Van – Sawyer Bennett

 

The only reason I didn’t do a DNF when I started this book is because I requested it from NetGalley and I felt obligated to write a review. So I kept on reading and thankfully, when I was about 50% of the book, it turned into the wonderful love story that I always expect from Sawyer Bennett. I have been a fan of Ms Bennett for some time and have read A LOT of her books and loved them all, so one dud is not a bad thing. I’m pretty sure the book was fantastic for other readers. So I will explain below.

Simone Fournier arrived at her brother’s house, with suitcases, uninvited. She dropped out of college where she was one semester away from finishing pre-med in an Ivy League University. She realized that studying medicine was her father’s dream, not hers, so she dropped out and appeared on her brother Lucas’ doorstep. Lucas lived in a very small house with Van, another player in the Cold Fury hockey team. The house only had two bedrooms and neither of the guys ceded her his bedroom, so she claimed the couch for sleeping. She met Van and she liked what she saw and she decided she wanted him. Thus starts a sexual harassment campaign. She relentlessly pursued him, no holds barred, offering sex, dressing provocatively, in a pushy and constant manner. No matter that Van told her he didn’t want to get involved with her, she didn’t heed his warning and kept pushing, to the extent that Van had to keep away from the house or hide in his room. I can understand that a woman has a right to own her sexuality but if this were coming from a man, it would be called sexual harassment, but coming from a woman, she called it seduction??

Finally Van succumbed to so much temptation, and the sex was stratospherically good. So they agree to a sex only rule, no further involvement. Van has powerful reasons for not wanting to get involved with women, and he’s kept a wall around him all his life. His father was a sociopath, convicted of raping and murdering women. He lived the scandal of the trial and conviction and the aftermath was so vicious for a little boy that he learned to hide within himself and not let anyone in. Until Simone and her pushy ways got into him.
So, once Simone and Van are involved, they were great for each other. After the fact, I realized that if Simone hadn’t been so pushy and corralled Van the way she did, he probably would have kept closed off and never come out of hiding.

Simone had some growing up to do, she needed to figure out what to do with her life and return the money that her parents had invested in her career. I didn’t have a lot of admiration for Simone at first, except that once she had Van, she was a fantastic girlfriend, supportive and understanding.  She helped him a lot in overcoming his issues.

Van was opening up, letting people in and getting involved with what was happening around him. They both needed to grow as a couple, since this was new territory for both.
Once Simone was in a committed relation with Van, she turned into the good girl that everyone said she was. The vibe I got from the book was that she was sex-starved, given the insistence with which she pursued Van. Also, her choice of work and attire. It just did not jibe with the image of a good girl. Nevertheless, once the book got going with Van and Simone as a couple, and they started mingling with the Simone’s brothers and sisters in law, we get to see a Van learning the ropes of social interplay, trying to let people in and wanting to please Simone. He did a lot of growing up, even though he was always afraid of turning into a monster like his father later in life.

A scandal happens, and it will test them as a couple and their commitment to each other.
Apart from the beginning and the distaste I felt for the way Simone pursued Van, it was a great book, like all the other Sawyer Bennett books. Great reading, great hockey family, great pace. In this book, I loved the male character. It was like seeing a guy who was socially stumped, go baby steps into opening his self and slowly approaching happiness.

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Bad at Love – Karina Halle

 

Delicious, is what this book is. Two lovely characters, a little broken but enchanting. This is a friends to lovers book but very convincing because IMO they were in love all the time. I think they were just unsure of pursuing the love and afraid of losing the beautiful friendship they had.

Marina and Laz first meet when Marina and Naomi assisted to their friend Jane’s band show. They were friends with Jane, who was the drummer. Laz was the singer and songwriter, and Jane’s stepbrother. Marina was instantly attracted to Laz but Jane put the kibosh on the attraction, telling Marina that Laz is a manwhore. So Marina settled for second best, being his best friend, platonic.

Four years later, Laz is a serial dater. He dates a woman for one to three months, then breaks up and takes up with another. He always takes the blame and is sad about the break up, then uses the break up woes as creative fuel for his poems. Marina has problems retaining a guy. By the time she gets to the third date, something happens that the guy disappears, never to be seen again. It has gotten to a stage that she’s extremely nervous when the third date comes around.

