First point of disclosure - I've beta read two manuscripts of Suze's and have loved the depth of the stories and characters, and so was excited to see this released. It is one of those rare opportunities to have seen an unfinished manuscript and the finished article, which, when they turn out as good as this one, is a joy to have taken part in.
Safe for Now is a wonderful story; not a wholly original concept but also not necessary to be so. An abused woman, Ellie, has found the courage to leave her partner, and flees from the big city to a small town with the support of her old friend Stella. There she finds solace in new friendships and strength to overcome her own fears, while also becoming strong enough to support the people around her who are also hurting, not least her boss, Reece, who is inconveniently hot and looking for a new administrator. Hey, it is a romance.
I'm not a fan of light romance, and in general prefer my romance to be intertwined within other genres, so it makes Suze Robinson's darker work far more interesting and compelling, dealing with some deeply emotional issues on the part of the heroine and hero of the story, and also not forgetting the pains of the secondary characters, who I was also rooting for. With the story focusing on only one point of view it offers more tension than a common trope of having dual perspectives. It also allows the possibility for uncomfortable misunderstandings to have more power than finding out the opposite view in the next chapter or scene.
Where the characters have been taken since I read the beta version was just brilliant to see, and the arcs intertwined wonderfully. I loved seeing more of the historical depth of Ellie's abuse, and the more rounded character of her father - these make for a much richer story, and the twists and turns Ellie's escape takes her on comes to a satisfying conclusion.
So, why four stars? It is the bane of the romance genre, I'm afraid, when it comes to my interest in the story. I love the build-up, the tension, the temptation, but as soon as the inevitable sex happens it pretty much kills it. It's not unique to romance, I suppose. When two primary characters are set up opposite each other as the key storyline with that kind of tension and power, the moment they get together...that power deflates. It's not the fault of this author, or any other author writing characters in this way, but I'm all for delayed gratification - really really delayed, which is probably I like the Regency kind of romance in particular, or, as before, romances intertwined with other primary genres. Obviously, I kept reading and there is still a good finish to the book, which is sweet and satisfactory for all characters.
I really love what Suze Robinson has done with this story since I saw the draft, and I am ridiculously excited to read her next offering. Certainly a firm favourite, and an author I will be delighted to read into the future.