In solidarity with the book’s title, I found myself quite blindsided by the level of enjoyment I experienced while reading this story.
As enamored as I am with the creation of the multi-author, multi-line World of True North (spearheaded by Sarina Bowen), I honestly read this particular synopsis and had major reservations because of my strong dislike of stories involving blood feuds.
Enemies-to-lovers? I love that for me; I’m always keen for this trope to unfold in my romance reads. But blood feuds as a whole concept, with generations of family feeling such ingrained hatred towards others just because of conflicts experienced generations prior—yeah, that just boggles the shit out of me and exhausts my laidback, drama-free (or at least consciously trying to be) self.
Surprisingly, though, even with the family drama/family presence being high in this book, I still found myself completely immersed in the plot and with lead characters, Maggie Todd and Tate Adler.
Studious Maggie and hockey star Tate—both college students working their arses off with their family and farms in mind—have always seen one another as the enemy. Their neighbouring farms and their large extended families, have hated each other for as long as Maggie and Tate can remember, and it feels only natural to carry on with the loathing, with plenty of shade being thrown every chance they get, on campus and off.
Their dynamic is full of snappy banter and cutting vitriol, but that doesn’t stop their mutual attraction from eventually getting the better of them and throwing everything into question.
While having to share a stall at a local market each weekend to sell their goods, Maggie and Tate realise that their commonalities far outweighed their differences, and that, just maybe, their surprising new connection might just be the first step in healing old family wounds, if only they can convince their family to stop hating for one second and actually listen for once.
As expected, I couldn’t stand half the family members in this story. The grandfathers, in particular, (one asshole drunk and the other a sexist pig) were just abhorrent, and it was so depressing to me that their children and their children’s children could all just buy in to the poison they spewed, so willing to just hate the neighbours because “that’s the way it’s always been.”
Thankfully, Maggie and Tate, and a handful of other family members, were bright enough to question the origins of the feud and start trying for change for the better, especially once the realities of Maggie and Tate’s romantic entanglement changed the scene, wanted or not.
I personally think that strong writing is probably the source of my enjoyment here, despite some of the themes. Denault is a new-to-me author but damn if I didn’t completely devour this book, start-to-finish, like a woman’s half starved, I was that engrossed.
A few things before I wrap up, in case I didn’t make these facts clear:
• The enemies-to-lovers trope was really done well for a contemporary book. Maggie and Tate felt like true enemies at the offset, so the transition to something that grew out of mutual respect and attraction felt genuine and hard won.
• Although there isn’t much in the way of on-page ice hockey, this is very much a sports romance, with hunky hockey stud Tate embodying the book boyfriend of many a person’s dreams.
• This may be a new adult book, but it’s explicit AF. The sex, when it happened, was explosive and steamy and very much a pleasant and welcomed surprise.
• Some of the support cast may have been deplorable assholes, but the majority of side characters were a welcomed addition to the story. Maggie’s sister, uncles and her friends, and even Tate’s hockey buddies, all played awesome little roles that added to the levity of the story.
Like Maggie and Tate, I was blindsided by this story in the best way possible.