Dear Ms. Lee,
Promise Me This is the fourth novel in your new adult series. I’ve enjoyed the previous books to greater and lesser degrees but overall, I’m a loyal reader interested in seeing where you take us next.
In your latest novel, we catch up with Nate and Jessie, two characters introduced earlier in the series. Jessie and Nate seem to come from two different worlds. Tattooed and edgy, Jessie works at the same tattoo parlor as Bennett (the hero of All of You). She’s an independent free spirit, who loves photography. Preppy and brother of their university’s star football player, Nate comes from a rich family. (He’s the cousin of the hero from Whisper to Me.) They’re happy being just friends and intend to stay that way.
Nate has reasons for this, though. He doesn’t do girlfriends, only one-night-stands. His family background is extremely abusive, and he grew up watching his father abuse his mother. Afraid that he’ll turn out like his father, he’d rather not make romantic connections with anyone at all. Jessie is his safe girl. He can have a relationship with her, but only platonically. That’s enough for him.
But then Jessie walks in Nate with one of his hopeful random hook-ups, and suddenly the guy she’d always thought of as clean-cut and not her type intrigues her. Her curiosity gets the best of her, and courtesy of a photography project Jessie needs to complete, the wall that Nate carefully constructed in his head comes down.
My feelings are mixed about Promise Me This. When I finished, I liked the book overall. I still do. But it took a while to get my thoughts together to write this review. Why? Because despite liking the book, something was missing.
Promise Me This is Nate’s story. He has a lot of damage because of his father, and the effects show internally in the ways he thinks about himself and his predilections in bed. (Nate likes kink, but because of his father, he associates that kind of behavior with abuse, even though it’s nothing of the sort when all parties are consenting.) Much of the book is devoted to Nate overcoming this and healing himself, coming to the realization that he does want a relationship with Jessie and that he isn’t like his father at all.
In that aspect, I actually thought the book did a great job.
The problem is that the book is unbalanced. We see Nate grow and change. We do not see Jessie go through the same transformation. Don’t get me wrong. I liked that Jessie was independent and self-reliant. It’s refreshing when a character has their shit together. But coming to the realization that Nate has depth beyond his preppy playboy ways is not a character transformation. Nor is being the supportive rock as he wrestles with his demons. I want to believe Jessie could be all the traits I loved about her and work through something at the same time.
For me, a satisfying (standard) romance is about two people meeting and overcoming some sort of internal conflict so reach their HEA. But each person should have their own, separate internal conflicts. Each person should work through their issues to reach their happy ending. Nate did but in my opinion, Jessie did not. As a result, I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
I think readers who enjoyed your previous ones will like Promise Me This as well. It read fast, and I found it to be a mellow read. (This isn’t damning praise. I need mellow reads sometimes.) It just lacks a couple ingredients to make it great. B-