NA Romance – Solo by Lauren E. Rico

Kate Brenner is in her last semester of graduate school before getting her Master’s in Conducting. She is content to go on without any friends or family on her side. She just wants to graduate and move on. But then this jerk of a professor threatens to fail her.

In Solo, Kate is a stand-out conducting student who has been taken in as a mentee by the most prestigious conducting professor on campus—and perhaps in the country. She has been cut off by her father, a well-known U.S. Senator who has gained infamy with his bill to defund the arts. Because of this, she works extremely hard at multiple jobs to make ends meet and pay her bills on time. She is the definition of surviving. And Dr. Drew Markham’s threat to fail her (and his hate toward her in general) is the last thing she needs.

Everything is riding on her big semester project.

But then she gets terribly sick with the flu and nearly misses the deadline… during a snowstorm in the North Carolina mountains. Her car manages to make it to Dr. Markham’s house to drop off the project. But her car gets stuck at the end of his driveway, and she’s so ill that she falls asleep at the wheel while her car sits stuck in the snow. So Dr. Markham—Drew—brings her inside and cares for her during the snowstorm.

But wait, I thought he hated her?

Yeah, he did. But it was solely because she looked remarkably like his former fiancé! That’s all! Hate to love in the blink of an eye, once he gets to know her!

This is where I tell you that there are some spoilers ahead.

Okay, enough of the synopsis. I’m going to get into the meat of the story now. As those of you familiar with my reviews may already know, I have a thing for student-teacher romance stories. I also have a thing for hate-to-love romance stories. These are tropes that I’m into reading about, for no particular reason, and this book checks both of those boxes. It was light and fluffy, and I read it in about 36 hours. But here’s the thing—there were problems with this book. And that’s what I want to talk about now. Hence the spoiler warning.

First, what the heck is with Drew’s flip-flopping?

It’s one thing to say a love interest is kind of an idiot. But Drew Markham takes this to another level. First of all, who hates a person on sight just because she reminds you of your dead fiancé? (Hey, that’s one of those spoilers I was talking about.) That’s just immature. Death and grief are strange and terrible animals, but come on. No one in the music department has slapped any sense into him?

And then his flip-flopping at the end—he loves her and then he hates her and then he loves her again? It’s so exhausting, and doesn’t seem realistic to any man I’ve ever met. But! I can’t say I know any Doctors of Music (I guess?), so maybe I have been surveying the wrong sample size.

Second, and more importantly, there are big problems with the way mental health is handled in this book. BIG PROBLEMS.

Drew Markham’s fiancé committed suicide. (Oh, yeah, spoiler.) This is discussed throughout the book, but it’s never discussed in a way that is sympathetic, or like there is any sort of understanding to the nuances of depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s discussed in relation to blame, as in, people blaming other people for a person’s suicide. It’s discussed in a way that makes it seem like Drew’s fiancé’s suicide was inevitable—it was only a matter of time, anyway. It was discussed so cavalierly—in one scene near the end, a side character calls his fiancé a “crazy psycho bitch.” That was… terrible to read. As someone who has suffered from depression, who has had thoughts of suicide, this was triggering. I was actively cringing throughout the reading of those sections, and I left the book with a bad taste in my mouth. Mental health is not something to take lightly, ever. It is not something that can be blamed on others. Nothing is inevitable. And no one who suffers from depression is a crazy bitch. That isn’t how this works. That will never be how this works.

Solo gets a B with a HUGE caveat.

This book could trigger readers. I want that out there before I recommend this to anyone. It’s cute, and the main story is light and funny and hits the tropes I love. But book people out there—take care of yourselves.

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