First and foremost, Disgrace is the story of a woman who has suffered horribly in her marriage going home to find herself (which sounds awful, but trust me, it’s not). After multiple miscarriages, gut-wrenching betrayal, and an impending divorce, the heroine, Grace, doesn’t really know who she is anymore. She’s lived her life as the perfect daughter, the perfect community member, the perfect wife, and where has it gotten her? Going through a divorce at 30 with nothing to show for her marriage but damaged self-esteem and a douchebag ex.
What I loved most about Grace was that even though she was struggling to find herself and still kind of wanted to be the people-pleaser she’d been raised to be, she wasn’t ever weak. Confused, sure. But weak? Never. She never turned her back on Jackson, the hero, or his family, even though doing so would’ve made her life considerably easier. She was broken, but not beaten, and when push came to shove, she was a good person and a solid friend to Jackson. Her strength of character was nothing short of inspirational.
And Jackson...oh, honey. My heart just broke for him. He’d lost his mother, his dad was the town drunk, everyone called him a monster, and he was stuck in a town where charity and kindness seemed available to everyone but him. And worst of all, he couldn’t leave because he’d promised his mom (on her deathbed, no less), that he’d take care of his father.
So, here’s this (inwardly) sweet, gentle man stuck living a miserable lonely life in an awful town and pretending to be a complete asshole so that no one would ever know just how much their cruel nicknames and petty gossip really hurt him. He’s exactly what Grace says he is: a gentle monster. I loved every single word written from this gentle monster’s point of view. He was FLAWLESS.
Did he treat Grace badly in the beginning? Yes, he said some awful things to her. But his actions contradict his words, and it didn’t take long for Grace (and me as a reader) to see what a good man Jackson really is. Jackson is officially on my list of all-time favorite book boyfriends. (His former manwhore ways are completely forgiven)
I will say that the people in Grace and Jackson’s hometown, her parents included, are often just awful. You’ll want them dead at several points throughout the story. But the majority of them either come around and start acting like they aren’t complete douchebags by the end of the story, or they weren’t that important to begin with, so I didn’t deduct any points from my review because of it. I’m cutting the author some slack because I adored Grace and Jackson so much.
Small spoiler alert: the dog dies. This is normally a deal breaker for me as a reader, but in this case, I kept reading because a) the death was off the page, so I wasn’t forced to read about it in excruciating detail, and b) the dog was a happy, 15-year-old boy who’d lead a great life and he wasn’t murdered, or anything. It was just his time to go. (And even though the scene was handled beautifully, I still bawled like a baby. The little eulogy Jackson gives the dog is powerful and heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time.)
And one other thing that is so shallow it’s hardly worth mentioning (but, hey, shallow is kind of my thing, so...yeah), but I also loved it that Grace was older than Jackson. He’s 24 and she’s 30, so it’s not a huge age difference, but it’s so much better than the typical 40-year-old man falls for beautiful 18-year-old crap that you end up seeing so many times in romance novels. I LOVE the younger man/older woman trope.
So, long-story-short, if you love an emotional, deeply touching romance that’ll make you cry a little because it’s all so beautiful and so REAL, give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Does this book contribute to or help crush the romance stigma?
It’s CRUSHING THE CRAP out of the romance stigma!
Other reading suggestions
Check out the Brittainy C. Cherry backlist. She’s incredible.