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Strong Enough Paperback – June 18, 2017
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When Melanie Harlow announced she was going to be writing a m/m romance I honestly couldn’t contain my excitement. Although this would be a new genre for her, I had absolutely no doubt she would write an engaging, heartfelt, and captivating story, not unlike her previous novels. Add in the fact that she was going to be cowriting with David Romanov, someone bringing his own life experiences to this book, I was like a kid on Christmas morning, waiting ever so impatiently to open my presents. And now that I’ve had a chance to read this emotional and touching book, my heart is so full of love and I can’t stop smiling.
Once again I find myself at a loss as to how I can possibly write a review that will do a book like this justice. I was completely enthralled by the characters and their story. And knowing much of it was based on David’s life made it all that more special.
After arriving in the US nothing goes as Maxim expected. Although he’s not one to rely on plans, his Russian superstitions having something to do with that, he finds himself having to rely on the kindness of strangers. And one stranger in particular has more of an impact on him than he could have ever imagined. Meeting Derek sets his life on a path he never saw coming. But it’s a path both of these men were meant to take- one that ultimately led them to each other.
While Maxim is comfortable with who he is, Derek is not. He fights the desire brewing inside of him for Maxim. Seeing him struggle with his feelings, feelings he grew up believing were wrong, really pulled at my heartstrings. Guilt and shame are two of his closest companions. He’s conflicted on so many levels and it causes him such anguish. He’s curious, but in denial. He always thought he knew what he wanted in life, but now with Maxim in the picture, nothing of what he thought he knew makes sense any more. His world is thrown into an upheaval thanks to the arrival of one young, hot, scrappy Russian immigrant.
"I could be myself around him in a way I couldn't around other people. My real self, without hiding anything."
As Maxim and Derek navigate through their feelings and needs and frustrations, you can't help but be completely charmed by them. Maxim's zest for life, his joy, and the way he trusts that things will always work out, contradict with Derek's structured life- the planning, the organization, and his need to do what he believes is right. If ever there were two people who needed the other to balance themselves out, it is these two. I loved how they faced their challenges and the way they dealt with their issues. It was real and honest and genuine.
Strong Enough is a poignant journey of love, acceptance, and desire. It’s a book about discovering yourself, letting go of your fears, and being strong enough to live your most authentic life. It’s a story of two hearts converging at the most unexpected of times.
***If you're new to the m/m genre and have been thinking about trying it out, let this book be your gateway drug- once you read one, you won't want to stop!
Melanie is the master of pulling the emotions out of you in her stories and this is no exception. Except it is in a way because many parts of this come from David's own experiences in life. Leaving Russia to come to America and pursue a dream is a scary and exciting thing. But to get here and have your plans thrown for a loop as soon as you step off the plane? Talk about anxiety!! But Maxim handled it so well and left it up to fate to start his journey.
I empathized a lot with Derek. Here's a guy who has always done the right thing, taken care of everyone and everything, not worrying about himself along the way. Being raised a certain way by his parents, with specific beliefs about marriage and relationships has set him on a path of wanting a family of his own, but something has prevented him from achieving that. Now he's a 36 year old bachelor, set in his ways and wondering what's wrong with him.
I don't care what Derek says, Fate brought him and Maxim together at the exact right moment. The chemistry between them was instant and intense. The attraction off the charts! I was rooting for them so hard!! But Derek has so many road blocks in his head, hurdles he can't seem to get over in order to trust his feelings and push past the taboo barriers erected in him from childhood.
I loved getting the dual points of view so that we could see inside each man's head. Maxim may be young, but he had a solid head on his shoulders and was very mature and secure, which Derek really needed. My heart went out to Derek for the struggles he was going through. He's not only struggling with his sexuality, he's dealing with feelings he's repressed for over 20 years. It's hard enough for teenage boys to realize who they are and have to "come out" but to do it at 36? Melanie and David wrote his struggles so realistically, I felt like I was there with them feeling the struggles firsthand.
First and foremost I loved the relationship between Derek and Maxim. I loved the little things, like the endless talks they had, the way they teased each other. I loved Maxim's Russian superstitions and Derek's OCD tendencies. Even though there's a 12 year age difference between them, they fit together perfectly, they complemented each other just right.
This story has so many perfect elements. The right amount of a push and pull, angst and happiness, confidence and insecurity, passion and sexuality. Derek and Maxim are explosive together in the bedroom, but that's just one part of their beautiful love story. It's about how they want to make each other happy, how they want to lift each other up and help them achieve every dream they have. It's about facing adversity together and coming out stronger for it.
I honestly can't believe this is a first time collaboration between these two authors. The book flowed so seamlessly and the story kept me so captivated I couldn't put it down. It was just, everything!! Bravo, Melanie and David, I am absolutely in love with Derek and Maxim!
Most recent customer reviews
Max and Derek are both strong, amazing characters. I hurt for Derek when he struggled to accept himself.Read more