Book Review, Coming Soon, Romance Review

Review: Cruel North by JB Salsbury

A teenage girl with my eyes and a familiar glare, strolls into my life and she’s calling me Dad.

Vanessa was my high school girlfriend and the smartest person I knew. She had a plan, a future, and she swore nothing would get in the way. Until she became pregnant. I thought we agreed on our plan. I sent her the money. Then she disappeared.

Her parents told me she was in South America for a year. They told me she needed space. I never heard from her again.

Seventeen years later and she’s back. I’m staring into those green eyes that used to tempt and taunt me. But it’s not just about us anymore. We have a daughter.

Wanting to get to know her, I convince them to move in with me for one month. I’m so angry with Vanessa and she seems to be equally upset. Every insult from her smart mouth invites me to engage. The brutal chemistry between us ignites old embers. I wish I could hate her. Instead, I want her.

But too much time has passed, and I fear some hurts run too deep to heal.
At the end of thirty days, I’ll have to let them go.
Unless I figure out a way to keep them.

Cruel North is an angsty second-chance, enemies to lovers romance where the most hated man in the North Brothers world finally gets brought to his knees.

We finally learn what made Hayes such a bitter angry man and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t blame him. The North brother you love to hate is way more likeable than we ever realized before now. When circumstances ripped his first love from him, Hayes didn’t handle the loss very well and he’s never fully recovered. It was even tougher on Vanessa but she’s a superhero for building a life with her daughter against all odds. I loved Vanessa and the way she stood up to Hayes like nobody else.

There’s so much emotion between these two and it starts with a lot of anger but as they work out their differences, they begin to see the other’s point of view. They don’t like that POV, but they understand it and that changes things. The more they open up, the more those emotions evolve. Neither one of them knows what to expect but they mesh perfectly now, just like they did as teens. And no matter how tough it might be to accept each other’s choices, they’re ideally matched, balancing one another perfectly. Sure, acting on their attraction is probably a bad idea but they can’t just ignore it after all these years.

This was a fun story to read. I adored the characters (even Hayes!) and while I don’t yet have teens myself, I’m familiar with them and the author did a superb job of creating teenagers. I didn’t dislike Haven, but she was a realistic balance of wanting to play adult while being as immature and bratty as a toddler at times. Her character was very real to me. I enjoyed the roller coaster of emotions here and especially loved the interaction Hayes has with his sister-in-law Jordan. She’s witty and always has a great burn for him, like “Yeah, is it true you can’t be in the same room as a Bible or you’ll burst into flames?” and – when she catches him crying in a rare tender moment – “I wasn’t aware demons had tears”.

I’m sad to see this series end but I loved the way it ended. Hayes and Vanessa got a great HEA and so did the rest of the gang. There’s a great glimpse into the future that wraps it up nicely for everyone. I received an ARC from Social Butterfly PR in exchange for an honest review.

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