Laz adores Marina, she’s quirky, clumsy and adorable. His nickname for her is Bumble. She’s a beekeeper and is passionate about bees. After one very hilarious and disastrous third date, Laz decides to give Marina dating advice. Likewise, Marina thinks Laz should man up and get into a relationship that lasts, not use it for creative material once it breaks up.

They decide to fake date, so Laz can monitor Marina’s behavior and point out mistakes.  These fake dates were hilarious because all they did was bicker like children.  But what happened in time is that they succumb to the love that is deep within their souls for each other. They have several family situations in which they support each other. Their friends act like it was about time they did something about the love vibes they always had. The most surprised about the love that developed were Marina and Laz themselves. They’re a little broken up, but Laz is worse. Both their fathers are alcoholics. Marina’s father killed her mother in a car accident, drunk driving. He went to jail for some time, and is still alcoholic after his jail stint. Laz’s father left him and his mother placed him in a boarding school. He hardly saw her during his school years. This caused abandonment issues in Laz and this affects the relation with Marina, especially when he learns the truth of his father’s abandonment.

I loved that through all the book, Laz loved Marina and was devoted to her. I felt he was biding his time for when she was ready to be with him. He had his doubts about being good at love, about being good enough for her, but his feelings were deep and sincere. Marina was the best character. She was sweet and funny and kind and joyous. Her passion about bees was heartfelt and at times hilarious, especially when she did the bee waggle dance. Even though her father was responsible for her mother’s death, she still helped him recover. She had a big heart and was always first in line when a friend or Laz needed help. When Laz had problems, she rushed to his side. Even with the funny moments, this story was very romantic, sweet and tender.

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The Bachelor Contract – Rachel Van Dyken

 

Ok, I need somebody to explain this book to me, because it didn’t make a lot of sense. This couple married when they were very young, college age. Brant and Nikki. His grandfather opposed the marriage because they were too young, her parents disowned her when she married him. I didn’t understand why her parents disowned her because they were poor at the moment but he had a trust fund and he stood to inherit a great deal of money.

They married anyway and were very happy for a short time. Then they got pregnant, and received a double whammy. She lost the baby during the second trimester. They were both devastated but didn’t know how to give each other support and were having a bad time, fighting and blaming themselves and each other. Then there was a fire and Nikki lost her sight. Something happened right after that, and Brant ended up abandoning Nikki.

Four years after, Brant is living addicted to booze and whoring in order to endure living. He’s nasty, bitter, angry and the only way he can exist is drunk. He’s a nasty piece of business, and a jerk to everyone.

There’s a bachelors action and Nikki assists and bids on Brant and wins him. He’s furious with her and bails on his promise for one date and sends her a check to reimburse her. She only went because Nadine, his grandfather’s girlfriend forced her under threat of losing her job. This incident didn’t make any sense at all to me in terms of the plot.

Enter his grandfather and his girlfriend and they force Brant to go work at a hotel Nadine just purchased so he can evaluate and make suggestions on improving the service. Brad decides to clean up, get sober, and use this as a chance to start living again. Except that when he arrives there, he finds a very funny situation. The hotel administrator Cole, acts very funny around him, and somewhat hostile. Brant requests a massage to evaluate the hotel spa and the arrangements are weird. Cole tells Brant the masseuse is mute. The masseuse is Nikki. She has been working in the hotel as masseuse since the divorce and her best friend is Cole. He’s the one who picked up the pieces after the devastation Brant caused and she’s now moved on and living somewhat happily. In order to protect Nikki from Brant, Cole tells Nikki that the client is deaf. This way Cole ensures that Brant receives the service but they don’t interact. However, they connect on a cellular level because they are turned on by each other, something that hadn’t happened since they had broken up. Huh?

Eventually they discover each other because Brant got addicted to the massages. Cole and the other hotel employees are very protective of Nikki and place obstacles so Brant can’t get near Nikki Whenever they see each other, Brant behaves like a douche and yet, they do sleep together. Then Brant does his douche act again and leaves her to get to the lobby on her own, with great difficulty because she’s blind (he forgot!).

Really, he was so nasty that I didn’t see any redeeming qualities in him, and yet Nikki is still in love with him and sees his behavior as a man hurting? From his musings we know he’s in a world of hurt and devastation, but he seems to take it out on everyone, including Nikki.

Then Brant’s family arrive, his brothers with their wives, his grandfather and girlfriend Nadine, the owner of the hotel. They rally around Brant, try to help him get the girl, tease him no end and place bets on all the possible outcomes as Brant bumbles through his efforts. By this time, he is changing into a caring man, and we start to see the man who is hurting, who was devastated, who feels he is not worthy of her, who failed her, who feels guilty of her current blind condition, and of her dead baby. All the worries of the world!!

