Review: “What If You & Me” by Roni Loren

Series: Say Everything, #2

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Steam: 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Release Date: July 6th, 2021

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The world can be a scary place. At least, that’s what Andi Lockley’s anxiety wants her to believe. It doesn’t help that she narrowly escaped a dangerous man years ago, or that every relationship since has been colored with that lingering fear. But things are better now―she’s channeling everything into her career as a horror novelist and true crime podcaster, and her next book may be the breakthrough she needs.

If only her grumpy new neighbor would stop stomping around at all hours of the night.

Former firefighter Hill Dawson can’t sleep. After losing part of his leg in a rescue gone wrong, he’s now stuck in limbo. He needs to figure out what he’s supposed to do with his life, and he can’t let himself get distracted by the pretty redhead next door. But when someone breaks into Andi’s place, Hill can’t stop himself from rushing in to play the hero. Soon, a tentative bond forms between the unlikely pair. But what starts out as a neighborly exchange quickly turns into the chance for so much more…if Andi can learn to put aside her fear and trust in herself―and love―again.

CW/TW: character with generalized anxiety disorder, character with depression, PTSD and a physical disability, assault and emotional abuse

After I fell in love with Hollyn and Jasper in Yes & I Love You, I was so excited to know that Andi was getting her own book. And I was also so nervous because what if I didn’t love Andi’s story as much as Hollyn’s? And then I read this book and I have to say that I am even more in love with Andi than I thought possible. And when you combine Andi with her grumpy (werewolf) hero, Hill – it’s absolute magic.

“He closed his eyes and absorbed the exclamation points in her voice. Her unchecked enthusiasm was like inhaling a warm spring breeze after a long winter. He loved her utter lack of self-consciousness about how she was feeling.”

Andi Lockley is Hollyn’s best friend and also the woman who truly helped her get comfortable with people. Andi is a best-selling author of horror and thriller novels, she’s also the host of a true crime podcast and she’s a strong female lead who is dealing with her anxiety and past one step at a time. Andi is such a wonderful character and after all the trauma that she’s gone through, it’s so empowering to see her take those steps forward to get away from a life she no longer wants anything to do with. Andi is vibrant and full of life, but she’s also got her demons and she doesn’t let anybody see them. She keeps them locked away, because it’s easier to just be with people without letting them see all of you. 

“This guy could be cast in a movie as lead werewolf. Scruffy and muscular in his navy-blue T-shirt and gray sweats. He was one full moon away from howling and ripping off that well-fitting shirt.”

And then there’s Hill Dawson. Sexy, older, retired firefighter Hill Dawson. Andi refers to him as a werewolf because he’s tall and imposing and has a gorgeous beard. Hill is a grumpy werewolf, but he’s also a cinnamon roll and that is literally my favourite combination for a hero. After an accident during a fire, Hill lost a portion of his leg and had to leave the firefighting job behind. But now with a prosthetic in place, he lives a quiet life and doesn’t really enjoy having people poke around in his life. Unlike Andi, Hill is definitely a broody, grumpy werewolf and he likes his own routines and habits. And with the PTSD keeping him up at night and frustrations with his ex lingering, Hill isn’t always the most pleasant person to be around. 

But none of that stops Andi.

These two…Andi and Hill are the epitome of grumpy x sunshine and I loved it so much! Their entire relationship was so perfect. I should tell you that is the slowest of slow burns, but it’s perfect and it will have you panting for more all the damn time. They start out with the most unlikely friendship and I love how both of them drop their walls a little at a time. For Andi, being alone with a man can be traumatic and for Hill, letting someone into his life is hard. But together, they find the balance. And they somehow manage to make it work. There’s so much to love about their slow burn relationship, but let’s start with Andi introducing Hill to horror movies and as an expert, she’s not going to toss him into the deep end. Then Hill teaches Andi how to cook and they combine movie nights with cooking nights and it’s all kinds of perfect, really.

“My body just…really appreciates you. On a survey, it would give you five out of five stars.”

I’d also like to point out that there’s cooking scene that is funny, punny and truly quite erotic. That’s the kind of chemistry these two have, that they can turn almost anything into something sexy.

Because of their respective traumas – please be very aware that there’s a lot of hard topics that the book tackles, some of it could be triggering – Andi and Hill aren’t letting the other into their lives. And because it’s a deliciously slow burn, you fall in love with these characters as they fall in love with each other. Every step forward is so beautifully explained and I love how Roni Loren took care and patience to make sure that it wasn’t just a passing comment. Their trauma is real and their struggles to overcome those things are hard. But Hill and Andi want to help each other, they want to go beyond just being friends and in order to cross that line, they both need to accept things that they might not enjoy.

“Horror and true crime gave her an outlet to process her anxiety in a safe way.”

While not as hot and steamy as Yes & I Love You, Andi and Hill’s relationship is hot in its own way. Their connection, the sexual tension and all of the build up is really what gets you going. Their relationship is emotional as much as it is physical and that’s something that you don’t always get a lot of in romance. It’s what I really loved about their story too. Hill and Andi don’t shy away from expressing how the other makes them feel – Hill compliments Andi on her smarts, her beauty, her wit and her general being all the time and it’s so comforting. And he’s not doing it just to make Andi feel happy or calm her down, he’s genuinely attracted to her. And the same goes for Andi, she loves to call Hill a werewolf and she doesn’t hold back when it comes to talking about how sexy and big and attractive he is. I need more characters gushing about each other all the time.

Truly, Andi and Hill’s story is one that I think everyone needs in their lives. It’s hard at times, to process the truths of their lives. But it’s also so beautiful to see that no matter what you’re going through or your struggles, you deserve to be loved in every way. And like the first book in the series, Roni Loren tackles these topics with so much care and she gives these characters solutions and a chance to heal. I want and need more Andi and Hill, so whoever the next book is about (please be Eliza!) I want a lot more of them.

Thanks to Roni Loren, Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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