Pub Date: February 1, 2014
ARC received from Harlequin Enterprises Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Dannie says: Sexy, nice guy, classical musician? Why thank you, I think I will.
A gritty, urban New Adult Cinderella story where the princess can do her own rescuing — she just needs someone to believe in her.
Sister to car thieves, ex-girlfriend to a drug dealer, high school dropout, no-hoper and loser — Jess is on the sidelines, watching her life become one epic fail. Her dreams of university are fading fast, as the people in her life fight to confine her to their own expectations.
Then she meets Sebastien, a gifted cellist from a very different walk of life. Sebastien is clean and strong and talented. He likes and respects her, but he too has expectations. Sebastien seems to think she can do anything, and Jess, despite her fears and the secrets she hides, is starting to believe him.
But just as Jess dares to hope, the secrets in her past and the lies in her present catch up with her. All seems lost and she has to make a choice. Between past and future. Between home and hope. Between now and never. And this is now.
WHAT I LIKED
That the New Adult themes were highlighted, even though it isn't a traditional college story. As a NA author biased toward books that don't fit the college cookie cutter, I was super excited about this element. Though I wish the themes had been more consistently present. For me, it felt like they were more of an afterthought added in during editing to fit the category, which made them a like rather than a love. But yay for out of the box books! :)
Overall characterization was a like for me (with one exception, see below.) I think we spent so much time in the MC's head that we sort of lost the other characters at times. An increase in dialogue would have helped this tremendously for me. A good example is Anna, who plays such a crucial role but hardly gets any on screen time. I think the author missed a huge opportunity to play her up more. But I did feel that the characters were overall relatively consistent and well thought out.
WHAT I LOVED
Sebastien. *girlie sigh* He makes a lovely book boyfriend. I loved that he wasn't a tattooed raging beast like so many MMCs in NA, that he was sort of nerdy, but still sexy and strong, and that he was a good guy. I'm so sick of the bad boy trope in NA, so I found him not only endearing but refreshing.
The romantic plot arc. This is a contemporary romance where the romance and the characterization really come together in an organic way. I think the author did a good job of presenting realistic, organic conflict between the characters that really popped off the page. And though they didn't seem *perfect* for each other the way a lot of NA couples do, I think this made them even better, even more realistic. And I found myself rooting for them the whole way through.
The sexytimes. Gah. Though tame by NA standards, the sensual aspects of this story do NOT suffer in the least. I love, love, loved them and wanted more! The chemistry and sexual tension was fantastic. And I loved the natural way the stereotypical roles were reversed between them.
WHAT I WANTED MORE OF
A stronger FMC. In some ways the weaker aspects of Jess' character make sense. She's been through a lot and having low self-esteem is a natural side effect. But as the story continued, I would have like to have seen more growth from her in that respect. I wanted her to kick ass and take names at the end, and for me it didn't really turn out like that. I won't say more because I'm desperately avoiding spoilers here, but suffice to say I wanted her to be stronger, even if only in personality rather than action.
Character interaction. As I mentioned above, a lot of the story happens in a vacuum inside the MC's head. There is a TON of internal monologue, some of which I felt was pretty tangential, and which consequently slowed the pace for me significantly. Particularly toward the end, I lost my battle with my urge to skim, wanting to get back to the plot, conflict, and relationships.
More focused internal monologue. The stream of consciousness style of narrative voice at times did a disservice to the plot and to the MC. All of these factors really went together for me to be a downside of the book. I think for some readers prone to give up at less than 100 pages if the story hasn't been thrown into full blown action, this may not be something they have patience for. I was engaged enough by the characters to keep reading, though.
More distinct voice. I'm such a hyper-vigilant hardass about voice, and I wanted something more unique here. That's not say the voice is inauthentic or bad, it's not. It's just not as unique as I like my narration to be, particularly when a book is so narration heavy.
All that said, I did enjoy this book. I think it's great for NA readers who are tired of the cookie cutter college story with a reformable bad boy MMC. And if you're a fan of underdogs, this MC might be a good one for you.
Check it out and let me know what you think! Buy links are below!