Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

“It never ends, does it? Loving you never ends.”

Seven Days in June took me by surprise. The romcom tone of this novel’s first pages belies the serious topics and issues it later delves into. Seven Days in June is the kind of read that has you laughing out loud one moment before pulling at your heartstrings next. So on the one hand we have a heart-melting romance and an abundance of hilarious moments, on the other, we have a narrative that explores grief, trauma, addiction, abuse, self-harming, and chronic illness. This could have easily resulted in an uneven blend of romance and tragedy but it is not the case here. Tia Williams flawlessly weaves together moments of lightness and comedic relief with more poignant and sombre scenes.

“They both had their twisted compulsions, different corners of the same hell.”

In Seven Days in June, we are introduced to Eva Mercy, a thirty-something single mom who has authored a paranormal erotica series about vampires and star-crossed lovers. Eva suffers from a chronic illness that often manifests itself through severe migraines that leave her bedridden and unable to move, let alone perform those everyday activities that most people don’t have to think twice about. Eva is meant to be writing the next instalment in her series but finds herself wanting to write about the ‘cursed’ women in her family. Between being pressured by her producer to agree to whitewash her own characters for the film adaptation of her book (here here is a brilliant video essay that discusses white audiences wanting & expecting white actors to play poc characters) and her ‘tween’ daughter, whom she is really close to, getting in trouble at school Eva is feeling understandably overwhelmed. So when award-winning literary author Shane Hall shows up at a literary event she’s taking part in…Eva is less than prepared. More than a decade ago she and Shane spent a passionate love and drug-fueled week together, one that has haunted them ever since. Shane, now a teacher, has been clean for two years. His privacy has lent me an air of mystery in the literary world, and whereas Eva’s books are often seen as popular smutty fiction, his books are celebrated as modern classics. Shane wants to make amends for the way things ended between them but Eva isn’t keen on getting her heartbroken again.
Despite the years that have passed since their short-lived relationship neither of them has been able to truly ‘get over’ the other and soon Eva finds herself wanting to believe that Shane has truly changed. In the following days, the two rekindle their love again, causing quite the stir in the literary community.
Eva and Shane’s chemistry was off the charts. Not only are they on the same wavelength, but they seem to draw strength from each other’s presence. As the days go by they reveal to each other their vulnerabilities, fears, and desires. Interspersed through these ‘present’ chapters are ones that give us a glimpse of their fated 7 days together back in their teens. We learn how Shane became an addict, the neglect they both experienced, Eva’s harmful coping mechanism in response to her chronic pain and home life, and of how the two fell for one another. I loved how Williams is able to show the depth of their feelings for each other without taking away from their individual character arcs.
Williams’ writing flows like a dream, and she easily shifts between tones—from a more tongue-in-cheek one to a more melancholic one—and her dialogues can be either ‘ah-ah’ levels of entertaining to ‘give you all the feels’ levels of devastating. Eva and Shane are of course the starts of the show and their dynamic was truly wonderful.

“Was this being seen for what she really was? Being witnessed? It was heady and terrifying.”

There were things that detracted from my overall enjoyment of this novel. We have the classic misunderstanding that typically occurs in romance novels around the 80% mark, a tertiary character is sacrificed to amp up the tension between our mains, and the pacing in the final arc is kind of off (we get pages and pages of texting). I also wonder about the ‘seven’ days premise…I thought we would be getting a day by day narrative but the story often seems to forget to mention how much time has passed between each encounter (i can only remember that there was a party on Saturday).
Still, I think that Williams has written a great romance novel, one that doesn’t shrink away from tackling complex subjects. While I’m usually not a fan of steamy sex scenes (i prefer the kind of awkward sex scenes that appear in fleabag) Williams’ ones were actually pretty decent, sensual without being corny or icky.

“Eva had been imprisoned in pain for so long, she’d forgotten how good feeling good was.”

Williams’ portrayal of self-harming and chronic illness really resonated with me (we have doctors, strangers, and friends dismissing the severity of eva’s symptoms, how she notices that the people around her make movements or perform activities she is unable to) and I was so happy that Eva’s characterisation doesn’t solely revolve around her pain. Shane’s addiction too isn’t there to make him into the classic ‘tortured’ bad boy and we see how he still struggles to adapt to his new ‘clean’ lifestyle.

“What was it like, the luxury of not hurting?”

Eva’s interactions with Audre—her daughter—and her friends filled me with joy and it was refreshing to see non romantic relationships being given so much room in a romance. Audre was such a delightful character and she has some of the best lines If you are looking for an emotionally resonant and nuanced second chance romance, look no further. Brimming with humor and empathy Seven Days in June makes for a swoon-worthy and heart-rendering romance.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

my rating: ★★★½

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