Why I read it: I picked this up for 99c after I saw it in one of Dear Author’s Daily Deals posts (which are hell on my wallet).
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Jessica Harper is the epitome of perfection. She’s a good daughter, makes excellent grades, and always strays on the safe side of life. The last thing she thought would ever happen was falling in love with her best friend’s brother. But sometimes fate just has a way of bringing two people together.
Wide receiver for the University of Arizona, Gabe Garcia, seems to have it all. When his feelings for Jessica come to surface, Gabe will give up everything to be with her.
But what happens when a tragedy abruptly changes the course of your life? For Jessica and Gabe, everything they thought they knew about each other will be questioned. Sometimes, there are scars in life that are cut too deep to completely heal.
Will their love prove to be unbreakable, or will it shatter and prove fate is just another lie?
**Warning: Although there is very little graphic/on page violence, those with rape triggers may want to avoid this book. Also, here be spoilers.**
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Even though I found numerous editing issues (typos, bad grammar, repeated words) in the text, there was something in the story which kept me reading and mostly engaged until the story went off the rails a bit in the second half. But it really needed a good editor.
Shrugging my shoulders, Dad moves in on our hug and wraps himself around both mom and me.
Reading that sentence (which appears later in the book) I was puzzled: how does one shrug someone else’s shoulders?
Even with my concerns about the editing issues, I was pretty much entertained but about halfway through the book took a right turn which made it difficult for me to really enjoy the story. I think the author has an engaging voice but this book was a mixed bag, with the mix weighting towards the negative for me.
The first part of the story is the set up of Jess and Gabe being together. I knew from the DA post that Jess would be raped (not by the hero) at some point in the story. That being so, I didn’t mind that the beginning of their relationship was largely problem free, with them falling into I love you fairly quickly and it being mostly hearts and flowers. There is a youthful intensity to their emotions which was sometimes a little cloying but I was prepared to buy their deep feeling for each other, given their shared history. That said, I still think they progressed from kissing to sex pretty quickly and I was a bit surprised by Gabe’s joining-her-in-the-shower move frankly. Also, what’s with the no condoms? Really? In this day and age? There wasn’t even a discussion about whether to use them but much was made of being “skin to skin”. This did make me roll my eyes quite hard.
Taking his time with me, he moves slowly, and I can’t help but take pleasure in the fact that the man I love is inside of me, skin to skin—making love to me. Closing my eyes, I want remember this moment, just feel him as he moves back and forth. He’s slow and gentle, and careful. Resting his forehead against mine, he continues to move, pressing light kisses to my face. Opening my eyes, I feel him harden more inside of me, his eyes grow darker, and his pace quickens.
“Am I hurting you?” he asks, his breath hitching.
“No. You feel so good,” I whisper in between breaths.
His breathing becomes more intense, and I feel him harden even more.
The rape itself happens after Jess is attacked and knocked unconscious while running in a park. She doesn’t remember the sexual assault and so it doesn’t appear on page. I suppose there are an infinite number of reactions to being sexually assaulted and I’m in no position to really say that Jess’s reactions were inauthentic, but some of it did feel more like a plot device than an organic reaction. I had hoped to read a story about a couple working together to put the pieces back after a trauma. Perhaps where they went to counselling together and how they negotiated sex again etc. But instead, Jess pushes Gabe away and moves across the country where she pretty quickly is getting close to another guy, Landon. (Remember the spoiler warning from above?)
Landon is that right turn I was talking about. It wasn’t quite a love triangle because Landon recognises that Gabe is Jess’s “one and only” and takes steps to bring the pair back together but it was very jarring to suddenly have a third POV character in the story and I was worried for a bit that the HEA would not be with Gabe (which would have made the book a total wallbanger for me).
Some of Landon’s actions were too douchebaggy for me to like. And, I didn’t buy Jess’s reactions to them either. She’s just been sexually assaulted. She wakes up, an unexpected, uninvited guy is in her bed and she’s not totally freaking out? Sure she got a little miffed but I really expected she’d be having a major panic attack. Frankly, I was surprised she was even willing to get on a motorbike with him given the proximity that requires.
I did appreciate that Jess did get therapy and it was clear that it was very helpful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really shown and it was mostly glossed over so I didn’t have a clear picture of Jess’s struggle. The book went off the rails for me just after Jess was raped. I did feel for her and for Gabe and there was still enough engagement and interest for me to keep reading, but where the story went afterwards was frustrating, with long jumps of time (sometimes within the same paragraph) and things happening which made not very much sense to me.
Settling into our room, Jess heads immediately for the bed. She kicks off her shoes before throwing herself on top of the comforter. I unpack our overnight bags and finally settle in to bed, wrapping myself around her. I feel her wiggle out of my arms as I notice the sun peaking through the curtains.
I got a bit of whiplash from these sudden shifts, many of which I was unprepared for.
What else? I did appreciate that Landon didn’t turn out to be a complete asshat but I didn’t really like him and I didn’t buy at all that Jess would be comfortable with him when she had pushed Gabe away so definitively. I really wish the whole Landon thing hadn’t been introduced and the focus had stayed on Gabe and Jess. I would have liked to have seen them both grow in maturity but I was left mostly unconvinced.
Having said all that, it wasn’t a total wash. I did think Gabe and Jess had a real connection (even though they both seemed horribly young) and the authorial voice has promise (the book was quite readable, editing issues aside), but the story went in a direction I didn’t like and that combined with the errors, makes is difficult to recommend this one. However, YMMV.