Review: “Once Forbidden, Twice Shy” by Carrie Aarons

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Steam: 🔥🔥🔥

Release Date: September 23rd, 2022

Add to Goodreads | Amazon.in (Available on KU)

CW: mentions of male infertility, robbery and assault, panic attacks and anxiety, mentions of STDs and ​​chlamydia (past)

Running from your problems only brings you hurtling face first into even worse baggage.

After experiencing a brutal trauma in New York that I’d rather bury than address, escaping to a new job in London seems like the perfect solution. That was before I was introduced to my new boss, who is none other than my brother’s best friend. You know, the one I’ve been head-over-heels in love with forever.

Jack Merrick had been my crush since I knew what one was. For years we fought the feelings; I didn’t want to humiliate myself and his excuse was not betraying my brother or parents, who had accepted him as their own. Then, the night of my college graduation party, he undressed me in my childhood bedroom and confirmed that there was no one else on this earth for him but me.

When I woke the next morning he was gone, off to take a job as a coder halfway around the world. Four years and a mangled heart later, Jack is the last person I expect to see in London, and something close to fate is tricking me into thinking this is more than a coincidence. Our shared love of programming has always connected us, but now it’s the thing we’re weaponizing to get back at each other.

Until one night, when the emotional scars from my attack resurface and he’s the only one to witness a massive breakdown. He coaxes out my secrets and swears to love and protect me like he couldn’t before. But with everything stacked against us, I’m not sure we can ever have what we’ve always dreamed of.

Except just as we’re beginning to tackle those obstacles, I learn the truth of why he left all those years ago. And suddenly there may be no future for us at all.

 

There was so much to love about this book! And while it’s 100% a Carrie Aarons romance with all of the swoon and angst factors, I also love that this book was essentially Carrie’s love letter to the city of London. And as someone who has lived in London, this was a nostalgic trip back to the city I studied in. 

Once Forbidden, Twice Shy has:

✨ a second chance

✨ best friend’s little sister/brother’s best friend

✨ forbidden in the workplace

✨ banter, chemistry and sexual tension

✨ mutual pining

✨ he spends the whole book grovelling

✨ they work in tech!

✨ he’s her new boss

✨ all about London

“The only thing I see is you. In a room full of hundreds of people, I can’t look anywhere else. You’re my sun. You’re gravity. There is nothing else in my orbit.”

Books like these are why I love ‘brother’s best friend’ and ‘second chance’ so much. Taylor and Jack’s history is long and complicated and also pretty messy. There’s a whole lot of miscommunication and secrets and bad choices, but they’ve had four years apart to deal with it on their own. Except, being offered jobs with the same company in London (where he is now also her boss) really makes things even more stressful for both of them. Taylor’s trying to put space between her and Jack, while he’s just trying to get as close as possible. The pushing and pulling dragged on a little more than I would have liked, but feeling their struggles and the pain they were dealing with being around each other felt so real.

I definitely appreciated the conversation around male infertility, because it’s not often something that’s addressed in romances. We’re so used to hearing about women struggling to conceive or being infertile, that to see a man struggle with that and not having the choice to start a family was really great. And it hurt, because you could tell just how deeply Jack and Taylor’s love for each other and the desire to have it all together goes. Taylor’s got her own share of trauma that stops her from letting go and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what she went through. But I loved how they helped each other through their traumas by talking it out and dealing with it like adults.

“All of this strife and we’ve never even reaped the benefits.”

“I don’t just want the benefits, I want everything.” Jack is serious. 

So I tell him the truth. “Everything is all I’ve ever wanted with you.”

Carrie’s books always offer steamy scenes and I knew that with these two I was going to truly enjoy it. Between their pining and the sexual tension and frustrations building, it was bound to get hot in the bedroom. And it did, most definitely. I liked the intimate moments where they’re holding each other and talking about life and everything in between too. It’s clear that their relationship is so much more than just the physical stuff and I always enjoy watching the couple fall in love while also falling into bed together. 

However, the thing I did not like was the conflict. That really unsettled me and I think the story would have worked even without that. I won’t talk about it in detail, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I think that it could have been handled differently and less dramatically. I did definitely enjoy the way their relationship was introduced to Taylor’s family—since they are more prominent through the story and play a huge part in Jack’s life.

Thanks to Carrie Aarons for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

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