Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Chloe Liese - Always only You

The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is.
I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.
I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about.
Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.

Comment: This is the second installment in the Bergman family series by author Chloe Liese. I liked the previous book and while talking about it with a friend, we decided to buddy read the rest of the series.

In this second book we have the story of Ren and Frankie. Ren is another Bergman sibling and the only hockey player in a family that loves sports. Since hockey isn't their favorite sport, Ren is used to the fact they don't pay too much attention to him but he doesn't mind for they don't annoy him over the fact he is attracted to one of his team's employees, namely Frankie who is in charge of the team's media. He knows Frankie is special but after years looking at her, he can't avoid the fact he would love to be with ehr, but only when one of them is no longer with the team.
Frankie thinks of all the players as guys she wants to help take care of but Ren is the epitome of the perfect guy, and she doesn't mind drooling over him either. As her time with the team probably gets close to an end - she applied for law school - her relationship with Ren seems to have gone an unavoidable path and they can't hide they really like to spend time with the each other. But Frankie has some health issues, can she think ahead and imagine a happy life with Ren?

This is a story about two people who secretly like each other, are very strongly attracted to one another but are waiting to not only see what happens because they are a little unsure if the other person feels the same while knowing their professional relationship could mean their romance would not be well received. It was also interesting to have a heroine with autism and a sports player hero who liked reading and Shakespeare.

I think the author imagined a very interesting couple here.The somewhat unrequited love the hero has, all his pining over the heroine, the fact she likes him too but is blind to how obvious his attraction for her is as well... this all makes for a fun comedy of errors at first...a little bit like any Shakespeare's comedy, which is quirky enough to think about since the hero is a fan of the Shakespeare's plays. The beginning of the novel is very cute and it was fun to watch them interact with each other while unaware the other was having similar attraction thoughts.

As the plot develops, though, I confess I was a little bummed out by how slow some things were. Not because of the pace itself - I do like how the author takes time to set the romance - but because it seemed we had quite a good amount of things being repeated or in the way for them to go from one point to another in their relationship just to create opposition and delay their talk about what is going on between them. The author clearly wanted to convey decency, respect, time, acceptance, justice and all kinds of positive feelings/responses between them, but while I do applaud this, it also took a little bit of spontaneity to how their feelings evolved. I understand communication and knowing the limits/"rules" of the other person is desired in romance, but it has a slight automated aspect which didn't read as fun to me.

I imagine part of why I felt this way is due to the fact the author herself is autistic and she wanted to portray how someone with autism can have the same emotions and most assuredly deserves respect in a relationship but it felt at times there was a little bit of "lesson by example" which made me think about it too much instead of just enjoying the story...I don't know if I'm explaining myself well...

That aside, I liked Frankie and Ren a lot, in how much of a team they already behaved even before they admitted they liked one another. Ren is a shy, more on the introverted side guy but he still did things he knew would help/benefit someone he cared about. I think he was a good hero, not an alpha by any means, a bit nerdy but that was actually adorable..I'd say his biggest flaw for me is that it wasn't always easy to imagine him as a real person, so perfect he was. Even what is said to be his less than good aspects weren't bad or could be perceived as bad.. he was just too much of a good guy.

Frankie is the most developed character of the two, I'd say. I liked how the author took this opportunity to also allow readers to have an idea of how different people with autism can be. Autistic people don't all react the same way, think the same way or see things the same way. Like anyone else, each autistic individual works and reacts a certain way and Frankie's way is one of many. Not being one myself, I think the way she was presented worked out well, and her fears over what a relationship with her could mean made sense, thinking about her issues, like the arthritis and the things she knew she would always struggle with. Thankfully, she found an almost perfect guy, who gave her space and understanding!

All in all, this was a cute story, there are many scenes I liked, especially the ones where the protagonists interacted with secondary characters, I think that's the best way to notice character development, and the romance had its great moments as well. Thinking of it as a whole, though, I'd say I liked the first book better but it was very good to keep seeing this family, that's for certain.
Grade: 7/10

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