Friends-to-lovers theme (and to that extend, second chances as well) is my weakness. I simply love it. It doesn't matter that often the issue that stops the friends to be lovers is cliché (i.e. doesn't want to change the friendship status) or that it becomes repetitive and frustrating, I will still choose to read them. Because then what matters to me is how the story makes me FEEL. Like, how many times I will feel my heart tied up in knots, even when I want to knock the character's head for being unable to recognize that happiness is right before their very eyes. Yes, it all boils down to that.
Joanna Chambers' Unnatural, a spin-off from her Enlightenment series fits that criteria to the "T" ... and oh, how it makes me feel. What can I say, everytime I read about Iain's regret, about how he wants to reconciliate with James, and then the thick tension of the two men when Iain finally sees James again after two years, it just done wonders to my heart. I devoured the story like it was a precious gem. I savored each moments ... from their early childhood moments, growing up, first kiss, the big blow out at Kit Redford's place (P.S. you can also read about that from Chambers' free short story, Seasons Pass), until the reunion, and finally, FINALLY the happy ending.
Yes, it was a bit frustrating because Iain keeps going back and forth from rejecting James to coming back to him. However, reading the early scene that contributes to Iain's guilty feeling as well as the baggage of upholding his family honor helped me to surpress my frustration. I knew that the ending would be worth it -- the moment when Iain can finally let go, and embraces the promise of happiness that James can give him. And oh, it was GLORIOUS. I admit that my eyes became all watery.
The only thing that stops me from giving this 5-stars is the structure of the story, which is moving back and forth from past to present. On one hand, this structure helps build up momentum because I kept wondering how the past unraveled to understand more about what happens in the present time. On the other hand, it also made me a bit impatient since I wanted to read how Iain can fix everything.
This is MY kind of romance, MY kind of story. It is tender, sweet, frustrating, but romantic, oh, how it is so romantic. It might lack sexy times but that what draws me to it, honestly. Because it makes better emotional connection for me as a reader -- knowing that the thread of love between Iain and James is more than just physical. It is something stronger, something more binding, something more ... meaningful. Thank you so much for this story Ms. Chambers. It's definitely one of my favorite of the year.
*draws little ♥ all over my Kindle*
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.