I got an ebook copy of Make Me Love You from NetGalley. I haven’t read any other works of Elizabeth Bright except this one. I was immediately intrigued by the plot description. The love story is set in the small town of Hart’s Ridge in North Carolina. Emma and Eli grew up together and were best friends until eight years ago when a betrayal led to Emma asking Eli to get out of her life. Eli is Emma’s sworn enemy now, and they have successfully avoided each other for the last eight years even in a small town. That doesn’t last though and they are thrown back together when Emma becomes interim Mayor of the town.
Emma Andrews and Eli Carter have avoided each other day since that day eight years ago. When a plant in town, a main source of employment for townspeople and her, Emma runs a food truck, is shut down; she is angry. She storms over to the Mayor’s office and somehow is convinced by him to take over the job till the 4th of July. Emma reluctantly agrees and regrets her decision when she finds out the new deputy mayor is none other than Eli Carter. Now they have to work together for the next two months. Emma is just getting into the grove of being a mayor hesitantly enough when Eli decides to run against her for Mayor. The history between them and the way things ended, results in a difficult, yet sparks flying all-around type of situation.
Emma Andrews and Eli Carter have been best since kindergarten. After their falling out, it’s been eight years, but Emma hates Eli and holds a grudge against him. Her mom passed away because of cancer in her late teens, the bills started piling up, and then her father was let go from his teaching position as a chemistry professor. To repay the treatment debt and bills, Emma’s father puts his chemistry knowledge to use and starts cooking meth. Emma is scared and confides in Eli, who is a police officer, which leads to her dad’s arrest. Emma has never forgiven him for betraying her trust. Eli accepts what he did was awful even if he did his job and respects Emma’s decision. He understands why she can’t stand to be around him, but he has always wondered if they were more than friends.
Emma and Eli both are flawed characters. The events of the past have changed them, made them think in a certain way that is completely relatable. Everyone changes because of the experiences they go through, and the emotional impact of the traumatic experiences on a person. These emotional changes are expressed beautifully and realistically by the author. Eli’s mom left him when he was a kid, and his father was a high-functioning alcoholic. This has instilled a fear of abandonment in Eli, and he behaves in a certain because he doesn’t want to become his dad.
Emma, on the other hand, lost her mom. Watching someone wither away and then her dad being sentenced to prison takes a toll on her. Emma’s parents are both teachers, and she is not a straight-A student. Her parents, being who they are, always want her to do well academically, which she is never able to do. Such events often make her doubt her own intelligence, and she wonders if she is smart enough to do this or not.
Make Me Love You, I thought was a character-driven story rather than a plot-driven one. I think it works really well with this cozy romance story. Emma and Eli have such great chemistry. There is a familiarity in their relationship because they were best friends, and both separately wondered if it was just that or more, never acting on it. Now, the tension and chemistry are off the charts, and this time they do not worry about crossing any lines. Their history makes the relationship stronger and weaker too, given how they stayed away for eight years. I loved that they talked about things, it took coaxing, but they never let miscommunication or other issues hamper their relationship. There is no drama; the issues they have are because of how they are today as people.
I expected a simple romance, but it was much more complex than that, because of the layered characters. The pace of the book never wavers, and I finished reading it in two days. It was exactly the kind of love story I imagined it might be, actually it was better. This is the first novel in the Hart’s Ridge series, and I can’t wait to read the other ones. I loved reading this novel.
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