Hawthorne is one of my must-buy authors because she writes compelling romances that are more than just a collection of tropes. Sure, it’s easy to describe this book as a “kinky age-gap romance,” but Hendrix and Miles are more than their ages and their relationship is about far more than kink. That being said, I never dismiss tropes because they can be a handy way to categorize how a story will fit together, and “annoyances to lovers” describes this one perfectly.

(Side note: I didn’t come up with “annoyances to lovers,” but I did read an early copy of this novel and contributed the “coffee as a love language” descriptor. It was literally one of the notes I wrote to myself as I read!)

For the first part of the story, kink itself is entirely secondary as these neighbors clash. Though the sparks between them do hint toward their future potential dynamic, the pull that exists is more emotional (despite their best efforts). Hawthorne perfectly blends the steamy moments with more vanilla encounters to create a sense of absolute delight over these guys walking straight into an idiots-in-love scenario. As usual, their well-crafted personalities mean each hero is more than a collection of character attributes. In particular, Miles would be really easy to hate if Hawthorne didn’t so deftly handle certain elements of his personality. This also allows Hawthorne to lean deeper into the age-gap aspect of their developing relationship, crafting conflict around the acknowledgment that levels of life experience can lead to differing perspectives of the same issue, a refreshing change from the typical “I’m too old/too young for you” narrative.

The trajectory of this book follows more of a wave pattern than a single arc as it follows the ups and downs of a real relationship settling into a solid happily ever after instead of a single dark moment the characters face together. However, this doesn’t mean things get overly angsty, even when they are difficult. Things are never easy or simple in real life, and while that’s one reason to read fiction, it can also be just as fun to identify with characters instead of diving into pure escapism. This book is another Hawthorne classic that balances everything I love about the tropes she explores without sacrificing the authenticity of character and story.

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars
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