Book Review, Romance Review

Review: The Not-Outcast by Tijan

The Not-Outcast by Tijan
The Not-Outcast by Tijan

Cutler Ryder was everything I wasn’t.

He was the hockey star. I was an outcast.
He was best friends with my stepbrother, that same stepbrother who hated me.
His two parents loved him. My mom was a junkie. My dad barely knew me.

Years passed.
I got my life together.
Cut went onto NHL stardom.

Then there was a text.
I was drinking.
There was a party.
Cut was there…

I loved Cutler Ryder since the first moment I saw him.
The only problem? He never knew I existed.

This is my first Tijan so I wasn’t sure what to expect but holy hell does she hit it right out of the park. This is an amazing story about struggles most of us can’t even imagine and Cheyenne is one of my favorite characters ever. She’s so strong and determined in spite of all the obstacles in her life a truly inspirational character. Cheyenne’s life started out tough thanks to her mother’s drug use and the way it rewired her unborn brain. Being raised by an addict and getting dumped on the father who never knew she existed at age eleven only made her life harder, but she’s persevered.

Concentration is nearly impossible and she struggles at times to differentiate reality from the life she’s scripted inside of her mind, but she succeeds in spite of her cognitive issues so long as she takes her meds as scheduled and sticks to a rigid routine. The friends who will do anything for her and the job that means so much are her anchors, at least until Cut Ryder comes back into her life. She’s been in love with Cut since they were teens, but her stepbrother’s best friend doesn’t even know Cheyenne exists. Her mind is jumbled and she sees life through a different lens than most people so the sometimes frantic, often confused inner workings of Cheyenne give us a taste of her very existence.

Unlike the typical angst we see so often, this girl has real problems that won’t just disappear with a bit more self-confidence and the love of a good man so her story is so much more than just a romance. Her life has been so much heartbreak and rejection and just suffering. Nobody wanted this child, shuffling her from place to place while she suffered misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis and nobody has ever done right by her. It would be easy for her to turn her back on Cut because she’s been hurt by so many people but Cheyenne is too brave and strong to shut herself off from the world, no matter how painful it gets.

“Whatever struggles a person has, going forward, what is imperative is that they have love and support. Anyone can get through anything, or it can be less frightening, less suffering, if they have a hand in theirs.”

The struggles here are mostly internal as she learns to navigate a relationship with her dream guy while figuring out how to survive the spotlight of dating one of the NHL’s biggest stars. Cheyenne is relatable on so many levels and despite her extraordinary background, so real for a romance heroine. Cut is immediately likable also. I was braced for some alpha-hole attitude and banter but there was none. He was immediately drawn to Cheyenne and only wants to be what she needs.

I loved these two, separately and together, so I can’t relate to any criticism of this book. It’s a compelling story with great MC’s and a fun supporting cast so there’s nothing to criticize. Some bemoan the insta-love aspect of their story and while that’s normally a no for me, it works here. These two have a history, even if it’s an untraditional one, so a quick connection makes sense. Just because Cheyenne has issues doesn’t mean her every perception is wrong and I reject the notion that she simply imagined they were right for one another. She felt their connection years ago, probably more acutely than he did since she was so starved for affection.

It took ten years for the two to really meet but once they do, the rest is history. Cut’s captivated by her beauty but also feels the connection. No matter how far she tries to run, he chases her because he’s determined to show Cheyenne she’s worthy of love. He sees the vulnerability and only wants to take care of her, consequences be damned, even if it costs him his best friend. This is a story about being comfortable in your own skin, vindication and love and Tijan tells it so well. I highly recommend this book and will probably read it again.

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