Once You Are Mine by: Gabriella West ~ Book Review

In this pandemic love story set in the tense, unpredictable summer of 2020, 21-year-old Alex Martinez gets out of San Quentin after serving three years for a nonviolent crime. He’s hardened by his time inside and has virtually no money, or family, but a long, dusty hike takes him to a tiny West Marin town called Woodacre where he expects to find an old friend. Instead, he meets Terry Black, who offers the young man a place to stay during a time of Covid.

Terry, who married early and recently separated from his ex-wife, owns a small bar, and the two young men quickly forge a relationship, despite Alex’s difficulty with trust and Terry possibly being *too* trusting. Will their unconventional pairing be a recipe for heartbreak, or end up being the best thing both of them have ever had?

Happy (I guess? I mean is that a word you can actually ascribe to Monday?) Monday, darlings!

Yes, I know your girl has taken quite the reviewing hiatus, don’t judge me. I have been pulling together some really awesome things that I can’t wait to share with you later in the month so make sure you’re following my social media sites, primarily Twitter (@AuthorLMichaels) and IG (@lilymichaelsauthor) for all the updates. Now, onto the review!

The premise for Once You Are Mine is so exceptionally unique to me that I jumped on the chance to review this book. I absolutely love where the story starts which is with our man Alex getting released from the notorious San Quentin prison. Yep, you heard that right. And Alex manages to get released a tad earlier than expected because of my favorite virus and yours, the Rona. Now I will say that even though this is a small portion of the story (relatively speaking, it’s the reason for Alex’s early release and, obviously, the lockdown is the inciting event that pushes these men together), this did give me pause to read a romance story featuring the pandemic. I’ve pretty actively avoided reading the COVID romances that I know are out there because 1) I don’t think they will age well and 2) I work in healthcare and romance is my escape so I wasn’t thrilled to see it mentioned.

As, sadly, happens Alex is released from prison (which yay for that) with absolutely nothing (which is clearly a failing on the part of our government and society, but we shall reserve that discussion for another day). So what’s a man to do?

Alex was supposed to be able to hook up with a friend in a small town to help him get back on his feet, but when he arrives there? All he finds is a note and a $20. Luckily for Alex, the friend that ghosted him knew the local bar owner Terry and, feeling bad for Alex’s predicament, Terry offers him an opportunity to get back on his feet.

Terry is going through a divorce and all the messy emotional strain that entails. As the virus ravages through the country, Terry has the added financial stress that so many real life small businesses faced in 2020 and beyond. His character is a little bit hard to pin down. At times he comes across as cold and distant and others he seems to be almost obsessively attached to Alex. Although I found him a little hard to connect to, but most of his “mood swing” behaviors made sense in context, so it didn’t feel inauthentic to the story.

I’ve never been to northern CA, but because of Ms. West’s intricate and detailed descriptions, I have a newfound desire to experience the stunning beauty of the area. She provides rich, and luscious descriptions that I loved to read and immersed me deeply in the setting.

One of the things that I appreciated most about Once You Are Mine is the realness. Ms. West is upfront and honest with readers about the issues within the criminal justice system and the ways that it scars people. As well as how much trauma something as socially normal as divorce can be on people. Both men went through a lot of mental and emotional pain which, although devastating to read, is beautiful to see how it makes them the perfect match for the other because they are able to understand each others’ pain and find ways to help each other cope and grow.

Where to find Once You Are Mine


Barnes & Noble




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s