A Love Like Ours
Now here’s a book that I think will be polarizing. On the one hand, the writing is strong, the characters likable, and the conflict quite emotional. I love friends-to-lovers stories and I’m enjoying a lot of the current crop of inspy romance writers, so for a while I was lapping up A Love Like Ours like a cat with a dish of cream. Until I reached the ending – and boy, did I ever feel let down and betrayed by that ending.
As children, Lyndie James and Jake Porter were best friends, as were their mothers. Then a move took the James family out to California. Jake never forgot the best friend who moved away and left him, but when the Jameses all move back to Texas, he’s not exactly going out of his way to welcome Lyndie back. The intervening years weren’t kind to Jake, as his military career took him to Afghanistan before he came home injured both on the outside and the inside. Suffering from PTSD, Jake leads a rather solitary life as a trainer for his family’s horses and shies away from those he once cared about most.
Out in California, Lyndie dreamed of a career as a jockey but after encountering repeated rejection from trainers who didn’t want to take a chance on a young woman, she has settled for life as an exercise rider. And we see right away that she’s quite a good one. When the Porter family arranges for Lyndie to work as an exercise rider for their thoroughbreds, she basically gets the job over Jake’s objections. Jake doesn’t like the combination of worry and longing that Lyndie brings out in him, and Lyndie is determined to get past Jake’s defenses and uncover that best friend she once had.
From the plot summary you might get that Lyndie is a regular Little Miss Sunshine, and yes, she is. However, the author makes her just vulnerable enough to be sympathetic and likeable rather than saccharine. She also has some real challenges in her life, such as the responsibility of helping care for a disabled sister, and these make her feel more grounded. Jake’s struggles also feel very real and one especially gets a sense of his inner pain when reading some of the flashbacks to his time in Afghanistan.
When she starts working at the stable, Lyndie gradually starts wearing Jake down a bit and reawakening some part of their old camaraderie, as well as something a bit more grown-up in their feelings for each other. And I appreciated that the relationship development between the two was very gradual because if the story turned into “Lyndie James, instant PTSD cure!”, I think I would have tuned out pretty swiftly. As it was, I really liked watching Lyndie and Jake constantly renegotiate the boundaries between them and I also liked reading about the people in their lives, including a sweet secondary romance.
This book is not one that I’d call “inspirational-lite,” as there is plenty of religious content woven throughout the story. However, the author works ideas in without presenting readers the ever-dreaded issue of characters randomly spouting sermons. In fact, I found the storytelling primarily well done and I mostly enjoyed the book.
And this all leads me to the point where I suspect readers are going to disagree sharply. Personally, the book fell apart for me around the ending. I’ll try to make this as un-spoilery as possible, but the author essentially resolves much of her conflict by having Lyndie wimp out and give up on her dreams just to make her man happy. And that ticked me off. In fact, I was fuming about this book for days after I read it. Now, if the somewhat retrograde ending doesn’t bother you, you will probably rate this book far higher than I did because, up until that point, it’s actually a sweet and often compelling story. However, for me it just didn’t work. I can accept compromises where each side has to give up something important in order to make a relationship work, but in this case, I saw Lyndie losing a valuable piece of herself without Jake giving in on much of anything.
I can’t entirely recommend this book. I will just say this: Think about what you like in a story and especially, what kind of heroines do you enjoy. A Love Like Ours isn’t a shoddily written book and it would be unfair for me to review it as such, but it is one that will probably appeal only to a certain audience. And I’m just not it.