I saw Brant as a douche and Nikki as a doormat. The book is a little over the top dramatic. But the family dynamics were hilarious. I read the book in a semi baffled state because some of the situations were so weird. I think the author was trying to be funny but I didn’t get the joke. Even though parts of the plot baffled me, and Brant frequently annoyed me, the story was riveting. Halfway through the book, when Brant was no longer a douche but a man who wanted to face his demons, purge his guilt and make things right for Nikki, then the story got good and I liked it much more.

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On The Way to You – Kandi Steiner

 

A sad and profound book, but with such an important message! Two lost souls embark on a trip to Washington State, where she wants to pursue a career at Bezyr College and he’s carrying out his late grandmother’s last request: to take a road trip to Seattle and visit several sites along the way. From the start, I recognized that Emery suffers from depression. I didn’t know if it was caused by the loss of his grandmother or from illness and I was very curious to find out.

Cooper is just living. She’s working at a diner, passing time until she can save enough money and get accepted at the college she applied to in Seattle, Washington. She lives in a trailer with her parents, one is a drug addict, the other an alcoholic. They are irresponsible and hateful to her. She’s just waiting for her acceptance letter and will leave Mobile, Alabama forever. Her only friend in town is Tammy, who is a friend and surrogate mother, works at the diner with her, knows about her plans and aspirations, and fully supports her.

One day, this young man appears at the diner. Sandy blond hair, honey colored eyes, two lines between his eyes that don’t mean anger or sadness. Cooper is transfixed by him. She serves hims and he surprises her with the question: What makes you happy? She’s nonplussed and has no answer.  She asks him where he’s from and where he’s going and when he mentions he’s going to Washington state, she mentions her plans and he invites her to go with him.

After nixing the idea as crazy, Emery leaves the diner and Tammy convinces Cooper to go, that this is the chance she’s been waiting for all her life, or else she will keep on just existing and her parents will suck her dry. So she leaves, even thought she’s not very convinced he’s not a serial murderer or kidnapper.

The trip from Alabama to Seattle is a beautiful story of this guy who suffers from depression but who is complying with his grandmother’s request. Some days he’s sociable, other days he’s mute. He’s constantly writing in a leather journal and tells Cooper he’s doing it because his grandma asked him to. She tries to make him open up to her but he remains reticent about his family and his motives. As days go by, and she gets more intrigued by him, she succumbs to curiosity and starts to read his journal. She wants to help him and believes if she knows what is the matter with him, she could help him.

Initially, I repudiated her actions because it was a blatant breach of privacy, but as the story continues, I understood that her actions were important in bringing him about. With intuitive knowledge, she gives him hope and happiness, even though there were days when the darkness captured him and didn’t let him go for a while.

I loved reading about the depression because the author wrote with such reality. I also loved that she made the guy suffer from depression instead of the girl. Sometimes, when a woman says she suffers from depression, people will say that she’s hormonal. That can’t be true if the guy suffers from it. So in making Emery depressive, it adds more leverage to the story. I also think that Cooper helped him a lot when she shares about her lost leg and the way she dealt with it. His admiration for Cooper made him try harder to overcome the darkness. Cooper had a dog called Kalo and they both took care of her. I found her to be like a therapy dog for Emerson, except when he was deep into an episode. I hope this book helps people learn about depression and understand that this is a real sickness, not a whim or passing sadness. Emery’s parents didn’t deal correctly with his illness, dismissing the reality and the seriousness.

Apart from the serious message, it was a beautiful love story, fraught with difficult moments but also moments where the joy of life felt by Cooper brought clarity to Emerson. The fact that Cooper practiced yoga daily was another master touch in suggested therapy for depression. Emerson’s love for Cooper and the acceptance and love she gave him took him on a new road. Depression may not be cured, but with different therapies and medication, and with the acceptance and love of important people in the person’s life, it can be handled, and quality of life can be achieved. That was a great message in this book.

At the end of their trip, Cooper finally answered Emery’s question What Makes You Happy? And her answer was beautiful and full of life. Emery found someone who understood him and loved him, and Cooper found life, vibrant life.

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Lips Close to Mine – Robin Bielman

 

I would call this a friends to lovers story, but also a second chance story, because the two characters had a one night stand and reconnected again several months later.

