Rating: 4.5 stars
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Jaren’s life hasn’t been easy, but he finally thinks he has it all: a well-paying job, a fiancé he loves and can’t wait to marry, and his foster brothers at his side. But the night before the wedding, it all crashes down when his fiancé’s brother, Reid, shows up to say that his sister doesn’t want to marry Jaren. Jaren is lost in that moment. Even though it’s unfair to blame Reid, since he’s just delivering the message, Jaren can help it. He’s now not getting married, he doesn’t have a home, he’s out the money he put into the wedding, and he doesn’t have a job since he worked for his fiancé’s father’s firm. Plus, he knows that Reid doesn’t like him to begin with, since Reid has gone out of his way to avoid Jaren for years.
Reid is just as upset with his sister as Jaren is. Not only for how she treated Jaren, and for making Reid the messenger, but because he’s been in love with Jaren for years and he hates to see Jaren hurt. When Reid learns just how bad the situation is for Jaren, he offers Jaren a place in his home. He has the space and he just wants to take care of Jaren. Surprising them both, Jaren takes Reid up on his offer. Jaren has a few rocky days as he gets past the hurt of being left at the altar. But Reid is kind and supportive, and Jaren begins to realize things about himself.
Jaren has always tried to be perfect. If he’s perfect, then people will love him. But as a result, he doesn’t really know himself. Reid encourages Jaren to take the time to figure out who he is and explore the things he wants. And though Reid does his best to keep his own feelings for Jaren under wraps, it’s not easy. The closer they get, the more mixed signals Reid gets. Jaren’s straight, or at least mostly, and there’s no way the man could want him. But during a late night conversation, Reid takes a leap and confesses his feelings.
Jaren is confused about his own feelings and desires, but he really appreciates Reid’s honesty. He asks for time to figure out what he feels, and Reid gives it to him. Talking with his brothers helps, and Jaren knows what kind of man Reid is. Time and conversation lead to exploration. Though they take the physical side of things slowly, Jaren falls hard. These two men never thought they’d end up in love, but Jaren getting left at the altar is the best thing to happen to them both.
Jilted: Jaren is the first book in a new series by Nora Phoenix about four foster brothers who banded together at a young age and are closer than blood. Jaren seemed to be the straight one out of the bunch, though he admits that he doesn’t think anyone is truly 100% straight. He’s admired men before, but he’s never wanted to act on it, never felt any real sexual attraction. But Reid is different, and that’s built from their friendship first. Once Jaren is allowed the time to truly be himself, to figure out what he wants out of life, he learns to be more comfortable in his own skin. And as he’s doing that, he’s able to recognize his attraction to Reid and begin to explore it.
Though there are some heavier moments in this book, the story as a whole is relatively low angst. The thing I appreciated the most is the amount of communication that went on, between Jaren and Reid in particular, but with all the secondary characters as well. Even Jaren and his fiancé, Bridget, get their moment to hash things out and be honest with each other. There was very little blame here, and no one is a bad guy, which fit so well with this story.
This book is a slow burn in regards to the romance, and it worked perfectly with these MCs. There’s chemistry to be sure, and it builds naturally as the story progresses. Reid is big hearted and sweet, and he wants nothing more than for Jaren to be happy. He really wants that to be them together, but he doesn’t push, and he would accept whatever conclusion Jaren reaches. When they finally get to the physical side of things, the heat is explosive. Jaren is, understandably, cautious and thoughtful about expressing his emotions. Reid, on the other hand, wears them on his sleeve.
Jaren has had a difficult life for a lot of reasons and, up until now, the only people he could ever truly count on and fully trust were his brothers, Hadley, Nordin, and Lagan. This book is about Jaren letting down his walls and letting Reid in. But even more than that, it is about him stepping into the world as the most authentic version of himself, letting go of the masks he’s kept in place to protect himself, and figuring out who he is instead of who he thinks he should be. I was rooting for Jaren every step of the way.
As much as I liked all the characters and the base storyline, and as much as I love low angst stories, this one had some moments where things were resolved a little too easily. While that’s not always a bad thing, it left me wanting to see certain aspects explored more in depth. Reid was just a little too good to be true. While part of me loved the easiness in this story, another part was looking for a little more oomph with certain plot points.
But that being said, I thought this was a great start to the series. Phoenix laid down some teasers for what’s to come, added in some clues about relationships that will be more fully realized as the series goes on, and did it all without it overshadowing this story. I enjoyed this book, and I’m definitely looking forward to what is coming next.