It’s the season for forced proximity, sexy times, all the Christmas galore and the kind of romance that feels so comforting that there aren’t many words to describe the loveliness. With Love, from Cold World by Alicia Thompson is a beautifully heartwarming rivals-to-lovers romance that dives deep into some heavy trenches to showcase the importance of caring for people.
Asa Williamson and Lauren Fox’s story isn’t always a sweet and cozy one with low stakes, but it’s beautiful in every way, with heavier and important themes noting abandonment and heartaches brought on by addictions, negligence, and bigotry. For Lauren, her mother leaving her behind and passing from a drug addiction brought on the belief that no one would ever stay for her. For Asa, his religious father kicking him out after learning about his bisexuality brought on heartaches and understandable anger. Together, they navigate through the dark clouds looming over them to fully understand that they’re worthy of love just as they are.
Set mainly in a fictional winter wonderland in humid Florida called Cold World, Asa and Lauren are coworkers who don’t exactly get along at first. We all know where this is going, but what’s impossible to expect is how thoughtfully Thompson threads heavier themes into the romance, allowing With Love, from Cold World to become a story about healing. This romance novel is about found families and finding the people in life who love you as you are, without ever wanting you to change anything to fit into a box. It’s about freedom, friendships, and fiery romance. It’s about being seen—really and truly. It’s about using one’s own past and experiences to help others in the same boat. There’s so much compassion and goodwill within that it’s evident Thompson poured her entire heart into creating something special.
Further, there seems to be a running theme this year with romance novels including a scene where the female main character defends the male main character’s honor with every bone in her body. And all that needs to be said about this plot point is—more, yes, always—never stop, writers. And the scene in question here is one of the most satisfying depictions ever, fully loaded with the kind of considerate attention to representation necessary. Asa and Lauren’s admiration for one another is so much bigger than any of them ever expected, which is entirely why the miscommunication and uneasiness work, too. They’re both used to people walking away, and they’re both rightfully afraid of it, Lauren a bit more.
Stuck in their own office together, dealing with a plethora of stress and anxieties, the romance in With Love, from Cold World by Alicia Thompson, kicks off with a slight beat of forced proximity that allows both characters to explore their desires with one another. This point in the novel thrusts them naturally to understand their dynamic, making it more comforting and bringing a sense of safety to their interactions. Thompson’s writing is stunning as she explores Christmas and the holidays in a way that feels refreshing and yet entirely lived-in and comforting. It’s hard to imagine something so cozy and nostalgic in Florida, but the writing makes it feel deeply warm in every way.
This book is, in short, a safe place. It’s a safe place for anyone who’s ever felt abandoned—the people for whom Taylor Swift wrote “You’re On Your Own, Kid” about. It’s for the people who don’t feel loved or accepted. It’s for the people with too much on their shoulders, still doing everything they can to make the world they live in a simpler place for those who need them the most. With Love, from Cold World is anything but cold—it’s beautiful and dazzling, and there’s a fuzzy blanket for anyone searching for rest. It’s the kind of Christmas (yet all-season round) novel that I’m certain many people come back to year after year. There are pop culture references, a grump and sunshine dynamic, Secret Santa exchanges, thoughtful showcases of gift-giving, immense compassion, gorgeous moments of intimacy, and so much more.
With Love, from Cold World by Alicia Thompson is now available wherever books are sold.