(Amazon | Indiebound)
This book. THIS BOOK, Y’ALL. Seriously. Why are you even still reading this review? Or really even thinking about buying this this book? Shoo. Scram. Go buy it. And the rest of the series, while you’re at it. They are THAT good. Which is not a surprise, considering who wrote it.
Talia Hibbert is a British author who
writes scorchingly hot (and ridiculously good) romances with curvy Black
heroines and wonderful men who love them exactly as they are. A Girl Like Her
is the first full-length novel of hers I’ve read, and guys? I am KICKING myself
for not having started it sooner, because it is amazing on so many levels. I
sacrificed a badly-needed afternoon nap for it and I have no regrets.
Here’s the blurb, from Talia’s website:
SHE’S THE TOWN PARIAH. HE
DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN.
In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and
human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out
just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception
to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…
Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big,
cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their
shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and
secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.
Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s
reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future,
she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her
heart safest alone?
Doesn’t that sound just absolutely amazing?
And from Talia’s twitter (which is a hoot, you should follow her) I knew that
Ruth was autistic, and I was excited to see #ActuallyAutistic rep, since I knew
Talia would hit it out of the park. And I was right.
Honestly, I bought A Girl Like Her aaaages
ago half because of the old cover – the heroine reminded me strongly of Kelly
Rowland, who (no shade to Queen B) has always been my favourite Destiny’s
Child, what with the short hair, gorgeous dark skin, and the not being married
to Jay-Z. But the new cover? Is even better, even if Evan’s beard, is, sadly,
nowhere to be found. (It’s a testament to Talia’s skill that she can make
beards sexy to my vastly-clean-shave-preferring-self.)
But enough judging this book by its cover,
let’s get to the story, which is an absolute delight, on so many levels.
Ruth is in a secret (unhealthy, abusive)
relationship with Daniel Burne, the aforementioned golden boy, for seven years.
Not only does he tell her on the afternoon of his engagement party that he
expects things to go on as they are even post his wedding, he lies to the town
about what really happened, painting Ruth as a manipulative Jezebel and pretty
much ruining her sister’s life for the completely deserved revenge she enacted.
Two years later, Evan moves to Ravenswood
to work for Burne & Co. as a metalsmith, and runs – literally – into Ruth
in a parking lot… and that’s when the book starts.
We’re not told why Ruth is a pariah, just
that she is – the story comes out in dribs and drabs, and I really liked how
well it was paced. And having had experience of small, close-knit communities
like Ravenswood… I can both believe that the townspeople rallied around the
town’s golden boy (ugh!) and that Ruth had more friends than she believed she
deserved. The little cameos from the townspeople, like the gossipy plumber and
the town librarian, were delightful and really added to that authentic
As for the characters… I legitimately
cannot pick a favourite, because I adored every one. I love how complex they
were, even the side characters, in just 300-odd pages.
Ruth. Oh, Ruth. I love that Talia allowed
her heroine to be not just prickly but rude and unlikeable – how often do we
see that, rather than a heroine who’s supposedly prickly but really doesn’t ask
how high when the hero says jump? And I loved, loved, loved seeing how her mind
worked – this is an #ownvoices book and it was a delight to see how beautifully
Ruth’s autism was handled. And her growth over the course of her book as she
moves from crushing guilt to acceptance of her own worth is just wonderful.
Another delightful thing about Ruth? While
she does, like any good character in a book, have some growing to do, she’s
already confident in her own body and sexuality. This bit made me laugh out
loud, and then grin like a fool at Ruth.
wondered if she should do this lying down, to minimise the roll situation, but
then decided that rolls were fine. If they were going to do anything
interesting, rolls would eventually occur. She couldn’t lie down constantly
whenever they were naked.
Evan didn’t seem to have any complaints.
Usually, I read books for the heroines, but
Evan stole my heart in this one, to the point where I’m really, really sad he’s
neither real nor my next-door neighbour. More than his looks or his build (a
bearded ex-military metalsmith… Talia knows her audience’s catnip) what made me
fall in love with Ethan was his kindness. And how easily he accepts everything
about Ruth, from her pyjamas to her prickliness. It’s no secret that I love
beta heroes and emotionally fluent men, and Ethan scores on both counts. And he
Evan could have been a Nice Guy (ugh!) but
it’s clear that he’s just a good egg period, the kind of guy who helps you with
your groceries and walks little old ladies across the street and rescues treed
kittens. He cooks for Ruth, yes, but it’s because he wants to take care of her
and be her friend, independent of anything else. He’s committed to earning her
trust and while he does misstep a couple of times, seeing their bond slowly
deepen and blossom is just delightful.
Sometimes, with romance novels, although
the main couple are superbly written, everyone else is a cardboard cut-out, a
stereotype, or both. Not so with A Girl Like Her; even the minor characters in
Ravenswood felt rich and real, from Ruth’s sister Hannah (who both loves and is
deeply frustrated by her sister), to the town’s other inhabitants and Daniel’s
father and his wife. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting either of them to have the
complexity and depth they did and it made an already stellar book even better.
Laura, especially, is the heroine of the next book and I can’t wait to see what
Talia does with her story.
As for Ruth’s ex (and Laura’s current
husband) Daniel? All I’ll say about him is that he deserves to die in a fire
and not from smoke inhalation. I’m glad that he was only minimally in the book,
which is centred on Ruth and Evan, as it should be.
Right, I’ve babbled on quite long enough.
If you want to read a brilliantly written love story with hot-like-burning super-consensual
sex, laugh-out-loud snark, and minor characters that leave you chomping at the
bit for their stories even as you wouldn’t mind a further 300 pages of this
one? A Girl Like Her is the book for you.