Leaving Bree by Claire Highton-StevensonLeaving Bree by Claire Highton-Stevenson is a second chance romance that I devoured in one day.

Dr. Bree Parker has a very content life as a cardiac surgeon in Los Angeles until the day she gets an odd note from a stranger. Before she knows it, she has a full-blown stalker, and she’s looking over her shoulder everywhere she goes. The one place she feels safe is in the hospital morgue with Dr. Morgan Jennings. They become fast friends and sense that their relationship could be something more, but this fact is always ignored.

When Bree announces she’s pregnant and is going to marry the father of her child, Morgan’s world is rocked. She finally acknowledges she’s in love with Bree and understands she can’t stand by and watch Bree marry Tony. She writes Bree a letter explaining her feelings and offers Bree an opportunity. Morgan has booked a flight out of Los Angeles, and if Bree shares her same feelings, then she should stop her from leaving.

Morgan waits at the airport, counting the minutes until it’s time to board. Bree doesn’t show up.

Morgan creates a new life for herself that includes a new girlfriend, but leaving Bree behind is harder than she thought it would be. Circumstances keep bringing Morgan back to Los Angeles, and it’s only a matter of time before she bumps into Bree and Bree’s adorable infant son.

Can Bree and Morgan summon the courage to address their true feelings, or are they destined to live apart, always wondering, “What if?”

The Characters

Bree and Morgan have much in common, yet their differences provide the conflict at the core of the story. Both women are smart, sexy, and excellent at what they do. They effortlessly establish a deep friendship that nurtures each of them.

Unfortunately, part of their dynamic is neither one of them is willing to acknowledge what’s really happening between them. Rather than jeopardize their friendship, Morgan keeps mum about falling in love with Bree. For Bree’s part, she is afraid to acknowledge her feelings for Morgan because as far as she’s concerned, she’s straight. Because neither woman wants to upend the friendship, they remain silent, and it’s their silence that ultimately destroys their bond.

Watching Bree and Morgan grieve the loss of their relationship was heartbreaking, and I had to trust the author was going to find a way to get them to be honest with each other.

The Writing Style

The reader gets to hear the story from both Bree’s and Morgan’s points of view. I appreciated seeing them process their insecurities, frustrations, and grief. Highton-Stevenson employs flashbacks to fill in details about the breakdown in their communication, and this technique keeps the narrative moving along at a nice pace. The dialogue is crisp when Bree and Morgan are together and emotionally charged when they’re apart.

The Pros

Oooh, there’s a sociopathic stalker! This is a straight up romance, but it kicks off with a prologue that sent shivers down my spine. This was completely unexpected, and I loved it.

The Cons

I wish there were a touch more development spent on Bree and Morgan’s relationship before Morgan left Los Angeles. I think it would have allowed me to tap into their disappointment and despair on a deeper level.

The Conclusion

Leaving Bree is a quick read, delivering a fair amount of angst and a sweet happily ever after. I’m always pleased when I find that perfect combination in a romance. Having now reviewed three books by this author, I’ve definitely put her on my “sure thing” list. This book includes a nice twist on the familiar second chance trope, and the writing style is a natural fit for the genre. Bree and Morgan are an intrinsic match, so it was easy for me to feel invested in their relationship. Leaving Bree didn’t disappoint, and I’m looking forward to Highton-Stevenson’s next offering. Tic-toc.

Excerpt from Leaving Bree by Claire Highton-Stevenson

The airport was busy. People hustled past her with their luggage in tow, all in a rush to get where they were going. Unlike Dr Morgan Jennings–she stood rooted to the spot, hoping against all hope that she wouldn’t have to leave. If she was honest, she didn’t want to go, but she couldn’t stay with the way things were now.

Her entire life had changed three years, two months, and six days ago: a date imprinted in Morgan’s mind as the day she met her soulmate. She hadn’t acknowledged it back then, but now, she couldn’t deny it any longer. She was in love with her best friend.

Bree Parker made her smile, made her laugh, and above all else, accepted everything about her, flaws and all. There wasn’t anything she couldn’t share with her, except this. Somehow, she just couldn’t say the words out loud: I love you. She’d wanted to, came close several times, but each time she would see the fear in Bree’s eyes, a silent pleading not to acknowledge what they both knew was there.

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