Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

Dare to Love by A.L. Brooks


Late life discovery of more dimensions than expected of one's sexuality is a real thing. The author Elizabeth Gilbert is a poster child for this phenomenon. It's always nice to read stories about the continuing journey of self-discovery that a person has throughout their lifetime. So the premise of this one totally works for us.

Carmen Lyttleton has worked hard to establish her business. She's now a very successful talent agent handling a variety of clients. But along with getting well-established, Carmen has lost any work-life balance she could've had. Though she has taken on an assistant, Monica, Carmen is unable to truly delegate. However, she keeps struggling to get it right and be with her best friend, Felicity.

Felicity has just had a second divorce and has decided to get a tattoo in its wake. Carmen accompanies Felicity to the tattoo shop owned by Ash Taylor, once and investment banker, now a happy tattooist and a doting aunt to Sophie. Serendipitously, soon after Felicity gets her tattoo, Carmen runs into Ash at a coffeehouse and they share a coffee, pastry and conversation. A surprisingly calming experience for Carmen. Another unplanned running-into-each other finds Carmen feeling distantly and very vaguely jealous of Ash's date.

At the end of a stressful day, Carmen inexplicably finds herself reaching out to Ash for her calming effect and thus their planned meetings start. Carmen has always identified as straight but cannot shake Ash out of her thoughts. She identifies and admits her attraction to the other woman to herself and struggles to figure out what to do next. 

Ash has been burnt by a straight woman in the past and she is very wary and very leery about getting even the slightest bit emotionally involved with another straight woman. 

Carmen and Ash. There is so much to like in each of them but...

Carmen first. She is hardworking and honest. We love that she has the guts to acknowledge her feelings without worrying about the impossibility of such a thing at the age of 43. She is a good friend to Felicity and has even developed a close friendship with a client. She is gutsy about following her heart, taking emotional risks and putting herself out there, making herself vulnerable despite being scared. On that front she is perfect. 

But somehow when it comes to work and especially to her assistant, Monica, she fails. She doesn't give Monica a chance or autonomy at handling even one smaller client by herself. When Monica suggests restructuring, Carman disses her (though to her credit she immediately apologises). She never gives Monica credit for the restructuring idea. She is easily frightened by an angry client. And honestly, even the way she finally restructures her business, it is so not the vision of a leader or of true growth. Would've made more sense to keep all clients and expand her team and delegate effectively. This aspect of Carmen's is not critical to the romance but definitely impacts the feeling she evokes as a person. 

Ash next. Ash's most endearing facet is her relationship with her just-shy-of-fifteen year old niece, Sophie. Sophie is exploring herself and thinks that she may like girls and Ash is her confidante and rock. (We must mention here that we felt Sophie's mom, Courtney it rather realistically imagined and written. Despite her many failings, she is on the whole rather nice.)

Ash has had two relationships in the past. One with the aforementioned straight girl, Vikki, and the second with a gold digger. She carries the Vikki experience and overlays it on Carmen. She just doesn't give Carmen a real chance so for most of the book Carmen is actually on her own in the relationship and that doesn't feel good.

What makes Ash's behaviour with Carmen even more unforgivable is that Ash never did have a real relationship with Vikki. They were close, enjoyed each other's company, were drawn to each other -- but all that really happened between them was one kiss. One kiss. So Vikki was actually Ash's broomstick. (The  broomstick effect is a phenomenon where a person A has a relationship with person B only in their head. Person B could be a broomstick for all that person A really sees them. This broomstick relationship can be very intense and emotionally devastating for person A -- but it was never a real relationship). So Carmen has to deal with Ash's jealousy and utter lack of belief and trust arising out of an experience Ash had in the past that wasn't even a relationship. 

(On a side note, Ash doesn't seem capable of much or deep, lasting love because when she hears about Vikki's divorce and Vikki searching Ash, it has no impact on her. Considering she's still carrying Vikki around all the time, this is very strange reaction that doesn't keep in character of how it actually works in such cases with people like Ash. Plus there is the scene where Carmen is somewhat bogged down by things going on in her life and keeps apologising to Ash for not being good company. Instead of love, what Ash offers Carmen is patient politeness followed by inexcusable jealousy and complete blindness to who Carmen is. So, conclusion: Ash is not really capable of love.)

Given who Ash is with Carmen once they decide to actually move their relationship from friends to romance zone, we feel that the going will be very rocky for them because Ash will make the demise of their relationship a self-fulfilling prophecy with her behaviour. For Carmen's sake we hope Ash grows up. Carmen surely deserves fearless, free flowing, complete love and trust for the way she loves.

This a super slow burn -- reiterating, super slow burn. But we do get to see the two ladies with different people in their lives which helps rounding their characters well. While we had issues with both the ladies (fewer with Carmen than with Ash) the book is still a fairly engaging romance.  


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