When JUDAH MADDEN flees his tiny suffocating home-town in New Zealand, for the dream of international ballet stardom, he never intends coming back. Not to Painted Bay. Not to his family’s struggling mussel farm. Not to his jerk of a brother. Not with his entire life plan in shreds. And certainly not into the tempting arms of MORGAN WIPENE, the older, ruggedly handsome fisheries officer who seems determined to screw with Judah’s intention to wallow in peace.
But dreams are fickle things. Shatter them and it’s hard to pick up the pieces. Hard to believe. Hard to start again.
But the hardest thing of all? Finding the courage to trust in love and build a new dream where you least expected it.
I've been reading Jay Hogan for some time now, but she really hit her stride with Off Balance. Though it tops out at nearly 400 pages, it is a beautifully written, powerful romance, and it was exactly the kind of book I love to read.
I have a deep love of romance books that feature characters living with a chronic illness or a disability. Working in the medical field, I know a lot about rare diseases, but this book was my first experience with Ménière’s disease. I found Judah to be an extremely compelling MC, and his struggle to find his place and purpose after his dance career was ruined by the inner ear disorder was both moving and fascinating to read about.
I also loved Morgan and how he complemented Judah. He didn't run away from his feelings, and I adored how communicative and responsive he was with Judah. I liked how the author weighed Morgan's memories and time spent with his wife with his new feelings for Judah, and I think Jay Hogan struck the perfect balance in the story.
Their romance was, gah, just so good! Yes, there was a lot of initial attraction, but it built-up over time in a gorgeous way. There wasn't any manufactured drama or silly misunderstandings, and it felt extremely real and special.
I was meh about the mystery aspect of the book, and I often think the author tries to cram suspense into her contemporaries unnecessarily, but it for sure gave a little momentum to the end of a long book. I would have been happy with just a relationship-focused contemporary, but I got enough of that to make me very happy.
Jay Hogan wrote her strongest book to date with Off Balance. It felt perfectly New Zealand-y, just like her other stories, and like a great, small town romance. I adored it, and I can't wait to read more in this sure to be special series.
*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
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