Series: Bergman Brothers #1
Prepare for an emotional rollercoaster brimming with laughter, tears, and slow-burn sexiness in this new adult romance that tackles the vulnerability of love with humor and heart.
Ever since she sat next to me in class and gave me death eyes, Willa Sutter’s been on my shit list. Why she hates me, I don't know. What I do know is that Willa is the kind of chaos I don’t need in my tidy life. She’s the next generation of women’s soccer. Wild hair, wilder eyes. Bee-stung lips that should be illegal. And a temper that makes the devil seem friendly.
She’s a thorn in my side, a menacing, cantankerous, pain-in-the-ass who’s turned our Business Mathematics course into a goddamn gladiator arena. I'll leave this war zone unscathed, coming out on top…And if I have my way with that crazy-haired, ball-busting hellion, that will be in more than one sense of the word.
Rather than give me the lecture notes I missed like every other instructor I’ve had, my asshole professor tells me to get them from the silent, surly flannel-wearing mountain man sitting next to me in class. Well, I tried. And what did I get from Ryder Bergman? Ignored. What a complete lumbersexual neanderthal. Mangy beard and mangier hair. Frayed ball cap that hides his eyes. And a stubborn refusal to acknowledge my existence.
I’ve battled men before, but with Ryder, it's war. I’ll get those notes and crack that Sasquatch nut if it’s the last thing I do, then I’ll have him at my mercy. Victory will have never tasted so sweet.
Only When It’s Us is a frenemies-to-lovers, college sports romance about a women’s soccer star and her surly lumberjack lookalike classmate, complete with a matchmaking professor, juvenile pranks, and a smoking slow burn. This standalone is the first in a series of new novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after.
CW: Cancer, bereavement, ableism.
There is so much I like about this Chloe Liese series – I recommend you read it. I first read this book with my KU subscription and it has become part of my permanent collection and a constant reread.
This book is a first person, dual POV book which features my favourite two tropes; enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity romance.
Willa and Ryder’s relationship begins badly, as each of them think the other is rude due to a misunderstanding around Ryder’s deafness (she thinks he ignores her when she asks for help and subsequently behaves badly towards him in any following meetings). When Ryder’s brother-in-law, who happens to be their college professor, makes them work together for a project, they have no choice to communicate and act civilly. Sparks start to fly, but neither of these two trusts easily – the road to true love really does not run smooth in their case.
This story is about trust. Both characters have trauma, relying solely on themselves when they meet. Neither wants to trust each other with their secrets and communication issues mar their relationship throughout this book. I wanted to give them each a shake at random points and get them to open to each other, but I also got it; it is hard to trust anyone else when life does nothing but kick you in the ass.
I want to close my eyes and feel the memory of the moment only when it’s us became only us, forever.”
Ryder lost his hearing, and his childhood dream, after a particularly bad bacterial infection. He also lost his ability to communicate easily as his voice was a constant reminder of all that he had lost. He was so socially isolated that he comes across as grumpy to the outsider, but he was lovely beyond belief (so many examples). He isolated himself, hiding away from even his family, until Willa storms her way into his life. He does not know what to do with her, fighting against his emotions to keep her at arm’s length. She doesn’t make it easy, pushing and pushing against his walls. He cannot help but care for her, but he cannot trust her with his secrets, especially when he knows that she is keeping hers. His character arc is not so much that he changes; he heals. He becomes less angry, less closed off, less isolated. He is a cinnamon roll hero hidden under multiple layers of trauma.
Willa is a football star. Barely passing her college course because, between her football career and her mum’s illness, she does not have the time and she cannot believe it when the professor pairs her up with Ryder in class. And then she realises that he is not rude; he did not hear her that day which shames her. As time passes, she realises what a good man he is but still, she does not trust him with her secrets. And she knows he does not trust her with his. I think I found Willa far harder to like than Ryder, but I understood that; her trauma was ongoing. The scenes with her mum were truly heart-wrenching and I got why she would want her burgeoning relationship to be separate from that. I just did not know how they could work with so many secrets between them.
This book, like the series, is centred in family. Both two characters have seemingly strong relationships with their families on the surface however although they were physically close, they seem to be holding themselves slightly apart from them too.
This book is lovely, but it is also heart-breaking. It is about loss and healing in equal parts – I enjoyed it immensely.