If Only You
Grade : A

By the time I finished the first chapter of If Only You by Chloe Liese, I knew I had found that elusive treasure – a new to me author whose book had solidly hooked me right from the start and who had a decent backlist that, if the book continued in the fashion it had started, would give me more reading material to glom. If Only You is the sixth book in the author’s Bergman Brothers series, about a Swedish-American family with seven siblings. First published in the spring of 2023, a new paperback edition is being released in February 2024 which is how this book got brought to my attention (as well as the placement of several of the author’s other books on the Spicy #Booktok table at my local bookstore). I’m not one of those who needs to read a series in order (unless a specific worldbuilding arc requires it) and the book is written well as a standalone. And indeed, by the time I finished it, I knew I had a strong contender for one of my favorite books of the year (and immediately went and acquired the first five books in the series!). Also timely is the recently posted AAR blog regarding ‘bad boys’ in romance and whether they are still popular – I can assure you that the bad boy in this romance definitely had my attention.

Sigrid ‘Ziggy’ Bergman is the youngest of the Bergman siblings and still gets treated like the baby of the family. Her autism diagnosis affects her comfort in specific social situations, though when she’s playing soccer, her focus on the game makes the crowds disappear. What she does have a problem with is still being put at the children’s table with her niece during family gatherings and the tendency of her family to shield her from important conversations. Determined to make them notice that she’s a fully functioning adult, she comes up with a plan that will definitely make them give her a second look. Especially since it involves her brother Ren’s best friend and hockey teammate Sebastian Gauthier whose public image is in dire need of a makeover.

Seb’s hockey career and reputation are on the skids. Poor decisions, too much drinking, and a health problem he’s been reluctant to address are all contributing to his downward slide. What could be better than taking up Ziggy’s offer of pretending they are friends to get the paparazzis’ cameras pointing in a new direction? Ziggy wants to tone down her angelic reputation and being seen with this hockey bad boy will certainly do that. And for Seb, pretending to be happy with the sweet and shy Ziggy certainly isn’t going to hurt him. Surprising both of them, pretending to be friends actually turns quickly into a real friendship, cemented by their ability to confide in each other things they’ve never told anyone else. And the attraction between them becomes hard to deny. Will their fake friendship turn into a real relationship?

Swoonworthy, slow burn romance for the win! I alternated between speeding up and slowing down and rereading passages as this story progressed, which is – for me - an indication of the best kind of read. Sebastian is a hero worthy of redemption, at his heart a caring and generous man even if he doesn’t do a good job of showing it to more people. He admits his faults readily to Ziggy, and in pouring out to her the truth of past behaviour that he’s ashamed of, he gives himself a chance to be redeemed. Ziggy doesn’t blink an eye at the revelations he shares, only points out to him that making amends is not just for the people he’s harmed, but also for himself. In return Sebastian sees the side of Ziggy that her family doesn’t, the strong-willed, serious person who is capable of making her own decisions, and whose autism doesn’t define her. The growth of the characters throughout the story is authentic and believable. The steamy sexual tension between Ziggy and Sebastian proceeds in a delicious fashion culminating in a worth-the-wait encounter and an honest accounting of their feelings for each other.

Secondary characters are equally important to the story, as is often found in sibling series. I liked all of the Bergmans and the different relationships between the siblings, which adds a lot of humour to the book. The autism representation is authentic as the author is neurodivergent and credits The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (also well loved at AAR for its #ownvoices representation) for helping her recognize in herself some of the characteristics that Stella, the heroine of that book possessed. And Sebastian’s health diagnosis (which I won’t reveal) is also well treated. Honestly, from start to finish, If Only You was a fantastic read and I’m excited to read more about this family and more from this author!

Reviewed by Maria Rose
Grade : A

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 5, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

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Maria Rose

I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.
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