Well, this was a nice surprise. I’ve been breezing through romance novels lately because I’ve been in mood for them. I found out about Anything But Broken when the writing duo (Donna Herren and Bree Bridges) behind the pen name Joelle Knox was a guest at The Locker Room Facebook group. I saw some snippets that they posted and was intrigued. Tried a few chapters of the book and I was hooked.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
After five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family. She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.
Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business. But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track. He doesn’t know how to lose – or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.
Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together. And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl. As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits – or go up in flames.
At first I was wary of the premise because I thought it would be more than a little awkward that Sean used to date Hannah’s sister Cait. But I didn’t have to worry because it actually worked in their favor. It’s been years since Cait suddenly passes away but she’s still mourned and remembered by her sister and her ex-boyfriend. Hannah has always had a bit of crush on Sean even though she recognized that he was with Cait. While Sean feels responsible for Hannah because she’s Cait’s younger sister. That’s initially how they see each other but of course, that changed pretty quickly. Sparks fly the moment they reconnect. They both know it’s a bad idea for them to get involved, but they also recognize the chemistry between them. So they start slow. Hannah’s family is pretty messed up and she has a lot to deal with. Sean is the calm within the storm of her life. He keeps her steady and lets her lean on him. He may seem like a bad boy on the surface because he races cars and works in a garage. But then again, he owns that garage and he’s such a good driver that he’s always in control whenever he races. I really enjoyed Hannah and Sean’s interactions and while I wouldn’t exactly call their romance slow burn, I wouldn’t call it instalove either. Here’s a non-spoilery snippet:
“I reach up, letting my hand hover for a second before I give in and brush my fingertip across the crooked bridge of his nose. He races cars and gets in fights and takes girls on romantic dates when he knows better.
And when I’m touching him, my life isn’t spinning out of control. When I’m touching him, the world might be spinning, but I’m here, in the moment, in my own skin, and that’s what I need more than anything.”
And it’s descriptions like this that convinced me that it makes sense for Hannah and Sean to be together. When Hannah comes back home, she really doesn’t have anyone to help her. Aside from Sean, she also rekindles an old friendship with her middle grade best friend Evie. I really liked that Evie and Sean’s best friend Gibb are both a big part of the story. It was nice that Hannah found a good friend in Evie because she really deserves to have every little bit of happiness that she can find. Sean and Gibb have had each other’s back for years, and I really enjoyed seeing their strong friendship all throughout the story. I also really enjoyed the scenes that had Sean’s loving family in them. His warm and affectionate relationship with them provided a nice contrast to Hannah’s dysfunctional family. The small town setting also worked well for the story. As you can see from the premise, I wouldn’t really describe Anything But Broken as a light and fun read. There is definitely drama in there, because of what Hannah is going through and also because of certain events that happened in the past. But to me, it never felt like there was unnecessary angst. The writing is the kind that makes you feel and ache for the characters. I really just wanted things to work out for both Hannah and Sean. Anything But Broken kept me absorbed until the end. I stayed up late to finish reading it. I will definitely watch out for the next Hurricane Creek novel, which will be featuring Evie and Gibb. Recommended for new adult fans, like readers who have enjoyed Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years series or Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series.