Perfect Rhythm by Jae
Book One in the Fair Oaks series
Compelling and romantic, Jae’s Perfect Rhythm is the story of two women finding love on their own terms. Leo, known to millions as pop superstar Jenna Blake, fled her suffocating hometown of Fair Oaks, Missouri as soon as she could in order to pursue her dreams of music stardom and to get away from her parents, especially her father, who never let Leo forget that he did not approve of her choices in music or her sexual orientation. Now, at thirty-two, she finds herself burned out and disillusioned with the music business, and sick of women who only want to date her because she’s famous. A family emergency calls her back home, to the town she has avoided and the parents that she hasn’t really spoken to in fourteen years.
Holly has lived in Fair Oaks her entire life. She’s a home health care nurse working for Leo’s family, and has pretty much become a daughter to them in the time that she has been caring for Leo’s father. Holly doesn’t think very highly of Leo, who she sees as having abandoned her family. Holly also identifies as a lesbian, but more than that, she’s asexual. And as she gets past her initial reservations about Leo’s return home, Holly finds herself growing closer to this new friend.
I don’t want to gush and fangirl too much here, but Jae does such an incredible job of explaining asexuality and its entire spectrum without it becoming just an info dump. I’ve really appreciated all of the ace representation that we have started seeing in mainstream romance the past couple of years, but most of them focus on demisexual rep, which is amazing, but it’s nice to see an author giving the rest of the spectrum some love. It made my heart so happy as Holly explained her sexuality to allosexual Leo. As someone on the ace spectrum very close to where Holly is, I felt seen for the first time ever while reading a romance novel. Also, kudos to the author for giving a content warning before chapter 22, giving those aces who may be sex-repulsed or folks just not into reading about that kind of intimacy a chance to bypass it.
In addition to the ace rep, the story itself was captivating and emotional, as Leo comes to terms with her estrangement from her family and tries to find common ground with her father before it’s too late. She also fights an internal battle over her feelings for Holly, and whether or not a relationship between an allosexual woman and her asexual partner can succeed. Meanwhile, Holly is wrestling with her feelings for Leo because she has been burned so many times by women who said they were okay with her asexuality, but then tried to coerce her into things she was not comfortable with.
My only very minor qualm I had with Perfect Rhythm was that the pace was a tad slow towards the beginning, as we are getting to know our characters and settling into life in the small town of Fair Oaks.
I do have to complement the outstanding audio narration by Angela Dawe. She did a fantastic job of giving the characters their own unique voices, and her performance was flawless.
I selected this book because I saw it as a suggestion for the “character on the ace spectrum” prompt in the 2022 PopSugar Reading Challenge. I had planned to just read this for the prompt and that would be it, but I enjoyed this book so much that I’ve already downloaded the audio for book two in the series, Not the Marrying Kind, and I will definitely be exploring other titles in Jae’s catalog.
I am giving Perfect Rhythm four stars overall, with a bump up an extra half star for Jae’s extraordinary handling of the topic of asexuality and all that it involves.