Release Date: August 11, 2018
Received From: Review copy as part of the author’s ARC team
What happens when a bad boy becomes a man?
Nate Davis didn’t plan on returning to his hateful hometown. But then, he didn’t plan on being widowed in his twenties, or on his mother getting sick, either. Turns out, life doesn’t give a f$*k about plans.
Hannah Kabbah thought her career in childcare was over. After all, no-one wants a woman with a criminal damage conviction watching their kids. But when her high school crush returns to Ravenswood with two kids in tow, Hannah gets the second chance she never dreamed of.
She also gets to know Nate – the real Nate. The one whose stony exterior hides aching vulnerability. Who makes her smile when she wants to fall apart. Who is way, way more than the bad boy persona he earned so long ago, and way too noble to ever sleep with the nanny.
So it’s a good thing she’s completely over that teenage crush, right?
SEXUALITY: pansexual, presumed heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: panromantic, presumed heteroromantic
TROPES: single parenthood, height difference, employer x employee, employer x nanny, forced proximity, friends to lovers, childhood crush
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, interracial romance, black characters, POC characters, dyslexic character, disabled characters, character with eidetic memory
WARNINGS: mental illness (depression, anxiety), parental illness, cancer mention, chronic illness, spousal death mention, suicide mention, suicidal ideation mention, ableism, bullying mention, anti-native language (“savage”), cheating mention, slurs, gendered slurs, domestic abuse mention, car accident mention, power imbalance, racism, hospital visit, self-harm mention
Talia Hibbert’s books somehow always contain the perfect combination of humor and intensity, frequently leading you to empathize with the characters and their situations, and then making you laugh until you cry only a few pages later. I’ve decided that she is magic.
I’ve been dying for Hannah’s book ever since she swept me off my feet in A GIRL LIKE HER, and let me tell you, Hibbert did not disappoint with UNTOUCHABLE. (Did anyone think she would? No, because Talia is amazeballs.) With this book, Hannah becomes even more beautifully complex as we get to learn more about her and the inner workings of her mind. While she is still the strict pessimist who struggles with a need to retain control in all situations, she also becomes a woman who loves and adores children, who tries to run her life with an iron fist because she’s scared of what could happen if she doesn’t, who desperately wants to love and be loved but is convinced no one could ever care for her long enough to stick around, and who is still so hurt by her father’s abandonment that she unconsciously lets it affect so many different aspects of her life. Hannah is such a dynamic, relatable character for me that it sometimes made her point of view difficult to read, but it also made her that much more lovable as well.
Another thing that I loved about Hannah’s character was how it was really similar to voice as Ruth’s in AGLH, while still being completely unique to her. As sisters, it totally makes sense that some of their reactions and sense of humor would be the same, or at least similar in nature, and it made it really fun to read this. Especially because Hannah and Ruth are pretty convinced that they’re not much alike, but a lot of their narration mimics each other.
And then, of course, there’s Nate. Precious, sweet Nate. In AGLH, we don’t really know much about him except that he’s a photographer, has kids, has been to jail, and he was moving home to help take care of his sick mother, so I was really interested to see more of him. What I wasn’t expecting was to fall in love with him practically immediately. (Which, really, was silly of me since the same has happened with nearly every one of Talia Hibbert’s books I’ve read.) From the very first moment he’s on page, in the Prologue, I knew I was going to love this boy. His sense of humor, even while in the midst of the crushing heaviness and anger that comes along with depression, hooked me immediately and I never wanted to let him go. It just got worse as the book went on, because he’s such a gentle person who cares so much about the people who matter to him, and he’d very obviously do anything it takes to protect them, no matter the cost to himself. Also, he’s so considerate of Hannah and her need and desire for control. I really liked how quickly he learned to read her, and when he knew just how much he could poke and prod her until it became too much. There’s such an ease of togetherness between the two of them that was so lovely to read, even as their desire for each other and the need to keep things secret added a bit of angst to the relationship.
Speaking of depression, the mental illness rep within this book was phenomenal and made me so happy. I love how it wasn’t treated as something to be ashamed of or disdain, but something to be accepted as just another facet of people. And there was one scene in particular that really struck me.
“When I’m depressed,” Nate said casually, “I always know what I should be doing. I know exactly. Just don’t do it.”
The words jolted Hannah out of her thoughts. They were the last thing she’d expected to hear, for more reasons than one. But the most unsettling thing was how familiar they seemed; how he could’ve dragged those sentences right out of her head.
“I should take care of myself,” Nate said. “I should talk to someone. I should laugh with the kids and really mean it. I should take a minute to breathe and feel the air moving inside my lungs. I know these things, and that just makes it worse, because I also know that I’m not going to do it. It’s like sitting in front of a wall–one you can see right through–and on the other side is the person you should be. And it’s so clear, it seems so close, and so much better. So you think, Hey, maybe I could climb the wall. Maybe I could knock it down. Maybe, if I walked far enough, I’d find the end and just…step around it.
“But you never do,” he murmured, his voice hoarse. “You just keep staring through the wall and thinking about it, because making plans is so much easier than acting, and you’re so fucking tired. You don’t know if you’ve ever truly been awake; you can’t remember the feeling anymore. And after a while, watching that other you do the things you should be doing–it feels good enough. Knowing what you should do takes as much energy as doing it, so why push yourself? Taking the extra step, actually living–it just seems so excessive, all of a sudden. So unnecessary. Why cause yourself so much trouble, so much pain, chasing after something you barely remember…when you can sit and watch through the wall?”
This whole section made me feel so seen, as I relate to this so much. I had to put the book down for a few minutes to process just how much this moment meant to me, as Nate put into words something that seems inexplicable when you’re in the middle of it because sometimes you just can’t make yourself even talk to form the words. This scene was just…everything to me.
Talia Hibbert is a writer and educator from the U.K., by way of both the West Indies and West Africa. She wrote her first romance aged 12, and was promptly scolded by a teacher because her story of love in the jungle wasn’t ‘proper’.
Since then, Talia’s stories have improved in quality and hugely increased in heat. She now writes steamy, diverse, contemporary romance set in the U.K. Her work still isn’t proper, but it is a lot of fun.
Her interests include beauty, junk food, and devouring all forms of media. She lives in a small English town that doesn’t even get Deliveroo, and kisses her high school sweetheart every day. Y’know; for luck.
And, as Talia would say… that’s all, folks. Love and biscuits!