4 star book review for Tessa Ever After, Brighton Walsh’s latest a contemporary romance/new adult novel–now available at bookstores and retailers.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the defining features of a good novel is compelling characterization. Sure, we have to find the hero and heroine relatable, but it’s always a bonus when secondary characters add to the story in meaningful ways. Brighton Walsh is a dynamo at doing just this. We fall in love with her leading men and ladies, but then we also really like their family/friends! And isn’t it just perfect that Brighton is willing to explore those secondary stories?! Tessa Ever After is a sequel which follows the story of Cade’s younger sister and his best friend from Caged in Winter. Tessa is a well-written and sweet friends-to-lovers story. There’s genuine friendship, sexy romance, and dramatic elements, all of which are engaging and entertaining.
We begin with Tessa Maxwell, a single-mother and cosmetologist, and she’s having a tough day. Since her brother Cade moved to Chicago to pursue his culinary career, she’s been floundering. Tessa has had some difficulty getting into the groove of caring for her daughter Haley and balancing work responsibilities. Add to that her recent unsuccessful dating experiences, and Tessa is ready to kick up her feet and go into a long hibernation with ice cream and romcoms for company.
With that said, there’s still cause for joy. Haley is the light of Tessa’s life and the sweetest angel. Also, there’s Jason, her brother’s best friend. Thanks to Cade, Tessa has really been able to count on Jason for help with odds and ends. She’s known him practically forever, and while in the past Jason hasn’t been the embodiment of stability, something has started to shift. He’s always there when Tessa needs him, he’s fantastic with Haley, and there’s an undeniable attraction between them. But would Jason be willing to give up his playboy lifestyle to be with them? And more importantly, will Tessa let him?
I really liked Tessa in Caged in Winter. I loved how she encouraged Cade to pursue his dreams in terms of his career and Winter. And from her interactions with Winter, it was clear that Tessa was very protective of her brother’s feelings as well. Now, having the chance to get to know her even more, I adore her! I love that Tessa is determined to be a great mother (AND SHE IS) as well as have a successful career in something she loves. She’s also unashamed that she was a teen mom. Truth be told, Tessa has no reason to be…she made some mistakes, fell in love with the wrong guy, but in the end, having darling Haley was worth it. Tessa is also persistent; she believes in true love and even though she hasn’t found it yet, keeps trying. And who knew that her brother’s best friend, the player who she crushed on in high school, could end up being that guy?
Similarly, I liked Jason in the first novel. He was a bit flighty, but a good friend to Cade. And even then, it was clear that there might be something not so innocent about his flirting with Tessa. We come to learn that Jason’s caprice and slightly irresponsible nature is a response to his parents. The Montgomerys are NOT nice people and seem to be willing, time and time again, to put money and social status above family. This is quite contrary to Jason’s perspective. At the same time, it’s the commitment to family that keeps him from totally writing his parents off. However, the affection he doesn’t get from his family, Jason is able to get from his best friends…and now from Tessa and Haley. And goodness, Jason just dotes on those two! Sure he’s had his share of frivolous hookups, but this is different:
She’s scared she’s going to be just like any other girl for me, that this won’t be different. I’m scared of it too. But that I remember I could have a dozen different girls if I wanted to. Ones I could call up and they’d be on me in the blink of an eye. Instead, I’ve spent my time dressing up in hats and feather boas just to make a little girl smile. I’ve spent a Saturday curled up in bed, then freezing my balls off for the sole purpose of hearing Haley laugh. I’ve spent all my time lately getting closer to the two girls who’ve come to mean the world to me, and because of that, I’m certain this is different.
So, with this assurance, Tessa begins to let go and fall head over heels. When these two get together, things get HOT HOT HOT:
I groan as the soft, warm wetness of her mouth surrounds my finger, pumping my hips into her faster, harder, not able to control myself anymore. Pulling my finger from her mouth, I trail it down her chest to her exposed breast, swirling the wetness around her nipple, and smile when she moans, her eyes fluttering closed, her pussy pulsing around me…
…Tessa’s always been beautiful…but now? Here tonight, when she’s laid out in front of me, her mouth open on gasps from feeling me inside her, her eyes locked on me as I push her exactly where she needs to go? It’s too much, and when she lets out a choked gasp, her eyes rolling back in her head as she comes around me, I let go and fall with her.
And Tessa feels the same way! This connection between them is unlike anything she’s felt before, easy, exhilarating, reassuring. But can she count on Jason for the long-term?
It certainly doesn’t help to have her brother bad-mouthing her decision to be with Jason from the get-go. It’s so interesting because I loved Cade in Caged in Winter, but there are several times in this book that I want to junkpunch him! He says some terrible things about Jason AND Tessa’s judgement, and his comments don’t help inspire confidence in the new relationship. Oddly enough, these same doubts and a desire to protect Tessa and Hayley (even from himself) lead Jason second-guess his place in their lives.
No spoilers, but the drama and tiny bit of angst do give way to a lovely HEA 🙂
Also, speaking of secondary characters, I really like Tessa’s best friend Paige. She’s hilarious and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is…might we be seeing her again soon?
If I’m to offer any critique, I’d say I’m a bit disappointed in the unidimensionality of Jason’s parents. They seem overly mean-spirited and money-obsessed for the sake of being so. This is particularly curious in the case of Jason’s father since Jason’s granddad is/was nothing like that. It would have been interesting to get more clarification on why the Montgomerys are so willing to sacrifice their own genuine happiness and that of their son for the sake of money.
Overall, I recommend Tessa to those who enjoy contemporary, new adult romance, sassy leading ladies, and dirty-talking, reformed players who leave those ways behind for true love and family…well, not the dirty-talk, because *UNF*
It’s the perfect summer read!
Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing a review copy.