The Beauty Within by Savannah J. Frierson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have been a fan of this author since Trolling Nights. I've had several of her books in my tbr pile and I decided to read this one on my Kindle. I really liked this book. It starts out in an unusual fashion. Tyler and Gunnar do not have good first impressions. In fact, Gunnar is actually a jerk to Tyler when they first meet. Gunnar is a gym owner and he has to take his personal trainer's new client and his current girlfriend had pissed him off and he's not happy about it. His behavior reminds Tyler of her insecurities with her weight.
Gunnar is man enough to admit when he's being a tool. He apologizes and finds that he's very attracted to Tyler. Truth be told, Gunnar never seemed to have an issue with Tyler's weight, but he's willing to help Tyler train to be more healthy since her weight was giving her back problems. As they spend time together, the attraction grows into something much more.
I've heard some of Savannah J. Frierson's readers don't like her insecure heroines. That doesn't bother me. I think that's realistic. Most women are insecure about something about themselves, be it external or internal. I think it makes her heroines relatable. I think that one could argue that her heroes are too perfect, but Gunnar definitely isn't that. He's a good guy and he makes up for being a jerk, but he did behave that way. And his past in LA showed that he was fallible and has made mistakes. I liked both of them. I enjoyed their romance. Their relationship was sexy and romantic. I also liked how the author integrated some real life issues into the story, from poor body image, the impact of broken relationships, drug abuse, and body abuse to fit an unrealistic ideal. It wasn't done in a preachy way, which I appreciated.
I also liked how Gunnar's Swedish heritage was integrated into the story. He would use words from his parents' native language, since he spoke it fluently. Also Tyler's culture as a black Southerner was integral. I liked how Tyler was really close to her sister and the fact that her sister's man worked for Gunnar and was friends with him. Their conversations felt authentic to me. Also, the characters have unique professions. Gunnar is an ex-model and gym owner and Tyler owns and runs a barber shop.
I went through a phase where I read a lot of BBW heroines (big, beautiful women) and I sort of fell out of it. I still like the sub-genre and the fact that a woman could be larger sized and still be appreciated by a man without losing weight. I think this was handled well in the book. Tyler focuses on getting healthy (although she does go in a more unhealthy direction with the weight loss and that is a huge trigger for Gunnar). I think that was good that Frierson factored this in, because it's important to be healthy in losing weight. What I loved the most was that Gunnar appreciated her before she lost weight, and my hope is that Tyler comes to embrace herself in the shape she comes and not focus on an unhealthy ideal.
This isn't my favorite by Frierson, because I love Trolling Nights and Being Plumville so much, but I did enjoy it a lot and would recommend this book to contemporary romance readers, and those interested in interracial romance.
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