Act Like You Love Me - Cindi Madsen 3/3.5 stars

Solid, angsty read with no surprises.

Full review

Once again, my favorite trope called to me and prompted me to read Act Like You Love Me. This is actually a tough book for me to rate, because there is a lot about it to like. I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and, yes, as I already mentioned, the second chance at love trope. What knocked it down a few pegs? Not enough physical contact, and that’s the bottom line. This is a sweet, gentle story about finally embracing who you are, and accepting all of the oddities that make you unique. After reading so many Brazen titles in the last few weeks, this one fell flat in the chemistry department, and the sexual tension earned only a low rating on the thermometer. While it’s nice to have the protagonists engage in conversation before ripping their clothes off, the lack of pay-off was disappointing. Sawyer is the most restrained male I’ve met in romance in a long time, and while I appreciate that he’s a gentleman, I like a little more rough and tumble (or at least a good wrestle on the couch) type of guy.

Brynn is a character I was immediately drawn to. She was a nerd in school, uncomfortable with herself and awkward, and the target of jokes from her peers. She has fought long and hard to move beyond her dork persona, and is finally happy with her life and herself. She works at the family fishing and bait shop, acts in local stage productions, and finally feels comfortable in her own skin. Sure, she’s still a bit of an oddball, and her unrestrained passion for plays and literature has chased off every guy she’s dated, but big whoop! She’ll eventually meet the man of her dreams. She hopes.

Into town strolls Sawyer, the guy she had a crush on in high school. He is helping out his aunt by agreeing to direct the play that Brynn is acting in. It’s a nightmare come true for her. He first sees her while she’s struggling to change her shirt in her car, giving him a flash of skin and bra. How embarrassing! It’s like high school all over again. She’s still trying to get over the most embarrassing moment of her life, when she had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in front of the entire school! More grating, though, is that Sawyer doesn’t even recognize her. She had a crush on him forever, and he doesn’t even remember her! Talk about a major blow to her ego. He doesn’t even remember her asking him to the prom! Jerk!

Sawyer is dealing with two major issues. First, he is still reeling from his father’s illness and eventual death when he was in high school. Second, he is still trying to recover from a bad breakup with an actress in NY, and when he sees Brynn, all he can think is that she’s a carbon copy of his ex; self-absorbed, only interested in herself. He makes so many false assumptions about her that I really wanted to slap him. He is so self-righteous, he knows that he has to be right. I guess he is carrying around so much emotional baggage that he can’t see around all of those weighty issues.

When Brynn follows some questionable dating advice from her brother, things get even more out of hand. Instead of just being herself, she puts her acting skills to work and pretends to be someone else. Someone less..overwhelming, I guess the word would be. Then, before she realizes what’s happening, she is spinning so many half truths and outright falsehoods that she doesn’t know how to come clean with Sawyer. She knows that she’s misjudged him and that she’s falling for him, but she doesn’t know how to explain the misperceptions that she’s allowed to continue and hasn’t bothered to correct because at first she just wanted him gone. Oops! There is this sense of dread through most of the book, because you know that Sawyer isn’t going to take it well when he learns that he’s been deceived, whether intentionally or not.

This is a quick read with both angst and humor, and the only thing holding it back for me was the lack of spice. The heat level is non-existent, even for a Bliss book. As stated previously, I just prefer a jalapeño or a habanero to a mild green chili pepper, both in my cooking and in my reading. Your mileage will vary.

Grade: B-/C+