Oh, this was an unexpected delight! I am belatedly realizing this is my second Talia Hibbert book. The first didn’t leave a strong impression, but A Girl Like Her has me giving Hibbert’s catalog a closer look. I borrowed it for free through Amazon Prime, and will be buying it (through the CBR link) as soon as this review posts.
Metalsmith Evan Miller is new to the small town of Ravenswood. As an outsider, he’s not quite sure what to make of his next door neighbor. She’s rather abrasive, and everyone seems eager to urge him to steer clear, but somehow, he can’t keep away from her. For her part, Ruth Kabbah is very sure what to make of Evan: he needs to mind his own business and leave her to her chosen life of an anti-social shut-in. But Evan finds ways around her walls, and… well… hot sex ensues. Like it does.
She certainly wasn’t making him any more tea, the inconvenient bastard. He could survive on fresh air for the rest of his life, for all she cared. What the bloody hell did he think he was doing, looking at her like that? Being all gorgeous and smoldering and… ugh.
Ruth is a challenge. She’s combative and does herself no favors in terms of her reputation around town. Evan, unfortunately, is a bit of a saint, but he didn’t make me roll my eyes about it. Hibbert also peppers the book with light touches of reality, like Ruth getting her period and having to make a supply run early in the book.
As I read A Girl Like Me, I thought back to a few books I reviewed for CBR last year. Hibbert handily tackles two of complaints I had about them.
When Evan finds himself struggling with the more difficult facets of Ruth’s personality–some of which may be related to her autism, but may easily just be who Ruth is–he does his best to be open and honest about his intentions. He respects Ruth enough not to push, and also not to manipulate her emotions. Unlike some heroes who choose to gaslight the heroine as a means of furthering the “romance”.
The other complaint is that sometimes, BWWM romances carefully sidestep anything race-related beyond physical descriptions of brown limbs entangled with white ones. The heroine is only black in the bedroom; it informs nothing about her experience of the world. While this is fair–there’s nothing monolithic about the black experience, and performative blackness is certainly not welcome, either–it also feels a touch unrealistic. Hibbert walks the line beautifully.
“I bet you don’t have a satin pillowcase, do you?” She asked.
He frowned. “A what?”
It’s a short exchange, but so affirming. Hibbert doesn’t insert an encounter with bigotry and prejudice to draw the character. Rather with this small question, one that’s easy for non-black readers to look past, Hibbert signals to her black readers that she sees them. It makes Ruth that much more real.
This was a good time, and easily worth the investment of a couple of hours.