Harper and Levi were best friends and inseparable since they were babies until they were six years old. Then they were changed to different schools and lost touch. Now Levi’s best friend is going out with Harper’s best friend, so they were thrown together, and had a one-night stand. At least, for Harper. She recognized that Pants Charming could charm her pants off very easily so she’s veering out of his way. She’s very susceptible to Levi’s smile. Fast forward several months to where the action starts in this book.

Seven years ago, someone important to Harper drowned and she still hasn’t overcome that loss. She was training for the Olympics swim team and the incident broke her will to continue with her goals. For a while she hardly lived, and it took getting acquainted again with swimming, by way of giving lessons, that brought her back. So she doesn’t want to get involved with anyone, even Levi who bewitched her with his smiles. She doesn’t want to feel that pain ever again.

Levi himself is still overcoming the betrayal of an ex-girlfriend who messed up his mind. Until recently, she was still stalking and messaging him, but she cheated on Levi with another guy and got pregnant. Levi was still reeling from the betrayal, so he only wanted a fling, no serious relation.

Their attraction was too strong to resist. The connection they had from when they were kids caused that they had an easy-going relation, and they could chat and joke for hours, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Each one brought a relief and relaxation to the other that no-one else could. Since Harper had a cousin’s wedding where she was a bridesmaid, Levi was a convenient escort, so that ensured they were together a lot.

So there you have it, sexual fun and reluctance to get involved. And Levi had a bet with one of his besties, Neil, that he could get Harper to bed a second time. As Levi’s feelings for Harper intensified, the bet was a bad idea that he tried to nix but Elliot didn’t let him. Another conflict for them.

The past in the form of the psycho ex-girlfriend came to complicate matters, their work was also an issue since they worked together in a Public Service Announcement. They both had goals and Levi was very supportive of Harper’s goals and helped her choose her direction.

I liked the story and liked both characters, but there were a couple of things that threw me off. One was the constant innuendos of sex, in conversations, in gestures, in their thoughts, occurring at the beginning of the book. They really felt insatiable and for me, it retracted from the story. At one point I considered not reading any more because it was getting a little too much. Later on, things got better and the author got more invested in the story and I liked it much more. Then Harper got too stubborn in her refusal to date Levi and ran scared several times, to the point I wanted to swat her. She played hot and cold with Levi, sleeping with him, and later running and keeping away. I loved one scene where she went to Levi’s house and there was a pretty woman just leaving and kissed Levi goodbye. Harper was devastated and was about to run away until Levi told her it was his sister. Serves her right for being so stubborn!

The reading was light-hearted except for a couple angsty moments and was an entertaining read. I liked the author’s writing style because there’s no excessive prose and she combines humor and with some angst and lots of family time, the excess sexy times at the beginning notwithstanding.

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Imfamy – LP Maxa

 

I had read this author a long time ago, and had forgotten about the series. This book is about the second generation of The Devil’s Share rock band. I am excited to revisit old friends. I liked her style. Since this is part of a series, and although it can stand alone, there’s a lot of details about Landry’s family that would have added richness to the story.

Landry is a fifth-year resident in General Surgery at a hospital in Florida. She’s run ragged but that’s normal for her residency. She took a break, directed by one of her aunts, and went to see a show of a rising rock band, Clashing Swell. She liked the look of the drummer, crazy and talented and he seemed to like her too, because he kept looking at her on the side-wing of the stage. After the show they ran away to a cleaning closet and had a little sex fest, then they went to Landry’s apartment and had a sexathon. They had incredible chemistry and got along well when they were not in bed. Such was their chemistry that they decided to keep on banging each other until Brody left for his band’s year-long tour, handled by Landry’s family, the owners of RiffRaff Entertainment.

During these weeks of the fling, you could see how things got deeper and more meaningful. Not surprising because Brody was young but a very decent guy and Landry was a workaholic but loved the sex and the company. Then, bang, Landry is pregnant and she doesn’t know who the father is. Three days before she started sleeping with Brody, she had slept with her ex-douche boyfriend, and broken with him on the same day when she caught him cheating.

The book is fraught with the struggle of both these special persons. Landry had the conflict of not knowing which was the father, the douche ex, who was also an attending surgeon at her hospital, or Brody, who was leaving soon on a world-wide tour. She didn’t want to have anything to do with the ex, even less having to be nice to him for the next eighteen years of co-parenting, and she was falling for Brody but he was just getting started in his career and had a lot of living to do. Brody was twenty-three to Landry’s twenty eight years old, so that was another factor.

