Series: Forbidden Hearts #2
Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…
Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.
Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.
An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past...and step into a future together.
Can we just take a moment to admire that cover? I mean, really. Just look at it. It is stunning. Go ahead and admire. I’ll wait.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to the actual content of the book. Which is also stunning. From the (super hot) opening scene all the way to the end, this was one of those books that no matter what else was going on, I couldn’t put this down and I devoured it in one sitting.
It’s never easy to write a book that centers on a woman finding love with her late husband’s brother but Alisha Rai pulled it off here. (Of course she did; she’s Alisha Rai) In the hands of a lesser author, this would have been a maudlin, angsty mess, but Wrong to Need You is anything but.
Before I start my review – a suggestion. This is the second book in the Forbidden Hearts series, and it would really behoove you to read them in order. Start with Hate to Want You, then move on to this one. Then begin eagerly anticipating book 3, Hurts to Love You, which will be out in 2018. The Kanes and the Chandlers have a complicated, convoluted history, and frankly, even after reading both of these books, I still get a little confused about who’s related to who and who wronged who and why they can’t be friends anymore. There are a lot of characters to get to know, but have no fear, Alisha manages to develop all of them. Even the side characters are fully realized. This book picks up very soon after the events of the first book, so it’s helpful to be familiar with them before you pick this one up.
She wanted him. It was unwise and complicated, but she didn’t know how she’d survive if she couldn’t have him. She’d regret it forever, and she lived with enough regrets.
First up – Sadia. We met her in Hate to Want You. She’s a single mom, newly widowed, working two jobs just to make ends meet. Her husband, Paul, left her with a lot of debt when he died, both to legal institutions and to loan sharks, and it’s been a struggle to keep her head above water. She’s finally in a better financial place, having managed to clear Paul’s debts, but she’s still working two jobs; keeping Paul’s family’s cafe going during the day, and bartending at night. The cafe has been turning a profit, but she keeps the bartending job because she needs the tips for extra money and because it’s the best place for her to meet the men and women she enjoys one-night stands with.
I loved, loved, loved Sadia. I love that she owns her sexuality, that she knows what she wants and gets it on a regular basis on her own terms. I love that she’s come into her own, and has learned to stand up for herself with her family and her employees at the cafe and everyone else who used to walk all over her. She’s an amazing mom to Kareem, and fights tooth and nail to make sure he has what he needs, and that he knows that he comes first at all times. She has four massively over-achieving sisters, who she loves dearly, but never quite feels like she fits in with. While they were all going to medical school and starting their careers, she was dropping out of college and eloping with Paul. Even though Sadia is happy, it’s clear that her sisters just don’t understand the decisions she has made, and they just don’t have a lot in common. However, because family gets shit done, they are there for her without question any time she needs help with Kareem.
And Jackson. Quiet, broody, super-fucking-hot Jackson. As a teenager, he was accused of a crime, and he left town as soon as the charges were dropped. It’s pretty heavily implied in the first book that he wasn’t guilty, but there’s no real evidence either way. Before he left, everyone in Rockville assumed he was guilty and treated him like dirt because of it. This is the first time he’s been back since then, and it turns out that everyone in town still thinks he’s guilty and treats him like dirt because of it. But his twin sister, Livvy, has just gotten back together with her ex, Nicholas, (seriously, go read Hate to Want You), and he’s worried about her, so he’s decided to face his demons and briefly return to Rockville. Livvy had a really rough time after Nicholas left her the first time and Jackson is deeply concerned that the same thing will happen again. If it wasn’t for Livvy’s situation, I don’t think he would have ever come back. The rest of his family royally fucked him over when he had that legal trouble, and he deserved to face them and get his feelings out, but I don’t think he ever would have. I think he would have just continued to let it fester, never confronting them, always feeling like he was the screwed up one in the family.
The relationship between Jackson and Sadia is as complicated as the rest of the relationships in this series. They were best friends as kids, and Jackson has been in love with Sadia for about the same length of time, but never got up the nerve to tell her, and eventually she started dating and then married his brother Paul. (I know. It sounds convoluted, but it’s really not) Jackson’s love for Sadia was one of those things that apparently everyone in Jackson’s family and in Rockville itself knew except Sadia. And it’s a fact that Paul used to manipulate Jackson into doing something for him, to heartbreaking effect.
After Jackson left town, Sadia sent him email after email after email, updating him on her life and the lives of everyone he knows, but he never responded to a single one. She was hurt when he didn’t even respond to the news of his nephew’s birth, but she kept emailing. In fact, she continued until he didn’t respond to the email about his brother’s death, or show up to the funeral. After that, she cut off communication. And now he’s back, and as much as Sadia doesn’t want to admit it, she needs his chef skills to keep the cafe running.
You can’t help but root these two on. Jackson is so stoic, always trying to shrink down and hide his enormous, well-muscled, over-six-feet body so that he doesn’t intimidate anyone. He’s so used to trying to stay in the shadows that he doesn’t know how to tell Sadia how he feels, how he’s always felt, even now when there’s no reason not to. And, Sadia, fighting so hard to keep from wanting him because of the guilt she feels over Paul’s death and the guilt that her family has always encouraged in her.
“This isn’t right.”
“You always do what’s right?”
“I’d be the safest wrong thing you could do.”
Once again, Alisha Rai has written an amazing, beautiful story. This book, this series, really, is one that will go on my short list of books I give to romance newbies. Not only is the story of Sadia and Jackson finding their way to each other lovely and real and messy and hot and sexy, Alisha Rai also manages to give us a portrayal of depression and mental illness that’s just as real and messy. Finding a great love, or great sex, or both doesn’t “fix” or “cure” mental illness and Alisha Rai pulls no punches about that with these books.
I’ve been rambling about this book to anyone who will listen, (and several people who didn’t want to listen) and I haven’t even scratched the surface. TL;DR – just go get this fucking series immediately. You won’t regret it.