Title: Book Review: Between Friends
Sub: Not Your Average Romance Novel
Between Friends, written by Minnesota author Susan Schussler, is the third book in her Between the Raindrops series. While the novel (just under 300 pages) features crossover characters, the third book’s storyline stands on its own, making it easily readable apart from the series. Published in 2016, Schussler’s topics remain very relevant to the growing awareness of mental health and drug abuse. She doesn’t shy away from bringing up tough issues such as suicide, drug overdose, emotionally abusive relationships, and grief.
Set in Minnesota and LA, Between Friends (Rocky Shore Media L.L.C., 2016) tells the story of Megan, a woman in her mid-twenties who’s still recovering from a toxic past relationship and the loss of her mother. Distant from her family and blaming herself for her mother’s death, Megan struggles to resist revisiting an old relationship with a very persistent ex. Liam, the quintessential Hollywood hottie, is a very casual dater, afraid to make a commitment lasting much longer than the night – but he does keep a few rules about the women he sleeps with. No twins, and no sisters of friends. When the two meet through mutual friends, there’s an instant connection – but she’s basically the sister of Liam’s friend which makes her automatically untouchable. A series of events (and a few steamy scenes) follow as both Megan and Liam battle inner demons, backstabbing friends, and complicated families.
With chapters bouncing back and forth between their two perspectives, Schussler lets us into the inner turmoil encircling unhealthy relationships and the ever-present-doubt that we don’t deserve love. Both previously tricked and cheated on by past partners, Megan and Liam struggle with honesty and trust. Together, the two must chart a new course on what love really looks like. “Love isn’t real unless honesty exists,” Liam discovers, a truth that’s even harder to find in our hook-up focused culture.
Schussler markets her books as “realistic romance,” and that’s spot on for Between Friends. While still very much a romance book, complete with clothes-ripping scenes, heavy panting, and lingering touches, Schussler deftly weaves together a story highlighting the very real (and brutal) struggles plaguing our modern culture. Liam ends up searching for his drug-addicted brother throughout the streets of LA, juggling a heavy-handed father never satisfied with Liam’s achievements. Megan can’t stop reliving the last moments of her mother’s life, overcome by shame that her family blames her for her mother’s death.
While the pulse-racing sex against a window might not be relatable for all, the themes of deep guilt, self-doubt, and feeling undeserving of true love will surely resonate with readers. Megan struggles to open herself up to Liam, choosing to protect herself by keeping him in the friend zone, stuffing her feelings in a box she never opens. “What is it that makes people walk away from me?” she asks herself, unable to let go of her mother’s abandonment and Liam’s seeming disinterest toward her as the novel nears its climax (pun intended). It’s not until both characters let go of their past that they can make room for the future – and each other.
With plot twists and turns, Schussler takes the reader on a meaningful adventure from brokenness to wholeness, reminding us true love is always worth the risk.