A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings
March 1, 2022, by St. Martin’s Griffin
Review by Melanie
When I first saw the premise of A Brush with Love being floated around social media, I will admit, I was more than a little curious. I’d read many a romance with law students and med students and art students and here, finally, was this untapped market where two people met and fell in love while…scraping plaque off someone’s teeth. Ok, well, when put like that, one does become a little wary. After all, cavities and halitosis rarely make for sexy bedfellows and despite the author herself being a dental student and that old advice about writing what you know, setting a romance around two dental students did seem a bridge too far. (No apologies for this sad dental pun, it was low-hanging fruit and I plucked it).
I will also admit that going in, I sent up a fervent prayer that there weren’t going to be too many “dentist-y” things in the book. I have a healthy fear of the dentist and I just wanted some vague references that these two characters happened to be in dental school without any real details about what that might entail. Unfortunately, 20% in I got hit with a rather detailed explanation about root extraction that will now live rent-free in my head for a good long time. It is what it is. I will add that it was really the last bit of dentistry in the book so if you want to read but like me, don’t want to know about the pesky details of cavity fillings and root extractions, if you can get through the first 20%, you’ll be good to go.
All that aside, this book took me on a real journey. Harper, dental student extraordinaire, is a bit of a mess. She’s got a lot of anxiety and her mother died in a car accident when Harper was 12 and Harper was in the car with her. Raised by her aunt and uncle, Harper contends with this traumatic loss by keeping people at bay and focusing on her goals, mainly to graduate dental school and get into the surgical residency program of her dreams. She basically avoids the things she can’t control and relentlessly controls the things she can – mainly her academic life.
Dan, a first-year dental student, is battling his own difficult past. As the son of a world-renowned dentist and a pioneer in the field of restorative dentistry, he broke with family expectations and went into finance. To say that his late father was emotionally and verbally abusive would be underselling it as his decision to not follow in his father’s footsteps caused his father to lash out and label him an utter disappointment. When his father dies, his mother (also a manipulative parent in my eyes) implores Dan to leave the career he loves and go to dental school and take over the family business so that she doesn’t lose her livelihood. Whew! Toxic parental relationship at its finest.
When these two broken souls meet, they are both floundering and a little lost in their own way. Harper, knowing she’s graduating and leaving in a few months, is loath to start anything serious and insists that they can be only friends. Dan, almost instantly smitten with Harper, reluctantly agrees to their plan, rationalizing that having Harper in his life as a friend is better than not having Harper at all. And so these two embark on a sexually charged friendship that finally culminates in them giving in to their mutual attraction at around the 70% mark. It’s definitely a slow burn with lots of tension so if that’s your jam, then you will enjoy this book.
However, there are certain things in this book that really did not work for me. Part of that is, Harper’s emotional issues surrounding her anxiety are so obvious to Dan, he picks up on it pretty quickly. But, she also has a core group of friends who she’s been friends with for a while and at the beginning, I have to say, I really felt that the friend group was a bit toxic. This is the second book I’ve read in as many months where the FMC is really struggling emotionally and mentally and definitely needs therapy and her friends basically just urge her to loosen the reins and bang the hot love interest. There’s a particular scene where one of her friends explains that Harper always makes them come to a particular bar “instead of any of the thousands of fun bars in Philly” and I don’t know, maybe I’m extra sensitive, but it felt like these friends were just ignoring all the signs and just constantly judging her for her choices and behavior.
I will say that around 60% in, the friends finally wise up and realize Harper definitely needs help and unsuccessfully urge her to seek help. However, that Dan saw it immediately and her friends took so long to realize something is off, is a little bit baffling to me.
This was definitely darker than I expected and covers a whole host of issues and maybe the real problem is that there were so many issues combined between Dan and Harper, both as individuals and also as a pairing, that it felt like none of them really got enough space to be fully fleshed out. The dark scene towards the end is legitimately dark and honestly, made me wonder how these two characters were ever going to find their way back to each other. And while the last 10% of the book is really good – in fact, I think it might be the strongest part – I wish some of that had come sooner. I’m glad that it’s a book with an epilogue that takes place 6 months after the previous chapter ends because if the author hadn’t made it clear that both of these characters are in therapy, I’m not sure I would have really believed in their relationship working out.
All in all, I think the book was ok, I liked the characters well enough but I do think the plot needed a little more fine-tuning. Interestingly enough, the character who made the comment about the fun bars is, I believe, the FMC in her second release and I’m interested to see how her story plays out. She’s a baker so one thing is for sure – there will definitely be no root extractions.
Content Notes: FMC has anxiety, FMC’s mother died in a car accident and the FMC was present in the car (off-page), toxic parental relationships, off-page parental death from cancer, misogyny, verbally and emotionally abusive parent