Rough Road by Vanessa North
Acquired how: ebook ARC via Netgalley
Eddie is a wealthy flirt in his 40s. Wish is the 20-something road worker Eddie meets after a car accident. They find sexual compatibility fast, but figuring out how to fit into each other’s lives takes longer.
For a while it felt like everyone was talking about this book (and they may well still be). This was an absolutely charming book – not too long but not too short, either. The BDSM was well integrated into the story, showing what both Eddie and Wish got from sadomasochism and how it affected them, without expecting readers to be already fluent in BDSM, or letting the sex scenes take over the plot. Instead, the sex was well integrated into the story. It was definitely important for the characters and their relationship to show the kind of sex they have and how physically compatible they are, but the author didn’t let the sex be the only way the relationship was developed.
I loved that the conflict in the book wasn’t all about misunderstandings. While there was a bit of that (as there must inevitably be in most romance fiction), a lot of the conflict was about problems that can’t be immediately solved by talking. The characters had to search within themselves to decide what compromises they would make for the relationship and whether that would be worth it for them. Eddie had to change his habits to prove to Wish that he prioritised him. Wish had to decide to change his behaviour to deal with arguments more constructively. Both had to assess what was meaningful to them, not just in the relationship but in their lives in general.
This wasn’t just a book about two characters who are drawn to each other by physical attraction and sexual compatibility. It was a book about two men making room for each other in their lives.
Another thing I loved was that the big conflict between Eddie and Wish didn’t happen too late in the story. Plenty of times in romance fiction I get to about 85% of the way through and start to worry about what contrivance the author will use to break the characters up one last time. Not in this one. The characters deal with smaller and bigger issues in their relationship until at a point where it’s threatened by their fears – and then that is resolved in one chapter, so they can spend the rest of the book working on and enjoying their relationship. It’s a mature, adult way of navigating a relationship and I found that a joy to read. The problems they deal with are real and important, but not overwrought.
I was charmed by this book and the romance at the heart of it.