Ginger Holtzman has worked hard to be a respected tattoo artist, as well as a small business owner. It is not easy being a woman in the industry, let alone owning her own shop. But Ginger has long ago decided that she will live life on her own terms, even if she doesn’t meet others’ expectations for what she should do or be. Still, between running her shop and preparing for her art show, Ginger is stretched thin and exhausted. She is also lonely after her best friend, Daniel, moved away. But Ginger is determined to continue to be independent and make her way without relying on anyone else.
When Ginger meets coffee store owner Christopher Lucen, she definitely finds the man gorgeous, as well as being drawn to his kind and generous nature. Christopher’s sunny outlook on life is one that is at times foreign to Ginger after constantly fighting so hard against other people’s expectations. But she can’t deny the attraction she feels to the sexy redhead, or how calm and centered Christopher helps her to feel.
Even as they tentatively begin dating, Ginger’s instincts scream that someone like Christopher could never want her long term, and even if he did, that she just isn’t cut out for a relationship. Slowly she realizes that Christopher likes her just as she is, that he accepts that she isn’t the easiest person to deal with, and that he truly cares for her. But Ginger still struggles, worrying that she will lose her hard won independence if things get too serious. The more time the two spend together, the harder they are falling for one another. Now Ginger needs to trust in what she and Christopher have built, and recognize that rather than taking away her independence, the love they share can help make her stronger.
Small Change is the first book in Roan Parrish’s new Small Change series, which will feature both m/f and m/m romances. It is also a spin off story from Parrish’s amazing Middle of Somewhere series, and we first met Ginger in the wonderful In the Middle of Somewhere, a book I totally adore and have both read and listened to in audio multiple times. I completely loved Ginger in that book, which features her best friend Daniel’s developing relationship with Rex. We also get little snippets about her relationship with Christopher in that story, so I was excited to hear that Ginger was getting her own book.
While you could easily read this story as a standalone, I found it to be enriched by knowing Daniel’s story and details about their friendship from In the Middle of Somewhere. The timelines track pretty closely, with this book starting about a month after Daniel moved to Michigan. Knowing their relationship helps to both get how alone Ginger feels after Daniel moves, and also to understand Ginger better, as the two share a lot of similar emotional issues about being independent and fearing vulnerability. We also get some nice moments where the books connect scenes, like when Daniel comes home for Chanukah, or when Ginger talks to Rex on the phone for the first time, which is really fun after seeing those events from other POVs in the first book. So like I said, this works alone completely, and I assume the two series will continue to diverge as this one progresses, but for fans of the other series, it definitely adds to this story.
So like I said, I was thrilled to get to read Ginger’s story as I fell in love with her in the other book. Parrish does a great job keeping her consistent with the woman we met there, but also really developing her character so we can understand what drives Ginger. We already knew how judgmental her mother and sister are, and how she has always been made to feel like she is not good enough, not pretty enough, or not meeting up with their expectations for how she should look and behave. On top of that, she works in a male-dominated industry where women are often given little respect and have to fight for their place. So we can see how Ginger has reacted to that, for both the good and the bad. It has made her strong and confident, determined to get what she wants and not willing to take crap from anyone. She has a great sense of self and she remains true to who she is, even when faced with those who disapprove. At the same time, Ginger has almost gotten stuck in that any element of vulnerability or any sense that she is accommodating someone else almost feels like a failure to her. So as much as she is falling for Christopher, she doubts herself so much and she has a hard time not getting so caught up in her own head that she doesn’t allow herself to have what she truly wants.
While this book definitely feels like Ginger’s story, that is not to say that Christopher doesn’t shine here as well. First off, you can’t help but adore him; Christopher is so kind, sweet, sexy, and easy going that he is impossible not to like. Christopher is a guy who genuinely cares about other people’s happiness, who enjoys talking to his customers and interacting, and who has a generally sunny outlook on life, so different from Ginger. So I liked the opposites attract vibe here as these two are so clearly quite different. But I loved that Christopher isn’t a pushover or a Pollyanna either. He is strong and confident in his own right. He is willing to give Ginger the space and independence she needs, but he also stands up for himself when he needs to. Christopher has his own family troubles, specifically his brother who struggles with depression. And so he understand Ginger a lot more than she might expect. I just loved the story of them together. They are super sexy, quirky, and fun. Ginger has a playful irreverence that Christopher totally gets, and so I found myself smiling often at them as they interacted. It think Parrish does a great job here showing the conflicts, but also highlighting how well these two fit together.
My regular readers know that we don’t review much cis-gendered male/female romance here. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read this book. Like I said, I loved Ginger in In the Middle of Somewhere and was eager to see her story. And I was so thrilled with this one, I loved every minute of it and finished with a big old book hangover. These characters were fascinating and so well developed. Parrish manages to perfectly balance the romance and the conflict, and I was totally drawn into their story. I know not all of our regulars read a lot of male/female romance, but I highly encourage you to give this one a try. It is a wonderful story and one that kept me engaged from the very start and sad to see it end.