Stay With Me by Elyssa Patrick

StayWithMeWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the author via NetGalley.  It had a rock star heroine and it’s in the New Adult genre which I like.  I say I don’t get books because of their covers but I’ve come to realise that’s not entirely true.  I won’t make a final decision based on a cover, but there are plenty of times when I click to find out more because of an eye-catching cover design and this is one of those examples.  The cover is gorgeous.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  With one look, I’m his . . .

With one touch, he’s mine . . .

With one kiss, it changes everything between us . . .

I’ve been famous since I can remember. Singing, acting, dancing—I’ve done it all. The tabloids cover my every move, but I don’t want that anymore. I want to be normal, whatever that is.

When I leave Hollywood for college in Vermont, I’m on my own for the first time in my life. This is my chance to figure out who I am and what I want in life.

But it’s a lot harder than I expected. I can’t escape my image. Classes are difficult, and I’m struggling. And then there’s Caleb Fox.

Sexy, intriguing Caleb Fox.

Caleb is the one man who doesn’t want to use me. He breaks down my walls. He challenges me. He wants me. And I just don’t know if I can give him the same—or if he’ll stick around when he finds out my shameful secret that the tabloids haven’t managed to uncover.

Dating him is risky enough, but loving him could break me.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I found this story a bit of a mixed bag.  There were parts where I was immersed and enraptured but other parts which felt a little flat to me.  As much as I thought Caleb was wonderful, he was so perfect that the romance lacked tension. Caleb is gorgeous, smart, faithful, honest, funny and awesome in bed.  He has good friends, a great family, a career plan, talent – really, what’s not to love about him?  Hailey on the other hand, is a bit of a mess.  She has been managed by her mother who is the ultimate awful “stage-mom” – manipulated into roles she didn’t really want, relationships she didn’t really want and increasingly, into a career she didn’t really want, Hailey has made a break.  She has quit acting, singing and dancing and is going to college.  She doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do yet, other than be “normal” (or, as normal as it is possible to be given how rich and famous she is).  She plans to spend her first year of college finding herself and I think the book succeeds very well here.  It skirts the line so that Hailey stays on the right side of “poor little rich girl”.  She isn’t unaware of her privilege and doesn’t whinge.  She does read older than her 18 years, but I think this is explained by her history – she’s worked professionally since she was a small child (even as a baby she was the face of Gerber).  When she struggles in school, she takes it on the chin and doesn’t whine about it. She goes and gets some tutoring, works hard and does better. Yay!

It is not in Hailey’s plans to get into a relationship.  Her history is such that she has been burned many times by publicity seeking guys who want the cachet of being with her and the ability to sell the story to the tabloids once the relationship ends.  She’s very wary of getting caught again.  But Caleb is special and he’s persistent (without being pushy or uncaring of Hailey’s boundaries).  Like I said above, Caleb is so amazing, it’s not a wonder Hailey falls for him.  Where I thought the narrative was taking me to a place where the relationship was tested, Caleb either sailed over the hurdle with air to spare or there was no hurdle.  In that respect, the story didn’t have a strong ending – because there was no terribly black moment to bounce back from.

The challenges really come from Hailey’s relationship with herself, learning how to open up to new friends and to love and to trust her own judgement.   In the respect that New Adult has that coming of age element, the book succeeds but the romance, while entertaining to read, didn’t have the usual arc for me. I do feel a bit mean complaining that Caleb was too wonderful.  Here we have a completely non-douchebag hero, who doesn’t push his girlfriend for anything other than what she’s happy to give and doesn’t shame her for her previous sexual experience, who doesn’t cheat or lie, who is encouraging and supportive but doesn’t go behind her back and try and make choices for her.  He’s the kind of guy one would be pretty happy to meet up with in real life. I am contrary.

The story is written in first person present tense which will some readers will love and others will hate.  I don’t mind it – it’s quite common for the category. I did find that there were times when the story descended into minutiae and those parts felt a little flat to me.  On the other hand there were other parts of Hailey’s story that I would have liked expounded.  For example, Hailey has a friend, a fellow actor, named Alex.  She describes him as her best friend but they’d had a falling out.  I would have liked to have found out more about their relationship and how they were friends.  What there was made me inclined to mistrust him and I don’t think I was supposed to feel that way.

The love scenes were well done, conveying the fervour of new love and youthful passion with genuine emotion which became more apparent as the book progressed. I really liked the chemistry and connection Caleb and Hailey had.  There was one area of their relationship I wondered about.  Hailey has so much money she need never work again. Caleb isn’t poverty-stricken but he clearly is less financially well off than she is.  It is only touched upon once in the book and I thought it could have been interesting to explore.

What else? I had an early review copy and there were quite a few typographical errors and misused words – I expect they will have been fixed up by the time of publication but I can only review the book I read.  I believe without those errors, which did throw me out of the story a number of times, I would have graded the story at a B-, but as it was, I’m going with a C+.

Caleb’s relationship with his friends reminded me a little of the Woodland boys Jen Frederick’s series (Undeclared being the first) and the way Hailey reacts to Caleb’s family reminded me a little of J. Lynn’s Wait For You.  I think Stay With Me will appeal to fans of those books. There really was a lot to like here and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with for Nick (and Daphne), Kai, Griff, Jamie and Dylan.

Grade: C+




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