Only When It’s Us
By Chloe Liese
Original Release Date: April 1, 2020
Revised Release Date: August 21, 2021
Book #1 in the Bergman Brothers series
Number of pages: 382
Ages 17 and up
CW: parent w/terminal cancer, parental death
**Revised and Expanded 2021 Edition**
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.
I don’t usually put revision dates in the stats I list for a book. I didn’t read the original publication of this story, but I have a feeling the revisions the author did make more of a difference than most book revisions after publication. It is noted in both a note before the story and in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. This book deals with a character who is late deafened and that, from the author’s notes, seems to be where most of the revisions took place. So I have a feeling that my review would be a bit different, and those of you who read an early version may think differently about the story, than what I’m going to talk about here. I point the dates out for that reason.
This is a new-to-me author. I read a review from another blogger about one of the other books in this series and it sounded interesting so I started from the top, as I’m wont to do. There is so much I liked about this story, and some things that irked me. The fire and connections the author was able to portray will definitely have me continuing the series.
I’m okay with a slow-burn romance, for the most part. I will say, I felt this one went on a bit long. Part of that may be my dislike of the “big lie” trope. While I didn’t feel this book really fit into that niche, it was adjacent enough to niggle at the back of my mind. In the beginning, Willa and Ryder don’t owe each other anything. They are in the same college course and are thrown together by their professor over and over. To use Willa’s description, they become frenemies. It is stated from the top that Willa has a very bad temper. It’s something she acknowledges and doesn’t necessarily love about herself, but she hasn’t yet learned to control her emotions in the moment. This gives Ryder pause about sharing certain things with her; from him starting to use his hearing aids to him finding out about her mom’s illness. Willa keeps a lot close to the vest in order to feel safe. The only person she feels totally safe with is her mom and she’s fine with that. But her mom is dying and she won’t have her around forever.
This couple is amazing together, if only they would open their eyes and see that. There are a lot of tough issues dealt with in this story, but there is also a lot of fun to be had. There are things about Willa and Ryder that the reader knows far before they know, and that may have also added to me feeling of the slow burn being too slow. I wanted at least one of the characters to know what I knew! But whenever the two were on the page together, there were fireworks. Even if they don’t touch the whole time. While I had the warm-fuzzies throughout, there are a couple of scenes that had a whole battalion of butterflies dancing in my stomach. None more than when the title of the book comes into play. A totally swoony moment for sure.
Willa is stubborn until the end. I had to work to not let that annoy me. If Ryder could be patient and understanding, so could I. It was worth the wait. I’m also appreciative of the author making counseling a recurring thing in this story. For Ryder and Willa both. People don’t just magically change their attitudes about deep seated problems because they fall in love, it takes time and work.
I can’t speak to the accuracy of representation of someone who is late deafened. I can only hope the author truly did as she stated in her comments and listened to those in the community that could teach her and give her feedback.