Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong. So she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore… and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third and final book in the Brown Sisters series (and you can read them in any order; they are companion novels!). The story opens with a dreaded ultimatum. Eve’s parents tell her that after another job that she has given up on, this time disastrously with some doves she needed to set free at a wedding she was planning, she must prove herself with one last hurrah at adulting and holding down a job independently. She comes across a quaint bed and breakfast in Skybriar where she applies to trial a job with her new boss, Jacob, the B&B’s owner.
Eve, the most gloriously, sunshine-y vivacious mess, at first clashes with Jacob, who is a grump extraordinaire and exudes a strict, quiet confidence. When Eve accidentally hits Jacob with her car, it disrupts his rhythm, which he is very attached to, and becomes he becomes more outwardly grumpy because his routine is off. Their romance develops over the course of the book and their dynamic is heartwarming and fun. Their banter is both hilarious and sexy, and it only gets better as their relationship progresses as partners and as co workers who love the B&B.
Eve and Jacob are both autistic, and this is stated on the page. Even so, the contrast between both their personalities and the differences in their traits demonstrate that there is wide variance between every autistic person you meet. Not all autistic people are who are shown in the media, which is typically the “Rain Man” trope or that of a savant. Autistic people are not a monolith, and not to be used as a stereotype or solely for “inspiration” for neurotypical people.
An example is their sensory differences and how they respectively find comfort. Eve needs music to concentrate, whether that be having an earphone in at all times while she works, or singing out loud. To sleep comfortably and restfully, Jacob makes a nest of blankets and pillows. However, ultimately they share traits that they see in each other, and this is where they find connection. They both have to exist in a world that caters to neurotypical people, and they feel seen in each other’s company.
Jacob has known that he is autistic from a much younger age, whereas we see Eve traverse learning about her neurodivergence throughout the course of the book. A pivotal scene occurs when she looks on the Internet for the diagnostic criteria of autism, and realizes that some criteria match her experience. I had the greatest honor of speaking to Talia Hibbert for an interview for the Reading Women Podcast (we will update with a link to the episode when it drops next week!), and she spoke about how many barriers to access there are to being diagnosed as autistic as a Black woman. Much of the body of research about autism is based upon elementary age White boys, and as an adult Black woman, autistic traits can look so different, and thus, so many Black women go undiagnosed. Furthermore, it is notoriously expensive to obtain a diagnosis as an adult, upwards of $1000 in the United States with a specialist. Diagnosis does not change the autistic experience, but it is incredibly frustrating that care can be so difficult to access, and difficult to feel seen within the medical system.
Of course, the romance itself in Act Your Age, Eve Brown is is tense, and oh, so hot. There is a scene with an, ahem, very large sex toy, and PHEW. Learning what each other likes sexually is an even more intimate experience because of each of their sensory needs. This is a necessary part of how Eve and Jacob understand each other physically. As well, Jacob only wants to have sex with people he wants to spend forever with and is very clear about that, which causes some tension later on in the book.
Eve’s fear of abandonment creates a sort of impostor syndrome, where she struggles to see the worth in who she is and the types of work she can do. However, as she faces her fears head on, with Jacob by her side having a breath of fresh air being brought to his business, her confidence grows. Along the way, Jacob reassures her that the way she tackles tasks with her vibrancy and tenacity is exactly what he needs for the B&B to survive. Eve learns that she had what she needed to be happy all along, and that it was everyone else who needed to understand, and not her who needed to change. Little do they know, they share a fear of abandonment and letting others, and also themselves, down. Jacob comes from a difficult childhood, and he clings to routine and stability in a way that makes so much sense due to the patterns he has experienced when he was younger. They provide the perfect balance for one another.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Brown Sisters book without the Brown Sisters (and parents, and Grandma Gigi) dynamics. Eve’s story begins with tension between her and the family, and that is a driving force in the plotline. I related so much because while I don’t have sisters, there is an expectation in my family that adulting looks a certain rigid way, and an appreciation for unconventional methods of success does not come naturally. The love that abounds amongst the Browns amplifies Eve’s fear of letting them down, but that same love allows them to see that Eve can live a fulfilling life that doesn’t need to exactly conform to a traditional path. This was the perfect installment to end the series, which holds a special place in my heart.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
If my exclamation marks and “highly” x3 weren’t indicative enough, I implore everyone to pick up Act Your Age, Eve Brown. The autistic representation is incredibly nuanced and Talia takes so much pride in crafting her characters, especially since this is an #OwnVoices book with a Black autistic heroine. When I spoke to her, she said that she starts from what she knows and builds outward from there. The characters, the plot, and the happily ever after are all so satisfying. It’s like a warm hug (or if you don’t like hugs, then maybe a cute puppy or a cup of hot chocolate on a cold snowy day).
Is this book for you? (Yes. Yes it is.)
Premise in a sentence: Eve, who has just left her job as a wedding planner after a disastrous event with some doves, tries to prove to her parents that she can hold down a job, and ends up at a bed and breakfast working in the kitchen with grumpy, yet sexy, Jacob.
Genre: Adult romance
Trigger/content warning: Explicit sex on the page, difficult experience through adoption and child neglect