High October by Elena Graf

What was the book about?:
A former renowned surgeon and breast cancer expert, Liz Stolz has chosen to retire to the seaside in Maine and has taken over the family practice. One evening, she’s called back to the practice by one of her friends, the local theatre manager, to see one of his actors’ broken leg. Liz doesn’t recognize the woman at first but when she does, the surprise is huge. The actress is Maggie Fitzgerald, her first love, the woman who broke her heart forty years ago when, pressured by her family and social conventions, she left her to marry a man.

Featured Tropes: Second chance, small town, older characters, illness, mental health

Book Strengths:
All the characters are layered and complex, even the smallest ones. The best part is that the MCs are older (Liz is 58, Maggie is 60) and it’s a very important part of the story. They knew each other when they were college roommates, and the changes that happened in their bodies over forty years are cleverly addressed. I also enjoyed the atmosphere the author created. It’s melancholy and languid yet hopeful.

Book weaknesses: There’s a slight slump towards the end, but it goes back on track soon.

Character Chemistry: There’s something very special about chemistry in second chance romances, especially in one where the characters haven’t seen each other in forty years. They loved each other’s bodies as young adults, will they still find them beautiful as older women? Will there still be a passion? Elena Graf makes it clear from the start that the attraction is still there and probably still as strong but she doesn’t hide anything about ageing bodies. There’s a lot of back and forth before Liz and Maggie feel comfortable again with each other, trust each other, so when they finally have sex again, the love, as well as the lust, is palpable.

Heat Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

Wrap up:
I read a lot of romance novels, and while I love the sweet and idealistic ones, I also enjoy the more bittersweet stories like this one. The angst is real and doesn’t feel forced at all, not everything is going well. The story is on the realistic side. And yes, there’s a happy ending (it wouldn’t qualify as a romance otherwise), but the characters have to work for it.

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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