He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…
Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.
Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.
An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past…and step into a future together.
I read this book very slowly, not because it was bad, but because I was at a point where I would have read any book slowly. That being said, I think I liked this book more than Hate to Want You, which is the book that precedes this one. More of the collective family drama unfolds in Wrong to Need You, which I will not spoil for you. I enjoyed getting to know Jackson and Sadia better, and seeing their perspectives on stuff was interesting. I’d like to note that mental health comes up a lot in the book, hence it comes up in this review. Sadia’s connections to her family and her anxieties played a substantial role in her character, but so did other aspects; the same can be said of Jackson, in different ways.
Sadia comes from a large family. Her older sisters and parents are successful—traditionally speaking—and so she feels a lot of pressure to do well, and that she isn’t living up to their expectations. She doesn’t have a college degree, the café she’s running after her husband’s death isn’t doing well, and because she’s working so much at the café, she’s had to ask for help taking care of her son. And even before her husband died, Sadia’s marriage was on the rocks. She has a panic attack at one point in the book, and a short, severe depressive episode at another. All that being said, Sadia is incredibly organized, she knows how to interact with people—she’s a great bartender, and she does her very best to make sure her son is happy and healthy. She is also sexually confident. This is evident throughout the book, even before any sexy times happen between Sadia and Jackson. She is comfortable hooking up with people when she wants sex, and she’s comfortable expressing herself in sexual situations with Jackson. She’s scared to fall in love, though. It took a lot out of her the first time around, and it didn’t last, in the end. For someone who’s anxious, that sounds like a bad situation to willingly step into.
Jackson is, in some ways, the opposite of Sadia—but simultaneously very similar. He is very introverted. His family betrayed him in a very big way, and for that reason, he’s shut himself down emotionally. He’s not good at making people superficially comfortable, and he struggles in fraught emotional situations—not because he’s uncaring, but because he’s very self-contained. He’s loved Sadia for a very long time, though. So when Sadia tells him that she’s attracted to him but doesn’t want a romantic relationship, Jackson takes what he can get—until he realizes that it isn’t quite enough.
Don’t worry, they figure it out. It involves unsent emails and trust.
Now, generally speaking, I find this whole undeniable desire thing hard to buy into. If you feel something is wrong, for whatever reason—even if it only makes sense to you—then you have a reason to say no. However, because I was shown, and not told, how Sadia and Jackson maneuvered their way through undeniable desire, I was along for the ride. It involved occasionally silly conversations with other characters, among other things.
What I enjoyed the most from this book is how expectations and facets were explored, particularly through Sadia. It took a while for this to become clear to me. It has to do with this idea of flawlessness that women are supposed to embody, how unrealistic that is, and conversely, how multifaceted women are. This can be hard to communicate in romance novels—and really, in any form of literature—because of a lot of factors, but I think Ms. Rai did a good job of showing us that in Sadia. She’s a mom, she’s a sexual being, she comes from a large family, and she has anxiety. None of these things defines her as a character, and yet they are all critical to our understanding of who she is. This is not meant to shortchange Jackson in the least. He is just as complex as Sadia, and in certain ways, I identify with him even more strongly than Sadia (I do not understand how extroverting works, and completely sympathize with Jackson’s preference to go unnoticed by the general populace). However, authors and readers are more willing to accept a multifaceted male character than they are a female character, generally speaking, and a lot of my appreciation for this book came from my understanding of Sadia’s depiction.
I encourage everyone to go read this series, but particularly this book. It can stand on its own, but a lot of the external conflicts will make more sense if you read these books in order.
You can buy a copy here. (N.B. at the time of posting, the MMPB version is on sale for $4.86!)