Note: This was originally a freelance blog post written for Heroes & Heartbreakers. When MacMillan shut down the community in 2018, they also removed all of the content that had been on the website.
Every now and then we get lucky enough to read one of those books that just sticks with us, one that makes the reader feel all the feels.
And by all the feels, I mean ALL the freaking feels.
I admittedly felt just like that for most of this book; it just packed that much of an emotional wallop.
I briefly touched upon that emotional wallop in my First Look, but wanted to avoid spoilers. This post does not avoid spoilers, so you’ve been forewarned.
–Continue reading at your own risk—
Now that we’ve gotten the spoiler warning out of the way, I want to address something: if you haven’t read this book yet, it merits a trigger warning. Searching for Beautiful explores some subjects that are sensitive, heavy, and that could cause flashbacks for some people, mainly anyone who’s ever been a victim of domestic abuse (physical or mental, but especially mental) and/or anyone who’s a rape/sexual abuse survivor.
Having a hero and heroine who have experienced those things (Gen was mentally abused by her fiancé, and Wolfe was gang raped by some of his mother’s drug suppliers when she didn’t have the money to pay for her fix) definitely keeps this book out of the realm of “light and fluffy” best friends romance and puts it firmly in the category of “holy crap I can’t stop crying.”
It’s pretty easy to quickly piece together the facts of Gen’s relationship with David. Probst gave us hints in the first two books of the Searching For series, and it’s quickly apparent that he’s an abusive, controlling jerk who ultimately makes her life a living hell (to the point where she quits her job). Unfortunately, the scars from David’s abuse run deep, and Gen’s confidence is at an all-time low. Wolfe’s scars, however, are much harder to uncover.
Probst did a beautiful job of hinting at Wolfe’s past in the first two books of the Searching For series and in The Marriage Merger, which is when we first meet him. She also layers his past in wonderfully throughout Searching for Beautiful, so that the reader at least has an inkling and is somewhat prepared, but not so prepared that the emotional punch falls flat. She does so through nightmares, which are really flashbacks to when he was a child and young teen, beginning at age ten. The pace, the word choice, the events…they all amp up the suspense of wondering (and yet having a sickening hunch about) what happened to Wolfe, and what had caused him to wear those leather wristbands that he never takes off.
The memories flashed hard and painful. Wolfe scratched absently at his leather wristband, accepting he’d never be that man, never be good enough for her.
Wolfe really does believe he’ll never be good enough for Gen. While he’s confident in the boardroom (and the bedroom), he’s also a bit of a control freak and doesn’t like to feel as if he doesn’t have control of his life. He’s this wonderfully broken paradox of a man—incredibly intelligent, hard-working, a fighter, a survivor, and loyal while believing he’s somehow less of a man and not good enough to deserve love—and his journey is a powerful one.
In her usual way, Mama Conte helps Wolfe to see that he does indeed deserve love.
“…sometimes the hardest, bravest thing in the world is to let someone love you.” She slowly slipped off the wrist guards, releasing his scarred skin to the light. “Allow yourself to be happy. This boy who tried to take his life, the one with all the hurt and loss, is part of you. But he does not have to take over. Not anymore…”
Wolfe stared. Her voice echoed to a place inside his soul…
All the freaking feels. Seriously.
I’ve talked before about how much I love broken characters, and I tend to write some pretty broken characters myself, but Wolfe? Holy crap Batman. Wolfe might be my favorite broken character to date; I love the paradox of this powerful, successful man who’s just so lonely and harboring such an awful, devastating secret. I love that he’s a fighter, but that we get to see him take the hardest step for a lot of rape/sexual abuse victims—letting love in.
Wolfe tells Mama Conte that he’s searching for something beautiful, and she tells him he’s found that in Gen, that his love for her is the beauty. While she’s right, I also believe that the true beauty is that moment when Wolfe decides to let love in and accept that he’s so much more than his horrific past—he’s a survivor.