Review: Strong Enough by Melanie Harlow & David Romanov


Note: This ARC was provided by the authors via Social Butterfly PR in exchange for an honest review.

For a moment, we were still. Our eyes locked. I couldn't breathe. He was everything inside me—everywhere. My mind, my heart, my body, my soul. I gave everything over to him. I was his, exactly the way I'd wanted to be, and it was perfect.

One of my favorite romance books in high school had a Russian male main character in it and in the story, he tells the girl he's in love with "Ya lyublyu tebya." The phrase stuck with me and here I am, three decades later, coming across the phrase once again. It's spelled a bit differently—"Ya lublu tebya"—and while the book when I was thirteen was young adult (YA), the book I have fallen in love with this time around is LGBTQIA, specifically, M/M. However, they were both stories about finding love and the complications that come with that all too new feeling and how, at the end of it all, it's the simplest of truths that prevail—that love, regardless of gender, race, or faith, in its truest and purest form sets us free even as it binds us to someone else. That's what I took from Strong Enough.

This standalone marks three milestones. Strong Enough is bestselling author Melanie Harlow's first foray into the sub-genre of M/M contemporary romance, it's the debut release from David Romanov, and it's the first time Harlow has co-written a novel. On all three points, this book has done remarkably well, and this is coming from someone who makes no secret of how much of an M/M romance fangirl I am. There's a great deal of emotion, and that's to be expected when it comes to Harlow's novels, but there were also thought-provoking moments, though I'm not sure if having those was intentional or not. With one main character being in denial about his sexuality and raised to believe that being anything but straight was wrong, his issues gave me pause and had me contemplative.

With thirty-six-year-old Derek and twenty-four-year-old Maxim—whose journey to happily-ever-after was anything but easy—I felt a lot of frustration, more towards the former than the latter. Yet I also felt empathy, because who the heck wants to be in the same situation as him, confused about what it was he truly wanted. But then Derek first had to make up his mind about who he was and everything else (okay, maybe not EVERYTHING but the most important ones) will fall into place. Maxim was extremely likable and falling in love with him was inevitable. With Derek, there was more of a struggle, mainly because he was in such denial and the way he was handling everything come off as selfish and thoughtless at times. Did he win me over? Oh, yes he did...though he still faltered at times.

I loved Derek and Maxim's story, and part of what made it such a wonderful read was the cast of characters these two were surrounded with and supported by, especially Carolyn, Derek's not-quite-yet girlfriend, Ellen, Derek's younger sister, and to a slightly lesser degree, Gage, Derek's best friend. Harlow and Romanov did a fantastic job putting their own spin on the whole struggle regarding family acceptance, choosing to make it a point of contention for Derek but not making it overtake the rest of the story with its resolution. This may be their first endeavor as a writing duo, but I sincerely hope it won't be the last. They struck a good balance as a team, with one giving voice to the other's ideas. Strong Enough is more than enough as an M/M debut. I'm giving it five-plus stars. ♥

Release Date: 18 June 2017

Date Read: 19 June 2017

Learn more about Melanie Harlow and David Romanov.

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