Review: At First Meet by Carrie Ann Ryan
Contemporary romance from Ms. Ryan, especially the extended Montgomery family is a consistent winner for me. I approached this story with a little bit of dread in my stomach because the previous book in this series alluded to a bad situation for Lake. This book can be read as a standalone.
Lake is a woman who embodies the "woman allies" concept that becomes popular every decade or so. In a nutshell, she empowers other women and helps lift them up instead of pushing down on them. She is also not a man hater. She realizes and appreciates the males in her life are supportive and loving. She does have a bit of a backstory which is nicely summarized to explain some of her imposter syndrome, but overall, Lake comes across as accomplished, smart, and vivacious. Who wouldn't want to be her friend or date her?
This is where the stickiness comes in and where even the most put together woman can have weaknesses. I felt such outrage with what happened to Lake. I understand her self doubt. Sometimes the strongest woman can be ripped down in the most heinous manner and it just pisses me off. I want to rush in to defend them. I am so enraged by what happened to Lake. I am in the same boat as all the men around her who feel helpless around her. Who are unable to battle her inner demons. I am glad that she does have a strong support system to help her feel comfortable in her own skin again.
The posturing and sexism Lake experiences in her job makes me see red. As a female in a male dominated career since the 1990s, I understand the belittling she receives at the hands of jealous males. The situations Lake finds herself in are not uncommon. Whilst many say that today's environment is better and women shouldn't be placed in these kind of situations anymore, I would pose a different perspective. Now it is no longer as overt and more insidious in their slights. Luckily for Lake, her friend Nick is there to support and defend if need be. Nick and Lake's undefined relationship status is amusing. They have been friends for so long and to rock the boat to become lovers is a big decision. I can see why they are hesitant. Just when I didn't think I could love Nick more, we learn about Nick's backstory. Oh.my.word. Just break my heart now. Nick's childhood isn't horrific in physical abuse. It is the emotional trauma he went through that just makes me want to wrap a protective blanket around him when he was young. And provide him the shelter to know that he exists, is seen, and is loved. People underestimate the devastating power of neglect. I like how Ms. Ryan doesn't create a bad guy Nick's scenario. There are reasons, but it still hurts.
I loved this romance story and how two friends become better friends and grow into lovers. This romance is highly recommended to readers who believe love conquers all.
* I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book.