to like Donny. I adored him, though, for how he cared for Roland, then loved him, and still stuck to his limits when Roland’s worst habits came close to destroying their burgeoning relationship. My heart broke for him in the dark moment even as I supported him in prioritizing his emotional health.
The end of the book’s timeline felt a bit compressed as Roland re-dedicates himself to becoming healthy, but it serves the narrative of the story. Ultimately, I believe that any relationship is stronger when, to an extent, a person emphasizes their own well-being over their partner’s. It might seem romantic to dedicate yourself wholly to another person, but Hawthorne inserts a dose of much-needed reality to the romance genre dynamic of a healthy person in a relationship with a person experiencing any mental illness.
Love Comes After (Book 3)
One of the elements of romance novels that appeals the most to me as a reader is the dynamic between partners in a relationship (no matter how many partners there are). Though the happily ever after is the general goal, I’m also interested in scenarios where love does not conquer all. This is especially true in the long-lasting love story between Aiden and Bennet, who are drifting further apart because of the differences in their sexual needs. The love between them is honest and raw, but it can’t solve this problem. Aiden’s inspiration of finding a third person to “fill in the gaps” seems so simple on the surface, but inviting Chris into their lives is anything but.
Sure, Chris solves many of the sexual problems. But he is still a whole person in his own right, which means accepting his baggage along with the perks of his presence. Aiden and Bennet’s offer intrigues him, but he never expected to develop feelings for the two young men after experiencing tragedy years before. The resulting drama was not what I expected, especially when the “typical” outcome of this arrangement is jealousy from one of the original partners. Instead, Aiden, Bennet, and Chris must develop a balance by creating a brand-new relationship instead of merely “two plus one.”
Though BDSM elements are involved with the physical connection between the three characters, I also love that Hawthorne doesn’t let any of these men fall into easily described tropes. As usual, Hawthorne subverts expectations by creating compelling characters who are never simple. Even though this series does have some “early” writing flaws, it’s clear that the author already has a great handle on the unique characterization that I always enjoy in her work.
Until You Say Otherwise (Book 4)
Hey, remember the guy Donny made deliveries to who made him afraid he’d be locked in the basement? It turns out being in the basement isn’t such a terrible place to be, as Sam finds out through the course of this novel.
Sam needs an address to find a job now that he’s out on his own. Richard is a distant, older (and obviously rich) man who is drawn to Sam. This honestly does sound like a setup for a horror movie (or at least a much darker romance). However, Richard oozes honor at about the same rate he oozes domination, both of which attract Sam to him. On the surface, Richard and Sam aren’t a perfect match. However, they’re a perfect match for each other, and the happily ever after is secured when both realize that they shouldn’t let go of what they’ve found in each other, despite their unconventional meet-cute.
Hawthorne balances that tricky line between Sam involving himself with Richard because he feels a genuine connection and shared attraction with the older man, rather than in exchange for secure housing. Both men are clear where their interests lay, and the communication between them is actually pretty decent, even when their needs don’t exactly line up.
I enjoyed how this book overlaps with previous stories in the series. They’re not necessary to read, but I do feel like the additional context of the whole story behind Richard’s brother heightened the impact of Richard’s character development at the end of the book.