Here’s the thing about anthologies. They usually contain a couple of good stories that anchor the collection and a couple of middling to forgettable stories that might just get skimmed. However, He’s Come Undone features five incredibly strong, nuanced, sweet romances featuring five of the brightest voices in romance today. The connective thread that ties these stories together is that they feature buttoned-up, rather stuffy heroes who embark on unexpected romances with people who help them to, well, become undone.
Take for example, Appassionata by Emma Barry. Kristy is a gifted pianist diva struggling with a rather brutal case of stage fright and trying to ward off an emotional breakdown. Brennan, the piano technician tasked with advising her for her next performance is formal and a bit uptight and harboring a secret long-time crush on Kristy. The meticulous attention to detail would have kept the story from moving along in the hands of a lesser writer, but in the hands of Emma Barry, I got so caught up in the high stakes world of professional piano playing, it left me breathless and aching for more. The characters resonated, the chemistry was intense and the ultimately, every word of this nuanced romance was, well, note perfect.
I never knew I had a great need for heroines who were super into creating murder dioramas until Olivia Dade presented me with one in Unraveled and now, that’s literally all I could ever want. Charming and sweetly sexy, as is her hallmark, math teacher SImon is tasked with mentoring art teacher Poppy, who is a new hire. As bright, fun, and vibrant as her name suggests, Poppy is the perfect juxtaposition to calm, cool, reserved Simon. Watching the sparks fly as they interact with each other proves the point that sometimes, opposites really do attract,
Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera features two of my favorite tropes: friends to lovers and secret pining. Pro baseball player Yariel has been secretly pining after Hatuey for years and when things finally turn steamy between the two, Yariel is convinced he’s wrecked things for good while Hatuey realizes that the very thing he’s been searching for his whole life has been right under his nose the whole time. Yariel is reluctant to push things further and watching Hatuey make it his mission to convince Yariel to take a chance on them is utterly delightful.
A character on the verge of a complete breakdown because of her newfound existence as a caregiver to her mother who is suffering from dementia would not, at first glance, seem like the obvious choice for a romance heroine. But somehow, Ruby Lang manages to craft a sweet, hopeful romance in Yes, And…. Acting teacher Joan, on the precipice of falling apart, proves the perfect counterpoint to calm, steady doctor Darren who finds himself just wanting to take care of her and there’s nothing sexier than a caretaking hero embracing his nurturing side.
Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian is bittersweet, hopeful, and heartbreaking. Everett and Tommy were boyhood friends in prep school whose friendship turned to more. But reality intruded and each went their separate ways before reuniting years later. Watching newly divorced single father Tommy and math teacher Everett navigate family and social constructs in the 1950s while at first ignoring and then finally admitting their feelings for each other was beautiful to watch unfold.
All in all, five strong stories with memorable, captivating characters make up this most excellent anthology.
Content Warnings: Homophobia, parental illness
Melanie received a copy of this book from the authors for review.