First, as someone who suggested The Hating Game to literally anyone requesting a romance recommendation in the past two and a half years I feel the need to send an apology out into the universe for Sally Thorne – I never wanted you to feel so much pressure for your next book. That being said, I’m so glad you were able to work through it and produce this, your sophomore outing. It is very worth the reader’s time and another example of the kind of contemporary romance I’m happy to read and extoll its virtues.
99 Percent Mine is a friends to lovers romance. Darcy Barrett has travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him as his best friend at age 8. When Darcy and Jamie inherit their grandmother’s tumble-down cottage they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy has no intention of staying to see the project through, she’s working at the local biker bar to make enough money to finance her next trip overseas and away from her family, troubles, and her desire for Tom who remains off-limits – this time due to an engagement ring on another woman’s ring finger. But when Tom shows up to lead the renovation (and with her passport MIA) Darcy’s sticking around.
It may not be apparent from the plot summary, but this is a romance with some built in high stakes. Darcy has a heart condition that she hasn’t been taking care of and it informs her past with her brother and Tom as well as her present. Thorne writes frankly about navigating life with a chronic illness. The other high stakes item is Tom’s personal history that has led him to feeling the need to be perfect at all times to be accepted, to be good enough. Darcy is also struggling with some career issues, feeling as though she peaked at 20 when she won a photography prize and has since shuttered her wedding photography business after a truly terrible wedding shoot. She is carrying around a lingering sense of failure and having to settle for ‘good enough’ in her late 20s. These are themes that resonated for me.
Thorne delivers on characters with real weight and fleshed out backstory. It is also a similarly limited cast of characters, with the grand majority of the narrative taking place with just two characters, although this book does bring in a more side characters who are important to the plot moving forward as well as filling in character details for our main pair. This one isn’t quite The Hating Game, but it is still really quite good, AND REALLY FUNNY, even if the last chapter or two felt a little tonally off (but I am a fan of the epilogues!).
(Expect a few Romance reviews from me in the coming days and weeks. Even though they aren’t currently slotted in, #copypastecris has me itching to read and review books and authors of Romancelandia who deserve everyone’s attention.)