Once Brody learns that Landry is pregnant but the baby might not be his, he has the struggle of what to feel, what to do. He’s also falling for Landry, and he would love to have a baby with her. He would be there for her and the baby. If the baby wasn’t his….. he wasn’t sure what he would feel.

I loved that a lot of the plot is done through text messages. They were so cute in their texting, and from the start you could see there was feeling, not just lust. Landry’s family is big, dysfunctional and interfering. She had a hard time keeping them at bay so they wouldn’t learn of the situation. Brody’s band members were supporting and gave him the space to deal with the situation and gave him a hard time when he had doubts about loving a baby that was not his.

Landry had to deal with a hard pregnancy, lots of throwing up, dehydration, a demanding job, and if it wasn’t for Brody, it would have been impossible to do. There were lots of drama, lots of laughs, lots of cute, sexy and funny texting, and decent-length love scenes. Thank you author, for not subjecting me to ten-pages love scenes, but rather developing an awesome love story about an awesome couple.

Great book, great characters, great big family. Reading the previous books would have added to the experience, but this book really stands alone because the characters are that great.

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Bodyguard – CD Reiss

 

This author is brilliant…
This author never bores me…
I love this author’s language. She writes short sentences. Her style is almost like staccato, and she doesn’t use the flowery, lyrical prose that other authors use in describing places, smells, colors, etc. She just states the most important things, like Craftsman’s style house, or stylish condo, etc. No excessive words are used, yet she gives excellent ambience for the scenes she writes. Her emphasis is front and center her characters and we meet them intimately, their strengths, vulnerabilities, feelings and we understand their actions because we understand them.

I loved this book because she wrote these two great characters. I especially loved the beginning because I got such a great sense of Emily. She wanted to do something, she went and did it. The end. She like Darlene and they made a great team and great mischief. So they were friends. The fact that Darlene comes from a different social class made no difference to Emily. Emily is great. Her love was gymnastics and Darlene’s was singing. When Emily’s knee was busted in a practice, she changed to dance, so they made a great dance and singing duo.

Fast forward to when they are in Hollywood and Darlene is a star and Emily isn’t, she’s Darlene’s choreographer. She fell by way of an abusive boyfriend, and when he got a restraining order, he turned into a stalker. Now Emily lives like a secluded princess, within closed walls and high gates, and with strict security. Yet, she has Darlene, her bestie, and Simon, Darlene’s lifter in choreography, and she’s ok.

Enter Carter Kincaid, a new bodyguard in Darlene’s security service, ex-LAPD. “He was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen, and I’d seen a lot of gorgeous men. Nice scruff. Blinding blue eyes. Gray linen suit. Precisely untidy dark hair. “ See what I mean? Excellent description without being flowery. One day, Emily was late to practice and tried to enter the rehearsal building through the rear and she was tackled by Carter. Because she was carrying a gun that turned out to be fake.

Carter: “Why would you carry a fake gun? “
Emily: “Because I couldn’t get a license to carry a real one.”

This cemented my love for this book and it didn’t let me down until the end.

Even with their instant attraction, they didn’t act on it until Emily’s stalker upped his game and Carter’s protective instincts geared high. However, Carter guards his privacy fiercely and doesn’t let anyone enter. Emily sort of forces herself into his private life, but she’s always encountering fences. Meanwhile, there’s a stalker making small moves but enough to make Emily and friends worry. Precautions are taken, Emily gets to know Carter’s family but it’s slow going and for me, wonderful. They have a lot of back and forth, but Emily is forthright on what she wants. It’s Carter, who wants to protect his son and at the same time protect Emily and sometimes, he needs to establish his priorities and act accordingly. He has a constant struggle and I loved how the author presents his vulnerability to his love for his son and yet, the need to be a man and be with a woman he is beginning to love. The process was brilliantly described by this author and I loved every minute of this journey. There’s a nice surprise towards the end that ties everything up nicely and makes you understand a lot about Carter’s actions.

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Rock Solid – Carly Phillips & Erika Wilde

 

A very sweet, old-fashioned love story. An upstanding man, with good reputation, good job, successful, from good family and upbringing. Connor’s returning from a business trip and is detained in Denver on the way to his hometown Chicago. There’s a snow storm coming and his flight was postponed. He meets a woman at the airport that attracts him immediately. There’s something sexy and sad about her and her big brown eyes. When he goes to find something to eat, the only seat available is next to her, so they share a meal and she shares her sorry story.

