Series: Kingston Ale House #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on April 18th, 2016
Genres: Friends to Lovers, Road Trip, Second Chance Romance
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How far will one man go for the woman he's loved since high school?
Jamie Kingston has been Brynn Chandler's best friend since middle school. Only once was their friendship tested—when Brynn gave Jamie a single kiss. Since then, they've had an unspoken agreement never to cross that line again, and she’s ready to let go of the past and move on.
But Jamie has loved Brynn for as long as he can remember, and now that he's ready to tell her, she has her sights set on someone else. Knowing this is his last chance, he asks Brynn to go on a two-week road trip. But their time alone brings old hurts to the surface, and Brynn has to decide if the one that got away lies at the end of the journey or if he's been by her side all along.
This. This right here is how you write a Friends to Lovers romance! Thank Heavens! I’ve been having such a hard time with this trope lately, and by lately I honestly mean all year. I may have groaned a little when I saw this come up on my list as next to read, but then I thought, “Cool your jets Shannon and have a little hope. You were intrigued enough by the synopsis to read it, so here you are, put on some big girl panties and get to it.” And so I did. There’s only been two other F2L(Never Stop Falling and The Slam) that I’ve sunk my teeth into and really enjoyed, while everything else felt lack lustre. But The One Who Got Away? YES! This is what it’s all about! This is what I need! I need to know of the characters connection, of their bond and their background. I need to see how they are as friends first, not just be told then boom, we have a relationship. AJ Pine delivered on every point in my checklist. Solid connection: check. Unresolved feelings: check. Personable and genuine characters: check. Sweeter than your grandmother’s cobbler: check. You get my point, I’m sure.
“You know I’d give my left arm to make you feel better, right?”
She pressed her lips together and nodded. “It’s not that big of a sacrifice, considering you’re a righty. If you really cared—” She cut her own joke short to attempt a swallow, and it only made her cry more.
“For you, Sleepy Jean, I’d give them both.”
I’m a sucker for road trip romances. How about we confine two people in a small space with some unresolved feelings and uncertainty about some other stuff while they travel thousands of miles and spending every minute of the day and night together? Sounds like a good plan to me! Each pit stop the characters encountered on their trip was well thought out. Every scene had a purpose that contributed to the overall effectiveness of the story, and they also didn’t have any hidden meanings. The reader watches as each character realizes the depths of their feelings, faces set back after set back and ultimately have to decide whether they will fight for a relationship or not. It’s quite a journey to say the least.
“You’re full of surprises today, Mr. Kingston.”
He took the flask from her, capped it, and tossed it back in the truck. “Maybe I’m just prepared,” he said when he was by her side again.
“Such a boy scout.”
He raised a brow.“Not sure they give badges for bringing alcohol on a road trip.”
I loved the amount of angst in The One Who Got Away. I mean really, let’s just start with that title, based on this alone you know there’s going to be some. It wasn’t overwhelming or heavy handed, but the perfect amount in each scenario to get a grasp of the real feelings both Brynn and Jamie experienced. Then at one point I’m pretty sure I heard my heart crack open a bit. It hurt! The desperation jumped off the page and the air was thick with anguish. My eyes maybe even watered a little… Or maybe not. Nope, I’m lying, it happened, and I can’t even blame it on the Jack Daniels that the MCs seem to prefer.
“I don’t want to be the guy who stood in the way if there is someone who could make you happier than I could.”
Brynn and Jamie are just average people struggling with an average problem. He’s always loved her, but many moons ago she was rejected by him, so end of their love story, right? Maybe not, especially when said person is still your best friend after 10 years. The One Who Got Away takes us on a journey of trust, second chances, crashing weddings and seizing the day. Engaging characters that you can’t help but root for, finding their way home.
“I wasn’t pretending, B.” He let out a long breath while Brynn seemed to hold hers. “I don’t know what that means, but if it means anything to you at all, please…tell me.”
There’s a certain line of the synopsis that I fell in love with, “Brynn has to decide if the one that got away lies at the end of the journey or if he’s been by her side all along.”. The whole one who got away concept can be a touchy subject for some people. Whether it’s a high school crush or the first person you told those three little words to, sometimes a relationship doesn’t work out. Maybe it’s timing, maybe it’s fate, whichever. This is a very real concept in today’s society and one in which our heroine is trying to work through. What if what you thought you wanted changed? What if you realize that everything you’ve ever wanted, ever needed, was possibly in a person that you never expected to have a chance with?
You want to know what was excellent about this character dynamic, other than pretty much everything? They actually spoke to each other. Aired out some dirty laundry, some hopes and some fears, some feelings that had long since been repressed. What really happened that night 10 years ago? When they had something to say, they said it, they worked through it, they talked about it like adults – not just run off acting all wounded and hurt. Granted I guess it would be a little difficult to run away from someone when you’re trapped in a car with them, but I digress. Either way, I enjoyed it. They talked things through, explained exactly where their reservations were coming from and worked together to try and get past these issues, if that’s what each wanted. They discussed what they needed from each other in order to make it work, and a plan was made as to how they might finally be able to get there.
With all of this being said, these two are in fact only human. Sometimes they make mistakes or don’t decide on the best possible decision, but in the moment it does make sense. I could always understand why certain decisions were made and for the most part completely agreed with them. Once they realized these misses, they worked to try and fix the mistakes. Can I just have a choir chorus in the background for a second, praising adults that can talk to each other and work through issues? Okay, that’s enough, thanks.
On top of everything else, I really liked how sweet the relationship between Jamie and Brynn was. No matter the hold up, experience or problem, they were there for each other through the years. If you’re looking for a tattooed, bulging muscled alpha, look elsewhere. Jamie made my heart flutter and teased a smile on my lips. He was so cute, so down to earth, so good for Brynn and I loved it. As long as he could stay out of the way of her flailing limbs, eccentric gestures and the occasional letter opener of course, and even then.
“I’m in love with you, and I just thought you should know.”
If by any chance you want some more feels while reading, especially as we get to the climax, take a listen to The One That Got Away by Katy Perry. That’ll certainly do the trick for you!
Used to steal your parents’ liquor
And climb to the roof
Talk about our future
Like we had a clue
Never planned that one day
I’d be losing you
In another life
I would be your girl
We’d keep all our promises
Be us against the world
In another life
I would make you stay
So I don’t have to say
You were the one that got away
The one that got away
The writing was really well done. AJ transitions from scene to scene with ease and a fluidity that binds moment, action and thought together. It’s written in a third person narrative and while this isn’t my personal favourite style of writing, I found that I quite enjoyed it. It held my interest, I never felt like I missed a character’s thought and it was clear as to which character was being focused on at the time. And did you see it’s the first book in a new series? I can’t wait for the others! The brewmaster angle is refreshing and I can’t wait to read more about these characters in the future.
*An ARC was received in exchange for an honest review.