99 Percent Mine has roughly 80% of a good book for romance fans


99 Percent Mine will appeal to a certain subset of romance readers, but even more general fans of the genre will probably enjoy Sally Thorne’s latest.

99 Percent Mine has a cover that tells you almost everything you need to know about the book. The half-smirk on the face of our heroine, Darcy Barrett, tells you that she’s the troublemaker of the two; our hero, Tom Valeska, has a much gentler smile on his face, suggesting that despite his macho presentation, he’s closer to the emotional heart of the book.

This is all entirely accurate, and on that level, Sally Thorne really succeeds. Tom has actual emotional vulnerability. Darcy learns how to respond to that and tries to improve herself as a person. There is, dare we say it, character growth. Romance promises the happily ever after and plenty of emotional payoff, and the very headline alone should tell you it meets those basic benchmarks and has a passing grade from this reviewer.

What’s the other 20 percent, then? That comes primarily from the slight disconnect in tone. Some parts of this book read more like a straight R-rated comedy rather than the romantic comedy present in most contemporary romances. There are certainly romance readers who like this; humor’s expected, too, after all. However, when the humor is also cut with the smoldering tension that’s layered on over and over again, it all begins to forget about the deeper emotions, making for a whiplash-like feeling in reading the book.

After all, Tom and Darcy are not only childhood friends, but they come from very different levels of privilege. Much of their growth and conflict comes from the pressure he feels and that she inadvertently puts on him, particularly when it comes to the remodel of Darcy’s grandmother’s cottage. Kudos to Thorne for letting the issue of not feeling good enough fall to the man in the relationship; that alone is refreshing.

Darcy, on the other hand, has some issues in character that don’t read quite as well. We know she’s a frequent traveler, but we’re mostly told that by how other characters tell her she’s going to leave pretty quickly and some mentions to a lost passport that ends up being little more than a plot device. This writer can’t speak to the accuracy of how Darcy’s heart issues may work in real life, but at least they actually influence the story in multiple meaningful ways.

Her relationship with her twin brother, Jamie, is also particularly thorny. There are hints that this novel could result in a sequel, although no reports have been made on whether or not that will ever happen. The book seems to want for you to root for Jamie and Truly, another friend of Darcy’s, what redeeming qualities he does have are buried beneath being terrible, even though he, too, tries to improve himself. (It could just be this writer’s highly-tuned senses from historical romance, where series are much more expected.)

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All in all, 99 Percent Mine has plenty to recommend it to romance readers who are looking for something to warm them up as we move into February, but there are just enough flaws that it’s not a guaranteed read.