Over pancake brunches, charity galas, and Alexander the Great Rachael realizes all the judgments she’d made about Ryan are wrong. But how can a Midwestern Irish-Catholic jock with commitment problems and an artsy, gun-shy Jewish New Englander ever forge a partnership? Rachael must let down her barriers if she wants real love–even if that opens her up to pain that could send her back into her emotional shell forever.
As Rachael and Ryan are thrown into one another’s orbit however, both realise that first impressions aren’t always correct and both reveal vulnerabilities which make them more sympathetic to each other (and, to me as well).
It surprised me when he flushed and ducked his head. “I did. I do. I just—I don’t know.” He met my gaze, his bright and unflinching, a lake in August, sky at dawn, and my heart went pitter-patter. “Is this a game?”
Shocked, I shook my head. “No. No, not at all.”
He let out a breath. Behind him, the guests moved slowly, a blurred sea of wool and silk, black and jewel tones. Ryan stood out, the one note of reality in the wash of strangers. “Because I don’t think I could deal with that.”
“Why would it be a game?”
If he hadn’t mangled the sound so badly, it would have been a laugh. “Because I never know where I stand with you. Because each time I make a move you turn it down. And then the one time I do nothing, you kiss me, and now I don’t know what you want.”
Rachael is somewhat prickly. She has “walls” and finds it difficult to let anyone in. She’s fiercely independent and quite insecure about her attractions (which, I guess is understandable if you’re dating the gorgeous, rich and can-have-any-woman-he-wants quarterback of the city’s NFL team), but this does lead her into conflict with Ryan.
The way the book is set up, neither protagonist has much experience with relationships and it shows – they don’t communicate very well at first, wilfully misunderstand each other and blow things out of proportion. For the most part, it felt realistic considering their lack of experience and relative youth (although Rachael sometimes read younger than 23 to me). As much as from time to time I found it frustrating that they could not just say what they meant, that they went off on tangents in an argument and things ended up pretty pear shaped; it felt authentic to me. I have been in arguments like that. Where you don’t quite know what happened to get you from point A to point Z and it’s messy and confusing.
If we knew how to compromise. If I could figure out how to be independent and still let him in. If I had called him or if he had come by. We had blown this all out of proportion, and I didn’t think we could recover.
But Rachael and Ryan do talk to each other, even if the deep emotional conversations are largely beyond them for most of the book and the dialogue between them zinged and crackled as their attraction grew beyond the physical. Rachael doesn’t take Ryan too seriously and loves to tease him and this is a new thing for him. Because she sees him, not the Quarterback, she is a treasure.
“…Ah! Look at your face!”
“What’s wrong with my face?” Ryan tried to snatch the phone away. I held on tightly.
“What did they tell you to do, glare smolderingly? You look like you’re trying to set something on fire with your mind, Mr. Jedi.”
“The director thought it was a good face!”
The laughter kept bubbling up. “You look like you’re trying to think, and it’s not going too well.”
I loved that Rachael had a wide circle of friends – males and females and spent time with them, even when she was dating Ryan. Sure, most of the conversations in the book were centred around the romantic relationship (it is a romance after all) but it was clear that these groups of friends were about more than who was dating whom.
Rachael’s older brother is dating her high school nemesis and I liked the humour and snark associated with this but I also liked where it went in the story – and how it highlighted an underlying theme – things are not always what they seem.
“Don’t exaggerate. This isn’t going to be a problem, is it? Sophie’s very sensitive. She’s a yoga instructor, you know.”
“I know.” Not only because David had mentioned it roughly five hundred times, but also because I had thoroughly stalked her profile pages after she started dating my brother. Still, just because she could hook her foot behind her head did not automatically qualify her for sainthood.
Rachael’s career is also a story arc in the book and again, this is not dependent on Ryan. These aspects of the story were not only interesting, they rounded the story out for me. New adult has a coming of age flavour to it and Rachael is navigating more than just a romantic relationship. At the same time, these separate arcs fed into one another, as Rachael realises she’s got to change her mind on some things and learn to take a few risks.
The sex isn’t super explicit; about what you’d see in a Robyn Carr or Shannon Stacey contemporary. It is sexy and intimate and there for a reason (although Rachael and Ryan have a somewhat alarming penchant for sex in public spaces).
He removed his hand, and I looked up at him, outraged. He grinned. “Oh, sweetheart.” Laughter caught in his throat. “I am going to make you scream.”
I bit his shoulder. Hard.
He gasped, and I laughed softly, kissing the mark better. “I won’t be the only one,” I whispered, and then my lips found his again.
I felt the book’s ending was a little less strong. Some of the threads were left a little undone – Malcolm and Bri and Alexa and her man – and I would have liked an epilogue which was a bit further along the timeline. Because Rach and Ryan fell in love very quickly and their relationship was fairly tumultuous. I would have liked to have just a smidge more confidence in their HEA.