5 star book review for An Ounce of Hope, the latest novel in Sophie Jackson’s contemporary romance A Pound of Flesh series! Also, enter to win one of two paperbacks up for grabs.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There’s no better way to start off the New Year than with a good book, and friends, An Ounce of Hope, Sophie Jackson’s latest novel, is a GREAT one. I’ve been a Sophie-fangirl for a while, yet each additional story solidifies the special place she holds in my heart and on my bookshelf! Once again, Sophie has created a engaging piece of work that embodies the power of love and forgiveness, especially when it comes to oneself.
We meet Max O’Hare as he’s struggling to reclaim his life. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that losing his parents, combined with the breakdown of his engagement (after losing his infant son) has driven Max to seek relief from cocaine, alcohol, excessive partying, and risky living. After reaching rock bottom (which includes holding his best friend Wes Carter at gunpoint and several OD scares), Max is finally in rehab.
Though he’s overwhelmed by the medication, multiple therapy sessions, and on-going night terrors/panic attacks, Max is taking things one day at a time. With support from his doctor (Elliot), sponsor (Tate), and best friends Carter and Riley, Max is able to focus on his well-being. However, it isn’t until he reconnects with family friends in Preston County, West Virginia that he feels like he’s really on the path to recovery. Max works for his Uncle’s construction company, rediscovers his love of painting, and spends quite a bit of time outdoors. Interestingly, this new life puts him in direct contact with Grace Brooks.
Grace is also a newcomer to Preston County. She just escaped a really bad (potentially deadly) situation and is searching for happiness. Like Max, Grace enjoys running and has an artistic side (photography). With a little coaxing, Max and Grace explore their mutual attraction, ultimately beginning a friends-with-benefits relationship. Though they both agree to a no-strings-attached arrangement, Max and Grace quickly realize that their feelings are heavily involved and growing. However will ever emerging demons from their past prevent them from pursuing more?
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I completely despised Max in A Pound of Flesh. In that book, I saw him as an anchor weighing Carter down and preventing him from finding true happiness with Kat. Sophie made it pretty clear early on that Max would be the subject of the sequel novel, and in all honesty, I didn’t think I would find Max sympathetic enough to be a compelling leading man. Of course, I should have known better because I fell in love with Max pretty early on.
Truly, his character development is a testament to Sophie’s sensational storytelling. Because contrary to first impressions, Max is a good man. At it’s core, Max’s journey represents the best and worst of our human experiences—our struggles, frailties, and failures, and also our drive to overcome obstacles, to get back up when life has knocked us down and our attempts to carve out peace and happiness wherever we can find it.
Max faces many challenges, but from the beginning, I’m hoping and wishing that he’ll be able to fight through it. I love watching Max come into his own and begin to realize that he’s worthy.
Ms. Grace Brooks plays a critical role in Max’s journey, which makes me love her all the more. Given Grace’s past, she should be angry and jaded, but this couldn’t be furthest from the truth. She is lovely in the purest sense of the word, filled with hope and optimism, and determined to reach out and savor life. At the same time, Grace knows who she is. She knows her heart and mind, and as such, is able to accept others exactly for who they are. This is definitely the case when it comes to Max.
Watching Max and Grace’s relationship develop is one of the highlights of this book, and there’s some excellent banter between them!
And when their friendship takes a sexual turn, things get HOT HOT HOT:
“You’re so soft.” He shifted closer, their knees touched, and his fingers skimmed the underneath of her bra, sending Grace’s lungs into a frenzy.
“I love your hands on me,” she breather, because it was the truth, because she needed him to know, because she’d die if he took them away.
“Show me more,” he murmured, looking at her through his long black lashes. “It’s just us. Be brave with me. Let me see you.”
“He watched her unfurl before him, her timid quiet exterior crashing around them in the bed, revealing a tigress, a sexual creature incapable of being anything but wild and wanton. She was a fucking vision. She rode him and pulled from him every ounce of exquisite feeling he thought himself able to possess…”
And every time Max calls her “Gracie” my heart flutters and my toes curl 🙂
But, since Max is focussed on recovery and certain that he can never love again, can his arrangement with Grace be more than sex?
No spoilers, but the HEA we get isn’t a typical one. There aren’t necessarily flowers, rainbows, and excessive declarations… but there is love and the hope of more.
It’s also really important to me that I acknowledge what I see as an important aspect of the story.
Grace is a (biracial) woman of color, though, unless you’re paying close attention, you could miss this detail. As a Black woman, it’s so refreshing to be able to see a part of myself in a leading character. Even more impressive, Sophie portrays Grace and her interracial relationship with Max exactly as what it is: a part of our new normal. We live in a world that is increasingly diverse and I applaud Sophie for her contribution to bringing that diversity into our contemporary romance books. In a genre that can be homogenous, Sophie has given us a novel that is inclusive of our real and varied experiences. BRAVA!
In addition, Sophie has also given us awesome secondary characters—some old, and some really great new ones!
I love seeing Wes and Kat as they plan their wedding, and all the accompanying frustrations. With that said, these two are more in love than ever before. I wish we could see a little more of the wedding (and honeymoon 😉 ), but I know the upcoming Wes/Kat novella Fate and Forever is right around the corner. So I’ll endeavor to be patient.
I also thoroughly enjoy the beautiful Wes/Max bromance is beautiful. Plus, there is a heart-to-heart moment between Max and Kat that is so, so perfect.
Finally, Riley and Tate Moore OWN me, and their love of fandom is MY love of fandom! I’m totally ready to meet the other Moore brothers and their family.
In particular, after an interesting moment between Riley and Max, I’m super curious about Riley and the love he lost…
An Ounce of Hope is now out, and I highly recommend this for fans of contemporary romance/erotica, bad boys seeking redemption, and the fierce ladies who love them.
Add it on Goodreads today and get to reading!
Thanks to Sophie and Gallery Books, we’re giving away TWO paperback copies of An Ounce of Hope on Twitter, so go HERE to enter (U.S. residents only). For a BONUS entry, add An Ounce of Hope to your TBR list on Goodreads and in comments below link us to your Goodreads “to read” list. Make sure to also include your Twitter handle or the bonus entry won’t count!
***Update (1/11/2016): This giveaway is closed and the winners have been announced.
Many thanks to the author and publisher for an advance copy.