Love Somebody Like You is a wonderful story about a woman who had been trapped in a mentally and physically abusive marriage that only ended because her husband died suddenly. This book begins three years later as Sally is struggling with figuring out what to do now. The story was not at all what I expected from a romance simply because it gives a real glimpse into the mental wounds from abuse and its insidious nature. This isn’t a brush-over treatment but rather a deep look at the impact of abuse and how it can undermine a person’s confidence in their ability to make decisions, and recognize who is safe and who is not. The story isn’t about the abuse so much as the long-term effects of such, but it’s also about healing and relearning who you are as Ben helps Sally start to heal.
The story is slow paced, but it doesn’t feel that way because Sally’s dealing with some seriously heavy stuff. At the same time, you can see her core personality through all the wonderful things she’s doing at her riding stables. Ben fell for her years before when they’d both been on the rodeo circuit and she wasn’t married, but Sally had considered him too young back then. When she married, she’d vanished from the rodeo scene and everyone she’d known, including her family.
A chance encounter with Sally’s sister after Ben is injured during a rodeo leads him to check on her as he heads back home to rest and heal. All the feelings he’d had so many years before are just as strong as they’d ever been, but he can tell something is off. The Sally before him is nothing like the one he’d known, and not in the good ways maturity brings. She’s competent, driven, and caring, but she’s also skittish, untrusting, and vulnerable.
Where many would have taken her withdrawing as a sign to move on, Ben is concerned as a friend as much as he wants to be something more. He stands by her, helps as much as he can with one shoulder out of commission, and mostly restores her faith in the male half of the race all the while curbing his renewed attraction. He figures out the root of the issue, but not who, especially since everyone believes she had a perfect marriage.
This story has layer upon layer with her past only one of the struggles they face between her worries for her reputation and his plans to get back on the rodeo circuit as soon as he is well enough. Not only does it deal with real questions about abuse, but it also explores the balance of needs in a relationship, what’s important, and how to care for someone in pain without pushing.
The ending gets a little silly in comparison to the heavy weight of the beginning, but on the other hand, it makes sense, and it allows for some cute circumstances, too. It’s a good way to ease out of the darkness, leaving the lessons to linger but not the shadows.
There is explicit sex, but not as much as in most contemporary romances, in part because it occurs first as a healing journey or rather as a critical part of it.
I was surprised at the serious content, but the handling of that as well as touching on working with disabling injuries and several other important social issues impressed me. I found the characters complex and engaging. It might not have made me cry, though there were times that might have warranted it, the story kept me reading, and I definitely felt for the struggles they faced now along with what Sally had suffered before.
There are so many ways this novel could have glossed over the crises or minimized the impact, and I’ve read books that did just that. Instead, the treatment was both educating and delicate so there was no softening of what her husband had done or its impact on Sally, but at the same time, she wasn’t left to drown in that fact. For someone who went out of her way to help those in need, it was satisfying to see how she reconnected with Ben, and how he let her set the pace and had the patience to let her heal rather than worsening her fears.
It’s a good book with a lot to teach wrapped around an engaging, and oddly uplifting, story.
P.S. I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.