Laura and I have seen each other around social media for a while now (and she’s proven to be an excellent critique partner; if ever I write more of Rem and Sam’s romance, it’ll be thanks to her) so when she started talking about this book, I was incredibly excited to read it. Not just because I know that she’s a talented author (though she is!) but because I knew it was going to be an incredibly accurate representation of one of my favorite kinds of stories. See, Laura herself is Hard of Hearing–and her characters reflect her knowledge of that world.
Have I mentioned I’m in love with ASL? Maybe a few times? Okay, good. Because I AM IN LOVE WITH ASL.
Our main female character’s name is Carli, and she’s Hard of Hearing. She wears hearing aids and does her best to blend in and never let anyone know she’s even the slightest bit different from anyone else. She comes from a family of “strong people who don’t need no help” (I’m sure none of us have ever met ANYONE like that) and letting people know she can’t quite hear them as well as they think definitely falls into that category. Reasonably, our story begins with the battery in one of her aids dying. Enter Reed, our Deaf male protagonist. Gorgeous, distracting, and signing up a storm.
Carli does not know ASL. Why would her family need to know ASL? She just needs to work harder. She’s playing this up for attention. (Yeah. I wasn’t joking when I said that getting help was verboten.) But the more time she spends around Reed, and the more he begins to open her up to a world beyond struggling to hear…the more she wants to learn, and the more she falls deeper and deeper into the silence that makes up Reed’s world. But Reed has his own troubles and secrets, and between the two of them, they have more than enough to tear apart both their worlds…potentially for good.
HAVE I MENTIONED I LOVE ASL. Watching Reed sign, watching the conversations about sign names and light doorbells and CART and every other tiny little aspect was amazing. I studied ASL for three semesters in college and still think about going back to being a translator or at least become something close to fluent. I adore the language, the culture, and everything I’ve ever learned about it. (I’m proud to say that at least a few of the signs that weren’t immediately translated, I actually caught on my own. Ha ha!) And I’ve certainly known more than a few families like Carli’s–though perhaps not to the same extent–where trying to rely on anything other than yourself to succeed it considered failing. It hurts my heart to see how much she endures throughout the course of the book.
And of course, for someone who loves dialogue as much as I do, it’s amazing to watch conversations happen through any means necessary–be that through text messages, through written words on a notebook page, through broken sign language…when people want to communicate, they find a way. And Carli and Reed do this in spades. Of course, there’s also more than enough conversation that doesn’t require speaking (*cough*) and that spices things up considerably. It’s a good balance though, and not one always found in romances, I’ve noticed. There are definitely sexy scenes, and there’s sexual tension all over both of them ninety percent of the time, but it’s still a story with sex, and not a few semi-related scenes stitched together by mass quantities of sex. These are two very troubled people (I won’t say broken because that’s a bit of a buzzword in the book) with a lot of baggage hanging over them. They can’t jump into bed with each other without a lot of thought–and this is something I’m immensely thankful for. I like seeing romances where there’s a cloud hanging over them for a bit. It’s more relatable at that point, at least for me. (Maybe that’s just because I’ve got my own share of baggage, who knows.)
Regardless, what we get in the end is a touching and dramatic story about two very real people in a very real feeling relationship, with some very real problems. And reality isn’t something we see too much in romance, sometimes. (Not a bad thing! Escapism is half the reason I read!) And Brown masterfully shows that you don’t need to be able to hear–not a little, not at all–in order to fall in love. Love truly is the universal language, and it needs no words to be spoken, no sounds to be heard.
Now where’s my lovely Deaf guy to teach me how to sign, hm? I want my own Reed!
Rating: ***** (Highest Recommendation)