“I love you because of you.
I loved you even before I knew your real name.”
HOLY WOW!! This was one of the most captivating, beautifully-written, and heart-felt books I’ve read all year! Over the last few years, I’ve fallen in love with many of Mia Sheridan’s books and this was one of my favorites! It was a deeply healing, slow-burning love story about two incredibly damaged people who fell unexpectedly into each other’s lives and helped mend each other’s broken pieces. It was a story about never giving up on the ones you love and care about and holding on to that love even through the darkest of times. I highly recommend this as a top favorite!!
Now if you don’t want to know anyyyyything at all about the book, you can just stop reading here, pre-order a copy, and dive in when you get it. But if you want to have a bit more of an idea of what you’re heading into, read on.
Even before I started reading the actual story, I’d already highlighted several passages from the author note at the beginning of the story. In it, she said that she was inspired to write this book by this quote:
“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worth it. Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
And I have to just share this too from her note because it set the tone for this story so perfectly…
“It’s my belief that the wisest and most sensitive souls are those who have been broken themselves and found a way to put their pieces back together. For who can know the true meaning of light unless they’ve been immersed in darkness? Who else can say, “I’ve been there, and I promise you — I promise you — there is life after this. Yes, even this.” Who else can determine with love and wisdom who’s worth suffering for? … MOST OF ALL YOU is a story about the power of love such as this. Love that comes from a place of light, of hope, of knowing. Love that says you are worth suffering for, but even more so, love that promises: Your heart will heal — it was what it was made to do.”
Even just knowing that alone was enough to make my heart squeeze and understand that this was going to be a very meaningful and emotionally charged story. Now, here is a little introduction into what this book is about…
Before leaving childhood, the heroine had already suffered so much loss and betrayal that the only way she could survive was so wall off her heart as best she could — to steel herself against feeling that kind of abandonment again.
Years later and all grown up, her luck hadn’t yet turned around and she was paying bills by stripping at a local club. She understandably had no faith or trust in men and any part of her she showed the world was just a facade that hid who she really was. But everything changed when a man named Gabriel Dalton walked unexpectedly into her life.
“I’d known a few handsome men in my time. Each one had a mean streak three miles wide. Handsome got you a big fat nowhere in the end… No, it was something more than that. I twas his eyes. His eyes held some sort of innocence I hadn’t seen before. Gentleness I certainly wasn’t used to. HIs expression was hopeful, but not desperate, and I didn’t detect lust in his eyes. He looked… sincere.”
She recognized him from the news — when she was a child, he’d been a lost boy abducted and gone missing and had only been found around the time her own life turned to ashes. And he had a very surprising proposition for her…
“Because of my history, which it sounds like you know a little about, I, uh, find it difficult to tolerate… closeness.”
… “Okay, what is it I can do for you?” …
“You can help me practice being touched by a woman.”
He was sweet and so completely unlike any man she’d met before — innocent in some ways and hauntingly mature in others. She believed in his sincerity and desperately needed the money so she agreed to help him out.
“I can teach you what I do when someone gets close to me. I remove myself completely, and it makes it bearable.” She bit her lip, her brow furrowing as if considering something. “I think I can teach you how to do that.”
My body stilled as I stared at her. Her words caused my heart to ache. Oh God. “That’s not what I want, though. I know how to remove myself. I know how to do that. I want to stay present. That’s what I need you to help me with. Staying.”
But a further twist pushed him into her life even more and suddenly she was in a position where she had to put her heart out on the line for the first time and trust him, even though she couldn’t believe why he kept coming back to her.
“I’m not giving up on you. I’m coming back.”
She shrugged one delicate shoulder. “It’s a free country. You do whatever you want. But I suggest you get out of here and go find the right girl.”
“What if I still think you’re the right girl?”
“Then you’re wrong.” She turned and walked away.
I really appreciated how aware he was of everything that was happening and how deeply he read into each situation. I loved that he recognized when he made mistakes and tried to fix them. He understood on a very deep, personal, often painful level how important it was not to judge a person before getting to know them.
A stripper. God, what was I doing?
What about you, Gabriel? How would people describe you if they were only going by the few things they knew? If they only met you once, only read the newspaper articles, what would you be called?
I loved her bravery and resilience, and yet also understood her hesitation. Her experience with Gabriel was truly the first genuinely healthy interaction with a man she’d had in her whole life. And he understood and recognized this — you’ll see when you read that his quiet patience and kindness towards her was utterly heart-melting.
It was honestly just so refreshing to read a hero who was just a regular guy. He wasn’t a billionaire or an athlete or a rock star (not that I don’t love those too), but he was still so quietly alpha and protective and strong — damaged and hurting, yet willing to bare his heart to this girl who he couldn’t stop himself from falling in love with.
“I’d never try to control you.” Oh God. His voice. I could hear the pain. I wanted to turn away, but I didn’t. He paused, even deeper torment skating over his expression. “Someone did that to me, and I’d never do it to someone else. I only want to help you. If there’s somewhere you’d rather be where you’ll be safe and cared for, tell me and I’ll drive you there myself. I’ll make sure you get here no matter how far away it is. I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m trying to take away your will. I couldn’t live with that.”
This is a very slow-burning love story and that made perfect sense given how much healing they both had to do. I loved that how patiently he waited for her and the way he never once rushed her into anything before she was ready. He just showed her constant, unwavering love and allowed her to heal at her own pace.
I loved the expression on her face — cautious awe — as if she wasn’t sure she should allow herself to fall in love with anything beautiful, even the sunrise.
Sometimes it hurt me to watch her, hurt me to see that she was so lonely inside, so sure that the whole world was a dangerous place for her. I longed to show her that it didn’t have to be, but for now, I offered her the sunrise and a safe place to watch it. I prayed that someday soon she would trust that she deserved this beauty.
The story is told in alternating POVs and in first person which I felt was a very welcome format for this story because given how complex both their characters were and how much they’d each been through, it was wonderful to be able to see both their sides of this story.
The writing was truly beautiful and just sweeps you away into the story. I’ve loved many of Mia Sheridan’s books over the years. Some of my favorites include Archer’s Voice, Becoming Calder & Finding Eden, Leo, Kyland, Stinger, and others. But this book really went back to her original roots and, in my opinion, was the closest in feeling to Archer’s Voice. In fact I can confidently say that if you loved Archer’s Voice, you will love Most of all You.
Rating: 4.5+ stars! Contemporary Adult Romance, standalone.