Making Up by Lucy Parker. Carina Press. 2018.
I really enjoyed this second chance enemies to lovers romance! The romance arc was lovely, and such a great thing to watch unfold. They had amazing chemistry; there was such sweetness and heat between them. I was rooting for them as a couple from the start.
I really enjoyed the theater setting, too. It was so rich with everyday theater life, about performance and rehearsals and the dynamics between the cast and crew. I love stories about live theater that feel real, and this one did. It shone in the details around aerial dance and stepping into a new role and directors who are bullies and the reality TV aspect ramped it up in a great way, bringing in all this tension around celebrity that was a great addition.
The story offers both POVs, but is a very heroine centered book. Trix gets a complex, in-depth personal arc that centers on trauma recovery and its impact on her career and relationships and sense of self. There is a lot in her arc, it’s complex and layered, and I appreciated the way her own personal arc intertwined with the romance arc, which was lovely and complicated in and of itself. I do often find trauma recovery arcs to be overly simplified (and therefore unrealistic and often painful for me to read as a trauma survivor reader), and appreciated how complex this one was, how much room it got in the story. It felt real to me, the way the emotional abuse impacted her, the way her recovery arc worked, so that there was a sense that she would continue to move forward in healing, not that she was healed in the course of the book. I appreciated that. It’s very common for romances to simplify trauma recovery to fit it in the space of the book. I liked this approach so much better.
I loved, too, that Leo says this to Trix: “Exes, anxiety, bad days at work, pain-in-the-arse sisters, awful bosses. It’s all part of the package, isn’t it? Life, in all its occasional shittiness. There’s nothing that needs to be magically fixed before it’s somehow okay for us to be together.” This idea, that trauma survivors, that people with PTSD or anxiety, don’t need to be “healed” before we can be in relationships, is such an important challenge to common ableist frameworks, and it felt so good to read it. It made me fall even harder for Leo, too. It was just lovely to read a romance that had such a nuanced portrayal of trauma recovery and gave a trauma survivor a love interest that really held and respected Trix where she was, supported her autonomy, saw her strength while also being gentle with her vulnerability. It made me feel hopeful, as a trauma survivor reader.
However, centering Trix’s arc did make Leo more of a idealized hero/support character for her, and less of a complex nuanced character in his own right. I am torn about this choice, because I wanted the storyline about his relationship with his sister to get more attention; that would have been my choice for his arc. I also am torn, as this choice places a Black central character in a supporting role to a white MC.
Leo is very much an idealized swoony hero much of the time; he is gentle and kind with her, believes fiercely in her, supports her through panic attacks (he has anxiety himself), is wise and funny and actually sees her in her complexity. It was nice for me to read a story where a trauma survivor gets support from a love interest that doesn’t have the elements that often turn me off in these arcs (e.g. controlling behavior, pressure to not get triggered, insistence on therapy, a general sense of entitlement around the survivor’s recovery). I was especially pleased at a moment when he inadvertently triggers her, and doesn’t make it about him, or get angry at her for being triggered. (Something I see a lot in m/f romances centering trauma survivor heroines.)
This is third in a series, and definitely works well as a stand alone. That said, I’d guess that it would be lovely for series fans to get to be at the wedding of the MCs from book 2, which occurs in this book. This is my first read by Parker, and I adored it. I definitely want to read the rest of the books in the series!
- Black British hero with a knee injury and anxiety
- Heroine with PTSD
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Multiple references to an emotionally abusive relationship in the past, including a brief recounting of it by the heroine and a present-day encounter with abusive ex, but the bulk of what you read is the long term impact of the abuse, the character getting triggered, and PTSD reactions. Recounting of an exploitative predatory relationship that a secondary character had, that included emotional abuse and sexual harassment targeting adult students. Alcohol use. Bullying boss character. Detailed account of a fall from a height and serious injury (including graphic description of an open fracture). Description of vomiting and of characters covered in vomit having a lengthy conversation. Hero applies makeup to thee heroine while she is sleeping, without her consent. On the page sex.
- Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.
- I have had some contact with the author on Twitter.
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