Max O’Hare can’t seem to let go of his past: his drug habit, the end of his relationship with Lizzie Jordan, the woman he knows he’ll never get over, and the loss of their unborn son.
After successfully completing rehab and learning to explore his deepest fears and dreams through painting, Max meets Grace Brooks. With her innate optimism, and her love of art and photography, Grace appears to be the perfect girl. Yet no one knows where she came from, or why she keeps her past so closely guarded. Over time, Max and Grace gradually allow each other in—but will he ever be able to fully let go of his past? Or will his heart remain closed forever? (Goodreads)
In the latest book in the A Pound of Flesh Series, Jackson proves that she is more than a one trick pony. For in An Ounce of Hope, Jackson manages to take the tropes of this genre i.e. bad boy with demons and the good girl with a troubled past; and manages to twist them in such a way that makes them seem fresh. Coupled with the fact she managed to make me do a complete 180 on a character who I thought was complete asshat in the first book and you know you have a talented writer on your hands.
What makes Jackson really stand out from the crowd and stand alongside one of my favourite Contemporary Romance authors, Samantha Young, is the way that she creates characters that are so fully realised. Neither lead in An Ounce of Hope is the poster child for the ultimate romance ideal. This is especially true with Max, who I can honestly say, I did not care for in the first book, A Pound of Flesh. Although in that book it was hinted that he had a troubled past involving a past love that left him scarred, I couldn’t warm to him due to the fact he let Carter, the lead from the first book, take the fall for a crime he committed. Regardless of how dark a place he was in, I just could not give him any sympathy.
An Ounce of Hope is his chance to redeem himself and in so many ways, Max truly does. From the time he enters rehab, to the very last page, Max does not stop growing as a character. What was great to see was the way in which Jackson dealt with Max’s addiction and rehabilitation. The therapy that he went and still goes through is not seen as a magic band aid and although he does make mistakes, Max learns from them and grows as a person. True, when it comes to Grace, he does make a few colossal cock ups (one in particular that I really wanted to smack him over the head for) it makes him all the more human. Yes, I have read other books where a bad boy has issues and they do make mistakes, but the way in which Max is written just made me warm to him. I wanted the best for him. I wanted Max to beat his demons and get the future he deserves with Grace.
As you can tell, Max takes up quite a bit of this book and I think that is another thing that made the book seem fresh to me. The focus was more so on Max than Grace. Usually, I do prefer my romance books to be more focused on the female character, but in this series case, the male characters are coming off that much more interesting.
That isn’t to say that Grace is not a great character. I liked that she too had demons from her past that she was still in the process of battling. It is just that there was not the same connection between me and her. That isn’t to say she doesn’t develop as a character, but you could clearly tell that she was further down that road of, I don’t want to say recovery, but rebuilding her life after what happened to her. In a way, Grace helps Max much more than how he helps her, emotionally. Physically? Yeah, Max really should look at becoming a professional in that instance.
This is really more of a story about two people trying to move on with their lives after some really difficult circumstances. True, at times I did begin to suspect that Grace’s ex-husband may rear his ugly head, but Jackson really doesn’t need to a storyline that can come off as “Soap-Operay”. It did add to the tension, but that storyline didn’t need to be explored. The focus was clearly on Grace and Max, and it was just so enjoyable to read about.
Like any good story, you need great supporting characters to help make the world more rounded and once again, Jackson has created a character you instantly fall for. (OK, that may be just me!) While in A Pound of Flesh, it was Riley, Carter and Max’s friend; in An Ounce of Hope, that honour goes to Tate, Max’s sponsor.
Tate is just a character you need to know more about. Jackson gives you little breadcrumbs about their backstory and you are screaming at her for more. The fact that he is also a huge geek with a T-Shirt collection that would have the guys from The Big Bang Theory salivating, is an added bonus. When I found out that Tate was also Riley’s brother, I instantly began composing an email, demanding a spin off series with Riley’s brothers.
The ending of the book has one of THE best romantic lines I have read in any genre and whenever I now read a declaration of marriage from any other male character, I shall scoff. Truly, that one line had me a gooey mush of “aww”. IT is just poetic in its delivery and meaning. This was the perfect ending to the book and I just loved every darn word of it.
An Ounce of Hope proves that Jackson is more than a one trick pony and again more than cements the comparisons she has to Samantha Young, Jodi Ellen Malpas, Jamie McGuire and Katy Evans. She has that rare gift of crafting a romance that needs no outer conflict and can show that the greatest threat to love is ourselves.
An Ounce of Hope is that rare read that I finished in a day and when I finished it I was at a loss on what to read next. This is a romance book for those who want to lose them in a story about two people who need each other to defeat their demons. Once you pick up this book, you will be lost in the story. A great comfort read that restores your faith in the happy ever after.
A POUND OF FLESH SERIES IN ORDER
1 A Pound of Flesh
1.5 Love and Always
2 An Ounce of Hope
2.5 Fate and Forever
3 A Measure of Love