Arc was given by William Morrow via HarperCollinsPublishers in exchange for an honest review
This review is being published before the release date (September 24, 2019)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Toxic relationships, sexual assault, manipulation, alcoholism, animal abuse, death/loss of a loved one, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, substance/drug abuse, talk of fertility issues
A hurricane is the last thing on Bree Beckham’s mind. She’s already escaped one storm, what’s one more to add to the list?! However, she is extremely worried about all the animals that end up abandoned due to the hurricane. And when she finds out many pet owners are going to be cut off from the Little Bridge Island for a while, the lives of innocent animals fall onto Bree’s shoulders. But with so many animals scattered all throughout the island, she’s going to need help – help she reluctantly accepts from the broody, yet devilishly handsome Drew Hartwell, the island’s most notorious heartbreaker or at least according to the rumors. And just when Bree thought thing couldn’t get more complicated, suddenly her true identity is revealed and her remorseful ex shows up out of the blue! The real question is will she be able to weather the storm and find paradise in the end? Only the secrets of this book can tell you…
Friends, this is just the kind of book I needed to pull me from falling into a really bad reading slump! After reading a really good high fantasy book, it’s so easy for me to fall into a reading slump, but the sassy, broody, tension rising contents of this book kept me high on cloud nine! And I kind of love it?! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been so excited about a romantic read, but this book was so good and it was incredibly hard not to fall in love No Judgments! Now let me tell you all about it!
“I hurried into the kitchen, trying not to freak out over the fact that Drew Hartwell-Drew Hartwell-was in my apartment, shirtless, being nice to my cat.”
No Judgments follows our main character Bree Beckham who is full of sweetness, family complications, and one adorable rescue cat named Gary who thinks the world of her! Oh yeah, there’s just one thing about Bree Beckham…she’s riddled with secrets and everyone is dying to know them. No seriously, there’s more than one skeleton in her closet and only Drew Hartwell can peel back the layers that is Bree Beckham. Drew Hartwell is Mermaid Cafe’s notorious heartbreaker. Some say he’s crazy, others say he’s a playboy, but the truth is a lot more simpler than that. And dogs, lots of dogs! When Drew ends up catching the full on phone call Bree has with her mother, he can only assume she’s a “Fresh Water” or tourist and will soon flee to the safety of the main land. But when the hurricane hits in full force and Bree finds herself in too deep trying to take care of all the abandoned pets on the island, Drew immediately jumps in to help! With both of them working as a team, they’ll not only become a beacon of safety for all the animals, but they’ll soon discover that they’ll slowly becoming each other’s sanctuary.
Honestly, I loved the tension and boiling chemistry between Bree and Drew. They’re both these two stubborn forces coming together and boiling so much sexual tension between them. Some of the time I didn’t know if I should be laughing or clutching my pearls. The banter is so good and as someone who loves reading banter between two characters, I was living for it. It’s definitely one of the many things that really get focused between these two characters. So if you’re not a fan of banter being a big focus of two love interests, it might be a bit bothersome. I do want to add about a moment Drew and Bree shared together though. I loved how the author normalized confining in someone so intimately about the trauma a person can suffer. I don’t find many books that will have a causal scene where the main character talks about the trauma that they’re dealing with. Often times in books, I find a lot of moments when characters talk about they’re trauma it’s very intense, but I loved the way Bree and Drew were slowly and peacefully talking about the things they’ve been through, and the weight they carry on their shoulders every day. But other than that, can I just say this is the animal obsessed romance I have been waiting for?! We rarely get to see a romance between two animal lovers in romance, in smut, in fantasy, books in general rarely give us two animal lovers who turn into love interests. And this has added twenty years onto my life for just that factor. The way Drew and Bree not only feel so passionately about their own pets, but about others could warm even the coldest heart. And watching them to come together and put that love into action, not just for their own pets, but to help others – it’s so wholesome, heartwarming, and it’s one of the key points that bring these two so close together. I will forever screech into the void about how precious they are, the how and why to their relationship developing, and how freaking adorable their pets act towards the other person. It was too cute and you should be prepared for cuteness overload.
“I could feel the heat coming off his body through his damp clothes, heard his breath quicken as our hands touched, and when I looked up, I could see that his gaze was on mine.”
Aside from how much I adored the relationship of Drew and Bree, I was very drawn to Bree’s character. I think for a lot of readers, Bree’s character is going to be a little hard to understand or handle because there are times where she’s overly snappy or abrasive towards Drew. Unfortunately, I think the only way someone reading about her character could truly understand why she acts the way she does towards Drew, it isn’t just for her developing feelings for him. Sadly, that reason is a lot deeper and in my opinion, if you haven’t gone through the kind of trauma that Bree experiences then it might be one of those things that might get overlooked or pushed to the side. And for myself, I was instantly drawn to her character because she reminds me so much of myself. Obviously, the very big secret gets revealed at a certain point in this book, but I definitely think if the reader puts how her trauma plays a key part in everything in this book to the side, a lot of readers are going to be frustrated with her character, might not like her, or think that she’s being immature. I think I’m the odd one out because I found Drew’s character frustrating at times or found myself face-palming because of something Drew did. His character was really hard for me to get into. I think the first time his character impressed me, a little, was with the whole Socks situation. That was the first scene where I felt like I had to give credit where it was due. However, throughout the book it was very hot and cold with my feelings for Drew’s character and his development.
