Rom-com gods Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka return to bless us with their newest novel, With and Without You. This sweet, bright long distance romance is a perfect spring read, although I must confess it left me wanting.
A bold opening
Where most romances start with a meet cute, this novel opens on a break-up. Siena feels bored with her life—tired of the same routines. With college on the horizon, she wants to find herself. What is she passionate about? Is she Cooking Siena? Activist Siena? Vet Siena?
In her mind, her boyfriend Patrick is holding her back. Yes, he’s a sweet guy, but as long as they’re together, she’ll always be “PatrickandSiena,” never simply “Siena.” As she’s about to break it to him, though, he drops a bomb: he’s moving away.
Immediately, Siena pivots. Maybe she doesn’t have to break Patrick’s heart. Maybe she can let the relationship slowly fizzle out, as long distance relationships usually do.
Except… surprise! They don’t break up! (You shouldn’t be surprised). Instead, over the course of a year, Siena finds herself falling in love all over again.
Masters of craft
Of course, Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s writing never disappoints. The well developed characters and witty banter kept me glued to the page—I read this in three days, flouting all my other responsibilities. They fill their books with siblings and parents and friends who each have their own quirks and personality, and it’s so fun to explore. Their prose is gorgeous as well. What’s not to love about that?
Too much telling
I usually rave about every book by this duo that I can get my hands on. But if I’m being honest, this one wasn’t my favorite. While I loved the characters and loved the concept, I felt like the execution left something to be desired.
Although this is a romance, the true focus is supposed to be Siena’s journey to find herself. After all, that’s the impetus behind her break-up plan. And by the end of the novel, she’s achieved her goal—but it all happens off-screen. The novel covers a year’s worth of ground, but focuses intensely on three visits between these two: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break. This seems logical, because it is their love story, so we want to see them together, right?
Unfortunately, this means that all of the time between is skipped, and all of Siena’s growth in the meantime is explained to us, instead of giving us a front seat. For example, my biggest annoyance was the period between Christmas and spring break. During this time, Siena falls in love with improv and makes a whole new group of friends. I love this for her, but since I didn’t see any of it happen, I felt absolutely no connection.
The swoon is real
Despite my gripes with Siena’s growth as a character, I did really enjoy the scenes between Siena and Patrick. I fell in love with him from his first page. He is one of the sweetest cinnamon rolls I have ever met in a romance novel. They also had real, tangible chemistry and I was rooting for those crazy kids!
Overall, this isn’t my favorite Wibbroka novel to date. It’s probably the one I’m least likely to pick up and reread in the future. But it still bursts with charm nonetheless. I have high hopes for their next novel. If you’re looking for a long distance romance, I recommend this one.
With and Without You was published on April 19, 2022.