If you asked me what it was about this story that earned its spot among my all-time-favourite books even before I had finished it, I could give you a dozen reasons, but I cannot tell you why this book moved me so much and reduced me to such a sobbing mess in the end. Love stories always get to me, one way or another, but rarely does one evoke such intense reactions in me. This book had my full attention from the first few pages, kept it page after page, making me forfeit reality for just one more scene, one more chapter, one more emotion, and it crushed me in the end in the best possible way.
Laurelyn is a young American girl who comes to Australia on a three-month visit with her best friend. She comes with no plans or expectations, hoping that this new distance from the pressures of home would help her put her own life into perspective and allow her to make some difficult life-changing decisions. She is a girl whose childhood has left numerous emotional scars on her fragile heart, and whose only serious past relationship with a man only added further reasons in her mind for believing that she is unworthy of ever being loved, cherished, desired, or wanted forever. When Laurelyn reaches the Australian shores, she is not looking for love. She escaped her real life desperately hoping to find some tranquillity to heal her broken heart.
“There’s so much that’s happened in my life to make me feel unworthy of ever being beautiful, incredible, funny, or irresistible.”
Enter Jack McLachlan, billionaire winemaker and one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Jack does not do conventional relationships nor does he want one – he selects a companion for a short and set amount of time to pursue a physical relationship with them under strict conditions and rules. It allows him to keep his personal life separate from his public persona, eliminating needless complications and messy breakups. When he first lays eyes on Laurelyn, his body’s instant reaction to her lets him know that he has found his next companion. He propositions her with his unorthodox offer – three months strings-free, no real names or any identifying personal information to be shared between them. He offers her a relationship void of complications, pretences, feelings or long-term expectations from one another, and after some deliberation and inner struggle with the idea of a romance-free fling, she finally accepts Jack’s offer.
“When the three months is over, so are we. I’ll move on and you will too. Because you won’t know my name or any identifying information about me, you’ll have no way to contact me. Ever.”
But when two people are literally made for each other, setting such arbitrary boundaries in a relationship that is destined to naturally evolve becomes impossible. The connection and attraction between Laurelyn and Jack is unquestionable, palpable, deliciously irresistible. Through a tastefully erotic and yet genuinely romantic progression of the physical aspect of their relationship, we see them fall in love with one another, oblivious to it happening but unable to stop it. They bare their souls to each other, telling their most fiercely-protected secrets, never afraid of being judged or criticised. The very nature of the unusual relationship they entered into gives them the freedom of being themselves at all times, never having to guard their hearts, this only amplifying the escalating intimacy between them.
“… we climb into bed and he pulls me close. He doesn’t ask me to tell him about the pain I’m hiding. He simply holds me until we fall asleep. It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s beautiful.”
As the end of their agreement slowly approaches, their reluctance to let go of each other only grows. They don’t address it but it is constantly on their minds. As they come to the same conclusion but at different paces, we are taken through one of the most exquisitely painful scenes of heart-break and emotional resignation that I have ever come across. It is soul-shattering and it won’t leave you indifferent even hours after you finish reading it. You can sense where the story will eventually go, you can almost taste it in your mouth, but you keep hoping that true love would eventually conquer even the deepest inner struggles.
“I no longer hold out hope he will ask me to stay, and I feel the tears. Thank God I turned off the bathroom light when I came out so it’s dark and he can’t see me. And I won’t see the love he doesn’t feel when he’s holding me.”
This book pressed all the right buttons for me – it made me dream, squeal, obsess, squirm, sigh, and then sob uncontrollably. The writing style was very pleasant to read, albeit a bit simplistic at times but it did not avert my attention from the escapist nirvana that was possessing every part of me while reading it. The sequel is scheduled for release in early Summer 2013 and it cannot come soon enough.
“We’re heart to heart and he fades into me until I don’t know where I end and he begins.”