Now the reason why this wasn’t a five star read for me was due to a bunch of little things. For example, it felt like Bree was constantly fighting her mom throughout the book (which she was) and at times it became a bit too much with everything else going on in the book. And then, there was the “Me Too” moment that almost knocked me out of my chair. I had to reread it to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting things, but there was definitely a “Me Too” moment added into this book and that caused a lot of internally turmoil for me. I don’t want to go into details, but that whole bit dragged me through a loop because I am one of those people who have a lot of mixed feelings about that whole movement. There’s also a lot of animal abuse throughout this book. I won’t go into details, but a lot of it made me cringe. There was also a brief moment where the author used dog breed stereotypes to make the dogs seem aggressive because of their breed. And I also don’t like that in this particular moment the dogs were used as a means to instill fear especially since anyone who is reading this might get a very wrong message and think it’s okay to use dogs in that manner.
However, my biggest issue that really bothered me out of this whole book was near the end of this book and even now I’m still shaking my head at how it was all handled. To prevent myself from going into spoilers, I’m going to keep this as vague as possible. This bit bothered me to know end and I wish I could say I was proud of the main character and how the situation was handled, but I’m not. The whole entire situation changed the entire mood. Even the after events of this one whole scene weren’t able to make me forget what happened in this section because it felt so out of place. Most of this book is very light, fluffy, a fun time, but you get to this part and it’s like a huge mood switch. I feel like this scene could have been written in so many ways and what the author chose…it was very out of place, the situation takes a dark concerning turn, and the whole entire thing felt so unnatural and realistic. In my opinion, physical violence, especially pulling a gun out on someone (no matter if they’ve done good or bad things in their life), should be used as a last resort. Unless the person has physically put their hands on you in that moment, you have no business going into a mode of survival if your life is not in immediate danger. As someone who has gone through extreme trauma in their life and has sat face to face with some of those people who have inflicted that trauma, I have never once found it necessary to put my hands on someone or go to such extreme measures because at the end of the day, no matter how much I wish I could hurt them back or make them suffer, violence is never the answer or a solution. So when that whole scene happened in this book, it felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks because of all the things that could have been put into this book, it felt like the author went with one of the most extreme actions a person could take in that situation when there was no threat/danger to the main character’s life. Not to mention, in reality, most victims of sexual assault who suffer trauma or PTSD from that particular moment in life usually end up having flashbacks, a build up of anxiety and panic, or they end up flee the scene when they come face to face with with their previous attacker. Also, the main character had every opportunity to turn around and walk away from the situation because she shouldn’t have to face her previous attacker if she’s not ready or evern want to, but instead she chooses to instigate it. So the fact that our main character has a completely sound mind when she follows through with her actions, it’s unrealistic and it’s the most troublesome thing I read out of this whole book. Also, most sexual assault victims only go to such extreme measures if their previous attacker has physically put their hand on them in the current situation. I don’t know if this is how the author thinks someone who has suffered from the trauma of a sexual assault, but let me be the person who has gone through this situation to say this is not realistic or accurate in any form. The fact the author wrote our main character pulling a gun out on an unarmed person who has done nothing in that current moment, it blows my mind away because there is nothing that indicates she has a reason to be doing that or acting that way. I truly wish this scene had been written any other way, but for whatever the reason the author felt this scene was necessary and it kind of ruins the mood for the rest of the ending of the book. It paints the main character in a really bad way and it left a really sour taste in my mouth that I wish I could mind wipe from my memory.
“Whatever the reason, instead of replying, I found myself flinging my arms around his neck, pressing my body against his, and kissing him full on the mouth.”
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It really gives me some nostalgic feels of missing my hometown. I am from a small town and this book definitely reminded me of what it means to have a community come together after a tragedy. But even so, there were many other elements that I loved like the passion and love for animals woven throughout this book. For me, my reading experience was mostly positive because it felt like little pieces of me were woven throughout this book and I loved that. However, that one scene was definitely hard to process and if you have similar values like I do, I think it will be very challenging to get through that one scene. I think many readers are going to enjoy this book, but I can definitely see how many readers may not enjoy this book due to a lot of elements threaded in this book. Either way, I do think this book is worth the read. There’s a lot of warm moments and so many animals! And who doesn’t love animals?!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.