Everything about this book makes me excited. The cover, the story, the setting(s) – J.R. Rogue knocked it out of the park with her third novel. This is not your typical love story. It’s raw, revealing, and you may find your heart snagging on some of the shattered dreams inside. Nevertheless, the best books are the ones that make readers feel every word, and I definitely have some inkspots splattered on my heart after finishing Kiss Me Like You Mean It.
My love is poison. His kiss is mine.
“The first time he saw me I was shattered glass, and he was a shadow. If I had stayed, he would have just faded away.”
It’s strange how easy it is to tell our stories to a stranger’s eyes. The truth about Connor Stratford and I had always been a sad tale. Over ten years of chasing, tears, lies, vows, and leaving. Two people who never loved each other at the same time, but couldn’t let each other go.
Now here I was telling our story over drinks midday in an airport bar with my old diary clutched in my hand. Telling some version of our story, anyway.
I left him once with no goodbye. Now I was returning home to give him what he needed to move on.
“It’s important. It’s what you’re thinking.”
I knew what his message meant, sent in the middle of the night after I woke from a fever dream.
He was finally ready, and so was I. I just needed to finally give him the kiss he begged for.
The one that meant goodbye.
A broad spectrum of topics are covered in this novel, from drinking, to men, to mental health, and abuse. The hardest hitting for me was the description of abuse and the after-effects of it numerous years later. I think the mind has a way of protecting itself from hardship. If we felt the full brunt of it all at once, it would be too much to bear. J.R. Rogue describes these moments of realization exactly as they happen and exactly how they feel. Abuse is never something that goes away, even if the abuser is long gone. It’s something that stays with a person for their entire existence, manifesting and reshaping as the years drag on. I respect Jen using her voice to encourage women who have been through similar experiences, allowing us to find solace in her words.
“I know more women who have had no father, who have been raped, who have been beaten, than those who live happy full lives with no scars littering their past, their skin. I like likeness in women. I like our sadness, so close to a mirror.”
I almost felt like I spent more time highlighting great lines than reading. The cover lured me in and the tale held me hostage. Jen’s honest poetic style is infused into this novel, making the story everything it needed to be. Emotion drips from every page allowing the reader to fully connect with the characters, flaws and all. Reading about Gwen’s character was like watching my own reflection in the mirror, maybe her actions didn’t quite match my own, but her personality was identical. I felt as if I was being flayed open while reading.
“Traditions are hard to break away from. We are all victims of ‘this is what you’re supposed to do’ guilt.”
One of my favorite things in this novel was the narration. I loved the airport conversation, journal entries, and the alternation of Gwen and Conner’s perspectives. It took me a second or two to figure it out when I started the book, but once I had it, I was hooked. I loved Conner’s steadiness and unconditional love throughout. It’s such a rare thing to find, but something all of us want. My only critique in regards to the writing as a whole relates to the choppy feel of the paragraphs and chapters. The storyline wasn’t quite as cohesive as I hoped for, and felt a little jumpy and jagged at times. In some ways, the writing style of this particular book fits with well with the plot, but a bit of smoothing may have been helpful.
Rating a book based on someone’s life feels like the biggest injustice. Everyone’s life has value, every story is important, and rating with stars feels cheap. I loved Jen’s story in a painful and reflective sort of way. Parts of the story were hard to read because I felt so deeply heartbroken for the struggles the characters (and real-life people) had to face and the self-reflection I was forced to do hurt. Life just really sucks sometimes. J.R. Rogue captures the suck and from it makes the most beautiful works of “fiction”. Her writing fully immerses me in her thoughts and feelings and doesn’t let me go, long after I’ve turned the last page. I’m a fan for life.
Pick up Kiss Me Like You Mean It on March 22nd.