Katie went to Denver to surprise her boyfriend of eight months, to see if she could give a boost to their failing romance. She was the one who got surprised when she found a woman in his room. Now she’s reassessing her bad luck and bad choices in men. She sees Connor as a rebound screw, one night of pleasure with no names and no phone numbers. Connor is a relationship guy, he likes to get to know the woman he sleeps with, enjoy the intimacy, etc. but he made an exception with Katie. They have a night full of pleasure and next morning, she disappeared on him, only leaving a note.

Fast forward three years and she sees an article about him and his realty business. The article gives his information so she contacts him and gives him a big surprise: you have a three-year old daughter. Since Connor is a stand up guy, he immediately wants to know his little girl, he wants to get involved in her life and assume his responsibilities. I loved the scene when he meets Val, his baby girl. She has huge blue eyes, just like his, and looks just like his sister when she was that age. He’s enthralled with his daughter, just like with Katie.

Katie came from a divorced family. Her parents divorced when she was four, and were involved in years of litigation, using her as a pawn. They weren’t fighting for her because they loved her but because they wanted to punish the other parent. Because of this, Katie doesn’t have a good view of marriage and her previous relations that crashed and burned have made her extra wary of getting involved with another man. She is falling in love with Connor and is glad to obtain a family for her daughter and herself but her doubts keep her from accepting the love of this man.

The book is predictable but very well written and with great pace. I found it a little meh because here is no angst or strong emotional content, just a woman who needed a kick in her butt to realize that if she didn’t act, she could very well lose the best partner she could ever hope for. There’s Connors’ parents, his sister and husband, and Katie’s friend, Avery with her daughter Leah who is Val’s best friend. They all form a circle of supportive friends who give a family sense to the story. Connor calls his daughter every day at the same hour, just before her bath time and chats with her for a while. The constancy goes a long way to establish love in the little girl. All this actions point to a rock solid man with good intentions. It doesn’t hurt that he’s sexy and charming too. Great story, family values.

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Spider – Ilsa Madden-Mills

 

I loved this book! It has one angsty teenager with emotional issues and another one who came from the wrong side of the tracks but is determined to be someone. The angsty teenager is broken but the will to be worthy of his girl moves him to overcome his issues. Lovely! This book has second chances and third chances etc.  It was really riveting!

Rose and Spider meet for the first time when Rose is eleven years old and Spider is sixteen. Rose is living in a neighborhood outside of Dallas, Texas, called Tin Town because of the junkyards. Her mother is a drug addict and her boyfriend Lyle is mean and dangerous. At ten years old, she had been well brought up by her granny. When her granny died, she was left at her mother’s charge, and now she knows when she should disappear to escape danger. One such night, she escapes from Lyle who was up to no good, and wanders around town. She watched this beautiful boy exchange drugs for money. He finds her looking and when he asks what she’s doing in bad surroundings she says she’s hungry and gives her $300. Then he writes his phone number on her arm with a sharpie and instructs her to call him whenever she’s in danger. This leaves an indelible memory in Rose’s brain.

Four years later, they meet again, in a plane flying from New York City to Dallas. Rose is now a seventeen year old student, adopted by Anne, a Dallas philanthropist. Spider is the singer in a rock band, Vital Rejects, and leads a life of booze, drugs and women. He’s cocky and brazen. He’s on the way to visit his father and meet his new stepmother and stepsister. Rose is returning from visiting a girlfriend in NYU, where she hopes to attend college. They meet and flirt and kiss. They feel something special, but didn’t recognize each other from their previous encounter. Then they crash and burn because Spider always screws things up, even though he felt Rose was different and special. Spider has been broken by his past: his sister died when he was thirteen, his mother left him and his father, then his father dumped him in a boarding school when he needed him the most. As a result, Spider never gets involved, never gives his heart, never calls a girl after one-night-stands. He doesn’t get attached to anyone.

When they arrive in Dallas, they find out their parents are married to each other, they are step-siblings! They have also been warned not to get involved: Spider has a crazy life and Rose is on the way to college to study psychology. They can’t resist the attraction and it ends in flames. They keep meeting every few years, but Spider is not ready. Rose took up with a guy from her high school and moves to New York to study. Spider always knows where she is and what she’s up to, but he needs to get clean to be worthy of her.

