Review of The Next Life by Lise Gold and Madeleine Taylor
Reina has been mourning the end of her marriage for about a year, and when her friend Sasha suggests she enjoys her newfound freedom instead of seeing the breakup as the end of her life, she can’t deny she has a point. Enters Belle, the new pool girl and, as Reina finds out through Sasha, an escort. Reina got married very young and never acted on her attraction to women. The chemistry she feels with Belle is stratospheric and her efforts to ignore it fail decidedly. Belle too would love to ignore the feeling. She’s busy raising a small kid and starting her own business and she gets her no-strings sex through her escort work. That should be enough. But of course, it isn’t because what would the fun be in that?
It’s no secret anymore that Lise Gold and Madeleine Taylor are the same person, so it should be weird to read a book co-authored by them. It works surprisingly well, there’s the Lise Gold brand of romance and all the hotness of a Madeleine Taylor erotic novella.
The story is a little slow to start, especially in Reina’s chapters (it’s told in first person from both MC’s POV), and that worried me at first, all the more so as the book is on the longer side, but in the end, it turned out to be a good thing. It establishes the two characters’ seemingly opposite personalities – Reina is unhappy, flat, idle and wealthy, Belle is full of energy and hopeful for the future despite a difficult past – and spotlights the divide of where they both are in life. As the story develops, Reina’s listlessness turns into strength and self-confidence while Belle starts showing her vulnerability and confusion. The constant shift in power feels very relatable.
Belle is very easy to like. She’s vivacious, driven, kind, fun. It took me longer to like Reina. I rolled my eyes a few times at her apparent apathy and wallowing in self-pity, however valid. When she meets Belle, however, her demeanour starts evolving slowly (and not so slowly), which led to growing respect on my part.
Best friends in romance are often excellent characters and Sasha, Reina’s friend, and Juliette, Belle’s, prove that point once again. Among the other characters I liked a lot are Reina’s daughter Nicole and Jackie, Belle’s father’s best friend.
There’s a very sweet – and bittersweet – side arc and I won’t get into details lest I spoil it but let’s just say it reminded me of the movie Snapshots.
It’s easy to let oneself drift into the world Lise Gold describes in her books. It’s often a much gentler world than the one we live in, even if it’s not entirely free of drama. I stopped reading at one point and went all “no no no” because things were going so well after Belle and Raina seemed to get over their respective hang-ups, which could only mean trouble was brewing. It certainly was and I didn’t see it coming. Fear not though, the drama is resolved in pure Lise Gold style, with kindness and love.