Also by this author: Things We Never Got Over (Knockemout, #1), Things We Hide from the Light
Series: Knockemout #3
Also in this series: Things We Hide from the Light
Published by That's What She Said Publishing on September 5, 2023
Pages: 592 •Format: E-Book •Source: Kindle Unlimited
There was only one woman who could set me free. But I would rather set myself on fire than ask Sloane Walton for anything.
Lucian Rollins is a lean, mean vengeance-seeking mogul. On a quest to erase his father’s mark on the family name, he spends every waking minute pulling strings and building an indestructible empire. The more money and power he amasses, the safer he is from threats.
Except when it comes to the feisty small-town librarian that keeps him up at night…
Sloane Walton is a spitfire determined to carry on her father’s quest for justice. She’ll do that just as soon as she figures out exactly what the man she hates did to—or for—her family. Bonded by an old, dark secret from the past and the dislike they now share for each other, Sloane trusts Lucian about as far as she can throw his designer-suited body.
When bickering accidentally turns to foreplay, these two find themselves not quite regretting their steamy one-night stand. Once those flames are fanned, it seems impossible to put them out again. But with Sloane ready to start a family and Lucian refusing to even consider the idea of marriage and kids, these enemies-to-lovers are stuck at an impasse.
Broken men break women. It’s what Lucian believes, what he’s witnessed, and he’s not going to take that chance with Sloane. He’d rather live a life of solitude than put her in danger. But he learns the hard way that leaving her means leaving her unprotected from other threats.
It’s the second time he’s ruthlessly cut her out of his life. There’s no way she’s going to give him a third chance. He’s just going to have to make one for himself.
Do you ever read a series and find yourself constantly drawn to the secondary characters instead of the protagonists? This has been me with Sloane and Lucian in the Knockemout series by Lucy Score. I kid you not, when I went back to look at all of my highlighted sections from the first two books on my Kindle, they were literally ALL passages with interactions between Sloane and Lucian! Their tension leapt off the page through two entire books, so I was ELATED to finally have my greedy little hands on their story the day it was released on Kindle Unlimited. And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.
Things We Left Behind FINALLY digs into the enigmatic history between feisty and tiny librarian Sloane, who’s been a Knockemout staple for the past two books, and dangerous and mysterious Lucian Rollings, childhood best friend of Knox and Nash from the first two books. In the previous books in the series, clues were laid hinting at some sort of teenage romance between Sloane and Lucian with some sort of epic falling out, because two decades later they are decidedly still not over it and hating each other would be an understatement. It’s perhaps one of the most convincing enemies to lovers AND second chance romance stories I’ve ever read!
The chunky novel starts out with Sloane a bit adrift as (minor spoiler) her father has just died, and she’s reckoning with it being time to start her own family, regretting that she didn’t get a chance to do so sooner while her dad was alive to see it. Enter Lucian, who has some mysterious connection with her parents and seems to be everywhere she turns: at her father’s funeral, staying at his family’s old house next door, and at every social gathering she tries to attend with her friends. The universe is quite literally pushing them together, which of course makes the fire of their mutual hatred burn brighter (and you know what they say, thin line between love and hate!) Of course that hatred aka passion bubbles over at some point and they hope one intimate encounter will get them out of each other’s systems. In true romance novel fashion, this is NOT the case! Told in alternating POVs between Sloane and Lucian, the reader gets to see each not-so-slowly completely fall for each other but spend hundreds of pages trying to deny it. I know it sounds torturous, but for those who love this trope it’s *chef’s kiss.*
As Sloane and Lucian try to navigate their adult relationship, there is the slow rollout of flashbacks throughout the story of what happened all of those years ago when they were in high school. Though bits and pieces have been alluded to in the previous books, getting the whole, sweet and sordid tale in vivid detail juxtaposed by their self assured adult selves is really powerful. I felt so much for both young Sloane and young Lucian who hurt each other only the way stupid but well-meaning teenagers could.
Since the exploration of Sloane and Lucian getting together happens around the halfway mark of the book, we get a lot of hot and cold and back and forth between them. I actually really liked that, since it was more of an initial fast burn (in some ways, you could say slow burn if you count all of their peripheral interactions in the first two books!) and then an exploration of all of their challenges before their HEA. It’s not a structure I’ve seen used in a lot of romance novels but I really enjoyed it and it made sense for this particular couple, given they had so many years of history. I wasn’t even that annoyed by the third act breakup because I feel like I had a lot of time to adequately explore them together prior and it made sense in the context of the plot and the characters’ personalities given the situation.
The story also brings full circle the mystery/romantic suspense elements that have been an undercurrent throughout the entire series, honestly in a way I thought was way more relevant than the mystery felt in the previous two books.
Overall: My favorite installment in the series by FAR and about one of my fave literary couples!