I Saw Him First is a brilliant example why independently published stories can sometimes trump those that have been professionally published. In my travels, I have passed many 'higher' Romance novels that seem to forget what it's really like to be in love. It's often too perfect, with characters so entranced with each, holding themselves so much like Barbie and Ken that I feel many authors have forgotten what it's like to be in love. A fresh, down-to-earth perspective, such as what Penny Harmon has written, is exactly what the genre needs to revitalise itself from the stereotypical Mills and Boon ideology.
Harmon doesn't treat her characters like gods; she actually allows their flaws to sway their decisions on the occasion. They can be impulsive, bossy, jealous, naive and—without realising it—high-maintenance to each other. Yet they also have good traits, with meshes well with the bad to create believable, three-dimensional characters who are refreshing to read.
The first entry in A Rocky Isle Romance follows Mallory, a once rebellious teen who has returned home to take over her family business. She's such a fantastic and real character that I couldn't help but connect with her straight away. Her love interest is Michael, who has come to her home island on a writer's retreat, to escape the chaos that is New York. Naturally, they cross paths very quickly and feel a possible connection, but Mallory also finds herself in a friendly race with her friends to hook and reel-in his attention.
Each of the core female character contrast with one another, yet they are all so engaging. Of course, I had my few favourites of the group, but you couldn't help loving each all them. Being the first book in the series, I can't wait to see how each of them go in their ventures, and not just in the man-hunting department, as a few of them had careers just starting to bloom. I can't wait to see more on Ashley, as—although a good character—was very quiet, and unlike the others, we didn't learn too much about her besides her choice of a very different career. I also really want to see where Megan and Emily go; they had very, very interesting threads. I enjoyed seeing small glimpses of what's to come while reading Mallory's tale, and based upon the epilogue, I have a strong idea where things are going, but I'm intrigued to see how Harmon pens with tentative future.
[Spoilers Start Here]
And the twist at the end? Whoa. I had my suspicions that there was going to be a pregnancy, but when once it became ectopic, my heart just sank. I was gut-wrenched alongside her, and almost shed a tear as she was taken into surgery. The emotions afterward were so raw and visceral—I just loved it, some really strong and passionate storytelling.
[Spoilers End Here]
I would recommend this book to any female in need of a good romance story. The way the characters are written makes you feel that they are your friends too, so this would be a perfect choice for a bookclub to share amongst your own friends. It's not a solo story; it's a story of a group of friends experiencing romance together, so it should be shared as such. If you don't have a book club though, don't let it hold you back, these ladies will be all the friends you need.
I Saw Him First easily earns itself five out of five stars!