You think this is a big deal because, no offense, you’ve had a lot of people in your life who claimed to care about you but didn’t act like it. That’s not me. I can cook, and right now, you can’t. So I’m doing it for you because that’s how people should behave; they should fill in each other’s gaps. Don’t think about it too hard.
**There are minor spoilers in the “Content Warnings” and “Review” portions of this post**
Book one of “The Brown Sisters” trilogy.
Published: November 2019
Representation: Black & People of Colour (POC); Chronic Illness & DisAbility (Chronic Pain, Diabetes, Vision Impairment); Interracial Relationship; Plus-Sized Character; Mental Health.
Content Warning: Sexually explicit content, recollection of a past abusive relationship (emotional abuse, gaslighting), recovery from an abusive relationship, witnessing a car crash, near-death experience, panic attack, descriptions of chronic pain and physical symptoms relating to fibromyalgia, mild descriptions of trauma.
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
— summary from Goodreads
Ahhh, this book. This book is a good book. It’s a passionate, sweet, honest, and unputdownable book. If you’re a sucker for well-written romance novels, you will be a sucker for this one. I’m sure you’ve already seen similar ravings about this one, but we still couldn’t resist the urge to do our own review.
I think we’ve said this before on our Instagram, but we’ll say it again – neither of us are big on cishet romance reads. We will both devour LGBT+ ones, but we just don’t tend to pick up straight ones. Abarna picked this one up on a whim early in the pandemic, though, and completely devoured it. Then immediately started harassing Becca to do the same. “Trust me on this one!!” She did. And we’re both happy campers.
The thing about this book is that, as much as it falls into a lot of romance tropes (see: enemy-to-lovers, slow-burn, recovering from a crappy relationship), it is also unique in so many ways. For one, it is so diverse. This is incredibly rare to find in romance novels – but diversity is one thing that will draw us into any book (even if it’s a cishet romance 😉). The protagonist is a stubborn and badass plus-sized Black woman with a chronic illness – which was such a draw for Abarna as she is also a plus-sized woman of colour with a pain-related chronic illness. How validating! A lot of the language that Chloe uses to describe her daily life with chronic pain mirrors some of Abarna’s. While reading the book, she kept turning to Becca saying “this book stars me, please read” which has definitely never been a feeling she has had before. It’s so fun and exciting to find a book that reflects you, a rarity when you’re a queer WOC with a disAbility. We think a lot of people with chronic illnesses and/or disAbilities will find similarities and reflections of themselves in this book, which is one of the reasons it’s so important and impactful.
Besides the main character, every other character in this book is diverse in some way (including characters that only make short appearances)! Ranging from people of colour, to a character with a vision impairment, a character with diabetes, folks who struggle with mental health and trauma, it’s so wonderful to see so many different kinds of people filling out this wonderful book. Chloe and Red are both so flawed in so many ways, which makes their character growth and the story development all the more interesting.
It was interesting to see our male protagonist, Red, navigating his feelings following his last relationship, which was a toxic one. A lot of the time when we see this type of character setup, it is often followed by said character passing on those toxic and abusive traits to their new love interest. We often see this become a romanticization and/or fetishization of abuse, which we believe can be harmful, especially for younger readers. Yet despite some of the unhealthy behaviours and thoughts Red nurses, it never translates to him mistreating Chloe as a result. It was such a refreshing take to see that this character doesn’t try to justify toxic behaviours because of their past experiences – instead, he stumbles through checking his assumptions and correcting himself when he starts to equivocate his current relationship with his past one.
Similarly, Chloe is a plus-sized woman of colour with chronic pain and a disAbility; and she is wonderfully, gloriously, not solely defined by any of these things. The terrible hole that some authors fall into when writing diverse characters is that these characters often don’t have a personality, or other defining traits other than those parts of them (whether that be their race, disAbility, trauma, etc). Things such as race and disAbility invariably affect one’s life, but they are exactly that; a part of their lives. It sucks to see characters be reduced to just these traits; so it’s really great to see fully-formed, intelligent characters in Chloe and Red. They’re more than their parts, they are grown up and able to see their faults, and they are able to forgive themselves and each other for them. They filled each other’s “gaps” and take care of each other in a way neither of them could do for themselves.
‘Red,’ she whispered. ‘You don’t always have to be okay.’ She leaned closer and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He was still for a moment. But then he looked at her, and smiled, and murmured, ‘I know. But I am okay, with you.‘
The relationship between Chloe and Red is a lot of fun to read. Their relationships to each other are so tumultuous at first, with both of them assuming incorrect things about each other. Over the course of the story, we learn more about each of them, from the things they’ve struggled through and the ways in which they try to move on. It is so sappy, but watching them grow together and be honest with themselves and each other is so beautiful and endearing. That bond helped them both find comfort and solace from their past traumas and the somewhat negative ways they were dealing with them. They helped each other heal and move forward, into a sweet happily-ever-after ending.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun, happily-ever-after romance, this is your pick! Abarna just got her hands on Take A Hint, Dani Brown, and the third installment, Act Your Age, Eve Brown has been announced! We’re definitely looking forward to the rest of this series.