Complex, neurodivergent, ambitious protagonists who are not cured by love.
Plot: Hollyn is a writer for a New Orleans newspaper. She loves writing (and anonymously at that) because it allows her to express herself without fear that her Tourettes will distract people from her words. Jasper was all over the place until he started getting along with his ADHD when his discovered improv, but that doesn’t pay the bills, especially in New Orleans where the industry is nascent but Jasper is determined to make it work. Hollyn has been working hard with a therapist to work through her social anxiety, so she’s recently joined a co-working space where she gets to be around other people and ignore them directly. Jasper has taken a job making coffee in the same office. So when they intersect and realize they may be able to help each other out? Shenanigans ensue.
I sometimes wonder if Loren just uses romance novels to teach the readers about sensitive, nuanced subjects that rarely get a compassionate, fact-driven introduction in any mainstream fiction. I can think of literally no other story, including non-fiction, where I’ve seen a protagonist have something like severe Tourettes who is also a generous, loving, intelligent person. Jasper too gives us ADHD representation that doesn’t paint the condition as one that makes the sufferer become an out of control animal that can only be helped through sedatives. But not only are these characters wonderfully fleshed out as whole human beings not defined by their neurodivergence, they also teach the reader about what the condition they have is actually like to have and what it actually means for their day to day life.
But also it’s hot? Loren is old hat at creating tension, at taking unrealistic rom-com scenarios and making them feel grounded and believable, at taking caricatures and turning them into people that you can fall for, root for, and sometimes just want to smack.
The thing I love most about Jasper and Hollyn’s story is that they are both dealing with enormous obstacles, both personal and external and they both have to take huge leaps of faith – trusting themselves and honouring their truths and it’s so refreshing to see characters that move the plot themselves, by overcoming fear and doubt to earn their happy endings.
If you’ve enjoyed Loren’s books before, this is a good one. I’ve enjoyed some of her other work a little more, but that may be more because I already know a fair bit about ADHD and sadly also about improv so a lot of the primer the reader got on those topics was a little tedious for me in a way it may not be for readers new to this.