Lainey is terrified of flying. So she imbibes a little bit of liquid courage before she climbs aboard the flight to her older brother’s destination wedding. Xavier has a reason to be afraid of flying – he was injured in a training jump from an airplane back when he was in the military, resulting in him being paralyzed – but that’s a fear he conquers every day at his ‘let’s jump out of planes for fun’ job. Instead, he’s more nervous about the cute, drunk girl sitting beside him thinking he’s got no manners since he doesn’t stand up to let her pass when she’s coming in/out of their row. Still, somehow, they manage to make mostly positive impressions on each other, and Xavier’s pretty upset that he had to wait for his chair to de-board the plane and lost out on being able to follow his seat mate and ask for her number.
It’s ok though, since they get another chance at her brother Gibson’s wedding the next day. Turns out, Xavier is a friend from his Army days, and he’s in the wedding too (I feel like this book is part of a broader book universe, but Goodreads has it listed as a standalone, so I’m going to have to take their word for it, I suppose). Hijinks and more flirting (and, quickly, more than flirting) commence. Since it’s a novella, there’s not a ton of character development time, but I think Kingston uses what space she does have to great effect: You know enough about Lainey to get that she loves her family, even though they drive her crazy. That she’s used to them thinking of her in a certain way – kind of flighty, maybe not all that serious – and she both gets it and is sick of it. We get that Xaiver plays up his playboy past role with his friends (even his best friend, Gibson, to his detriment, when he starts hitting it off with Gibson’s baby sister), but it’s not who he is anymore, and he wishes somebody would notice. Readers get to see how much he refuses to let fear control his life, and how much he really just wants to be seen as ‘normal’.
I’m going to say now that this got bumped up my gigantic TBR because somebody else reviewed it, and had some negative things to say about having a hero in a wheelchair.
In fact, I then made a reallllly long sub-sheet on my extensive Excel TBR with Disabled Heroes & Heroines to read & review, because: Shut up.
Disabled people deserve happy endings too, and it’s not “forcing diversity” to include them in romances. Hello: We…exist?
I’m really confused why a hero in a wheelchair would ruin your HEA, but that’s on you. The only time I’m going to complain about a wider spectrum of H/h-s is when they’re not full and complete characters, and that’s definitely not the case here. In fact, as a wheelchair user myself, I felt like Kingston really nailed a few of the smaller details that wound up making Xavier’s character feel more authentic. The idea of Xavier ‘pacing’ via his chair, with the subtle back and forth of his wheels was one of those details that hit home for me (definitely a thing I, and a lot of wheelchair users I know, do.) The fact that Lainey found the move cute in her thoughts, was also one of those little things that hit home for me: Most characters wouldn’t tell a non-disabled character all the things they found cute about him on (technically) their first date, but too often, in romance that includes diverse characters – and specifically disabled characters – authors go out of their way to make the point that YES these two people are attracted to each other!!!, and make them do/say all sorts of things that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect a character to do/say in that position. So the fact that she thinks it, but doesn’t say it earned a lot of bonus points here, from me.
There were also the complete embarrassing screw-ups and misunderstandings that happen when you’re disabled that you don’t have any control over and just have to go with the flow of – elevators that don’t work, a kid asking nosy questions, being waist high to everybody and not being able to reach everywhere you’d want to reach – plus a bitchy bridesmaid who didn’t want to get stuck walking down the aisle with the ‘special guy’, which is also, unfortunately too real, and I think the author handled those with aplomb. I’m not 100% sure that the sex scene – yes, there is a sex scene – passes the “magical healing Heroine” test (aka ‘I can’t do X, normally, but somehow with you… I magically can), but there is A Lot of what nondisabled people might call uncomfortable discussions about what works, what doesn’t, how sex can be enjoyable for both of them, and what it’s going to look like, that I found spot-on believable, so I’m going to average it out and give her kudos for the lot. There were definitely things brought up here (I promise I didn’t mean that as a pun, but oops) that I have never seen discussed in other romances, ever, so five stars and hooray.
I think since it was a novella, a lot of things were too rushed, but Kingston managed to cover a lot in very few pages, and to portray a disabled character as just… a regular-ish guy, whole and complete, thinking and caring and complicated, just like the heroine. Definitely a positive in my book. Also, worth it for the breakfast brunch after scene.