I loved this story. Rose was a girl with direction, she knew what she wanted and she went to get it. She fought for Spyder but he screwed things up so royally that she gave up on him. What she didn’t now is that he made a pact with his father to let her be so she could move on to achieve her goals. He watched her from afar and hurt because he didn’t have his girl with him. Meanwhile, she hurt because she missed him, but made do with what she had. I loved her living arrangement in New York with best gay friend Oscar, who cooked great breakfasts on Sundays. I didn’t like her boyfriend Trenton and his bitchy friends Aria and Garrett. I waited impatiently for Spider to sort his stuff so he could go after his girl. And I loved that Spider got a second chance with his father and established a good relation with frequent visits and calls.

I liked the format of the story, it doesn’t happen in a successive manner, but with intervals, with years in-between where the characters have progressed in their careers. Rose went on to doctoral studies and Spyder achieved fame with his rock band. Rose was very straightforward, she was a tough kid from the wrong side of the city who got adopted into a rich family, given a makeover, and got to achieve high goals. Spyder had the rougher road, he had to overcome his emotional issues and physical addictions, but his success in getting there is a testament of his love for Rose. Sweet!!!

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True Abandon – Jeannine Colette

 

Triciana made a huge mistake when she was sixteen and in love: she let her boyfriend film her while they were making love. Later the video was streamed all over internet and her reputation destroyed. It was so bad that her family had to move from Virginia to Connecticut so she could start over. Nine years later, she’s living in New York with her friend Kelli, not too happy with her job and not too happy with her boyfriend. Then suddenly, in the middle of a class two hurricane, she gets a message from Ella Davis, a former best friend, asking her to look into her brother Jackson Davis, who had an accident and was in a New York hospital and could die alone. This Jackson is the boyfriend who had filmed her naked and streamed the video to internet.  However, Ella was her best friend from years ago, and the idea that a boy she used to love could die alone moved Trish to go see to him.

When she gets to the hospital, she finds he’s not dying but is seriously injured. Apparently it was a party gone wild. He’s the guitarist of a rock band that is having some success, and he’s living the rock star life. When he wakes up, they converse and he tries to explain and apologize for what happened. Trish has a moment where she gets out her anger over what happened and how he ruined her life. How she has panic attacks and is so fearful and will not take any chances. They get to a point where they carry a civil conversation, then he’s taken to the operating room and Trish leaves.

After this, Trish decides to follow her roommate to her new job location, Hawaii, and has been living there for a few months. She’s working there as a concierge and gets a surprise. Jackson arrives and stays at one of the big suites which means Trish has to take care of all his requests. He states his purpose: he wants to spend time with Trish and get them to know each other again. Trish is not happy! At first Trish tries to scare him into leaving but he conquers all her challenges, so she hunkers down and spends real-time with Jax. They start to communicate and a lot of things come out. It’s explained how the video was streamed and made public, through a friend of Jax who acted without authorization. She learns the consequences he faced with his family. Trish realizes the huge weight of guilt Jax has been carrying and how it affected his life too. In a way, it was like a clarification and a cleansing of causes, effects and guilt. Forgiveness is achieved and they feel free of the burden of their past and can move on.

Then something horrible happens and they face all the chaos again. I loved this book because of the nuances of feelings. Trish is learning the hula dance with a co-worker’s grandmother. The hula is a spiritual dance, full of stories about spirits. She is a strong influence on Trish and helps her and Jax uncover their feelings and deal with them. Trish has a group of new friends who give her support and help her deal with Jax, first in scaring him, later befriending him and helping him.

Jax has always loved Trish and when he lost her in this disastrous way, he went on a downward spiral. He then found the rock group and was writing songs and having a somewhat life, but always living a crazy life of women and booze, always missing Trish, always feeling the guilt. Trish’s visit in the hospital was the turning point in both their lives so they could make something good from the shambles of their lives. I loved that! It’s redemption at its best.

In the beginning, I didn’t love Trish but later saw that she’s a timid soul, afraid of taking chances.  I liked Jax, I could feel his deep feelings for Trish and his feelings of not being worthy due to their past.  I liked how the author made flashbacks to explain what happened in the past.  The use of italics was great to prevent confusion.  The inserts of the flashbacks were also placed in the right places, when the reader needed the explanation.  Also, the pace of the book was great, it didn’t lag and the author knew to keep it interesting with the antics of Benji.

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