My resolution to read more in the new year is going swimmingly so far. It’s the second and I’ve burned through two very good, though very different books. Yesterday, I wrote about Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. After that book wrecked me, I was skimming listlessly through my past purchases on Kindle trying to find something to spark an interest. (Yes, I buy Kindle books and paperbacks, as well, with the intention of reading them and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.) I scrolled past “Pining and Loving” by Emma Sterner-Radley and remembered when it came out, I was intrigued because the main character has clinical depression. (Hey, that’s me!) I also remember someone saying it was a charming romance. I kind of needed a charming romance after the brutality of yesterday’s book. I just needed to balance out the hard read of yesterday with something completely different. I wasn’t disappointed.
Below is the review I left on Goodreads. I do highly recommend this book if you love a great friends-to-lovers romance, whether you have depression or not.
It took me about three pages of reading to realize I was going to end up spending the rest of the day with this book. (So much for my resolution of reading ½ hour a day.) The characters, specifically Gwen and Aya are lovingly developed in such realistic (and yes, sometimes painful) ways. That feeling of missing a train and knowing a normal person would just buy a ticket for the next one and maybe get some lunch instead, but being unable to do anything because IT WASN’T THE PLAN and instead ending up in full meltdown mode? Can I say how much I relate to Gwen? Can I also say how much I relate to Aya?
But you don’t have to deal with mental illness to relate – these characters are just so engaging. The burgeoning friendship with brief moments of sexual attraction is so lovely to watch and charming in so many ways. This author deftly gave us glimpses into the growing attraction between Gwen and Aya while still creating a realistic reason (Oh, the blond goddess!) for them to not consider their own relationship.
Still, the loving detail in this book such as the way Gwen self-comforts and the awkwardness of the two MCs being stoically (to the outsider) stuck in their own inner self-flagellation while the other assumes it means something about them makes this book so authentic. I love when characters are so real, when they have weird quirks, when I get insight into the often irrational things they think about themselves. I also love the way the characters can show up for each other even when they can’t advocate for themselves.
I want to make a brief mention of the side characters in this book – brief because I could probably go on for about ten pages listing the things I love about this book, by which point, you’d no longer need to read it because I told you everything about it. Suffice to say I love the side characters; I love that Charlotte is the kind of best friend who’ll cancel dates for a friend in need and offer practical advice when needed and is compassionate and loving without letting her BFF wallow in self-pity.
I found myself alternately laughing, crying, and wincing over this book and even when I kind of wanted to hate Aya for a minute, I couldn’t because she really was just being real. And you know, it’s not just the person dealing with mental illness who gets to overthink things. So many things resonated in this book for me from Aya’s assumptions about what she thought she knew about depression to Gwen’s shaming of herself for the way she feels when depressed even as she intellectually knows it isn’t her fault.
This is a great book, and I am happy to recommend it.