Love, Me by Jessica Saunders | ARC Review

Posted January 15, 2024 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Books, Reviews / 0 Comments

Love, Me by Jessica Saunders | ARC ReviewLove, Me by Jessica Saunders
Published by Union Square & Co. on January 16, 2024
Genres: Women's Fiction, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 267 •Format: E-ARCSource: NetGalley

Rachel Miller is a lawyer and mother of two who’s just as comfortable in the courtroom as she is on the sidelines of the soccer field. Rachel is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight when photographs of her and her high school boyfriend, the famous actor Jack Bellow—along with his love letters to her—are published in a tabloid. This newfound attention calls into question Rachel’s marriage, her career, and her superstar ex. Betrayed by someone she trusted and reunited with the man she tried so hard to forget, Rachel must ask herself, “How did I get here? And where am I going?” 

*Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing an ARC for review!*

While admittedly (in my opinion) more “women’s fiction” than romance, I was fully captivated by this debut novel by Jessica Saunders that explores the forbidden “what if” you ran into your high school ex fantasy. However, the twist here is what if your high school ex was now a highly popular celebrity? I live for this kind of drama in my stories so this one was RIGHT up my alley.

The story follows Rachel, a successful lawyer, mother of two, seemingly happily married woman who is leading an honestly pretty good life in the suburbs of New York. She fits the bill of the typical “supermom” but isn’t resentful of her life. Though her marriage isn’t as great as it once was, all in all Rachel seemed pretty happy, clearly loves her kids and line of work, and has a great best friend she can depend on. It was refreshing to read one of these books where it wasn’t “woman is happy on the outside but resents every little thing about her suburban life on the inside!” (Hi, it’s me, I am 30-something woman, albeit without kids, who really enjoys my life in the burbs lol). However, a ton of drama befalls her when photos from her youth are leaked online and she is linked to having dated Jack, back then just her fellow drama club peer but who now is a Brad Pitt/Chris Hemsworth level actor. Of course this upends Rachel’s life and highlights the cracks already forming in her marriage while also catapulting her ex back into her life and dangling the “what if” possibility of a different turn her life could have taken.

I feel like the fact that Rachel did enjoy a lot of her life actually made the story more interesting because she was fairly level headed and I could have seen the romance really going in a few different directions. I was of course interested to see how Rachel’s scandal was going to impact her everyday life, from her marriage to her career, but the real treat was getting to see Jack in her life again and see the connection they had (and still do, TBH) even though he’s a multimillion dollar superstar and she’s more of a “normal” person (though still very successful!) I mean it’s obvious that all of these celebrities (pre-fame) likely had normal high school relationships and it made me really think about how wild it is that there are people out there who had these intense teenage love stories with major household names and we’ll really never know about them (I obviously need more books with this trope now that I’ve read this one lol).

There is of course an inevitable love triangle that emerges between Rachel, her husband, and Jack, and I am 100% that person who was like “please leave your loser husband for the handsome celebrity” which is probably not a popular opinion but I said what I said XD When I read books I like the entertainment of the wish fulfillment element, not a realistic outcome lol. I will say the ending was left sort of ambiguous but not so much so that I was angry, I think it’s easy enough to determine what probably happened and I understand why the author chose to end it the way they did.

The story also flips back and forth between present day and teenage Rachel’s timeline of meeting, falling in love with, and then getting her heart broken by Jack. I thought the juxtaposition was great, as it showed how the events of the past shaped who Rachel is today, and added a layer of depth to her relationship with Jack that you don’t get from just their modern day interactions (though you can definitely feel the heaviness of a shared history between them). There are also still a lot of key players involved from the past in the present (several friends, her parents, Jack’s sister, etc) and it was interesting to see how Rachel’s relationships with those folks were impacted by what happened with Jack, and even the role some of them played in that (there was honestly a revelation there at the end that had me fuming for Rachel!! She is a more forgiving friend than I, that’s for sure).

Included Tropes: Second-chance romance, love triangle, dual POV

Overall: If you want a read that explores the heroine’s life and love stories in more of a personal character study, this one is great! It’s not a “traditional romance” and lives in the gray space

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge 2024

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