It is superbly written books like this one that truly feed my reading addiction and keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning, glued to the pages, unable to tear myself away from the story. I was lost to it from the very first page and have loved every single one after that. This is a luscious yet poignant story that will seduce your senses, get you invested in the characters and make you hopelessly want to believe in happy endings.
Jocelyn is not your ordinary twenty-two year old woman. She has been through more loss and heartbreak in her young life than anyone should have to go through in the course of a lifetime. She lost her entire family in one tragic accident when she was a teenager and has had to look after herself ever since then. She keeps all those around her at arm’s length, never really allowing herself to care about anyone or others to care for her. Her troubled past has taught her that loving people only leads to heartbreak and she is determined to never again forge any lasting ties that would have the power of hurting her. No one knows of her tragic past and that denial of her pain has meant that she has never really had to deal with it.
“I might never stop fearing tomorrow … The future and what it can take from me, scares me.”
Jocelyn craves to start a new life free of reminders of her past, she has been successfully “shoving her feelings down under the steel trapdoor inside of her” for eight long years and she has no intention of changing that. However, even the best-laid plans can go up in smoke when you meet a man whose mere presence makes you lose control of yourself, whose one look leaves you dazed and who makes your lower belly squeeze with lust at first sight. Enter Braden.
“Our attraction was nuclear. I had never known anything like it. It made Braden Carmichael extremely dangerous to me.”
Braden is her new roommate Ellie’s older brother and he is a man who doesn’t hide his interest in her. Jocelyn’s initial reaction to him is to resist his advances but her body betrays her whenever she is near him. His persistence, coupled with her almost primal attraction to him, eventually wear her down and she agrees to having a purely physical relationship with Braden, one that she hopes would run its course and keep her heart protected. But while their initial attraction might have been based on lust, their ever-growing connection is so much more than that – soon they are both faced with emotions neither of them have any experience feeling and Jocelyn starts slowly giving herself away to him, bit by bit, unconsciously lowering her emotional wall, brick by brick.
“You know on those nature shows when the cute little meerkat is strolling along on its four cute little meerkat legs to get back to her burrow where all her little meerkat politics, drama and family await her, and this big-ass eagle comes swooping overhead…? The smart little meerkat runs for cover and waits that big-ass eagle out. Some time passes, and the meerkat finally decides the eagle got bored and went off to scare the crap out of some other cute little meerkat. So, the meerkat crawls out from her hidey-hole to carry merrily on her way. And just when that little meerkat thought she was home free, that big-ass eagle swoops down and catches her in his big-ass claws. Well… I know exactly how that little meerkat felt…”
This story has so many tremendously developed layers. Jocelyn’s character is brilliantly written, with hidden depths that make her both touchingly realistic as well as believable. It is conceivable for someone with her painful past to become the type of person that would “make an art form out of deflection and self-possession” and her emotional growth in the story is well-paced and natural. There are no out-of-character moments, no eye-rolling scenarios or rushed events. But Jocelyn is not a tragic character that we ever need to pity. She is an empowered young woman who is only too aware of the consequences of her traumas and she seeks help when she can no longer maintain the crumbling wall around her heart. She is a character we can’t help but admire. The little snippets from her sessions with her therapist give us an extra insight into her, showing us her vulnerabilities and completing our picture of Jocelyn. We feel her pain, we cheer for her, we feel protective of her. Her anxiety attacks devastate us and her newly found chance of happiness with Braden elates us. His persistent love for her and his unwillingness to give up on her even when she is pushing him away make him the perfect ‘hero’ for Jocelyn. He pursues her relentlessly, he shows his feelings for her proudly and openly, and he never sees her as “broken”. We can’t help but approve of him.
“Babe, nice lingerie is for seducing a man. I’m already f*cking seduced.”
This is ultimately a story of finding the perfect balance in a relationship – a balance between the past and the future, a balance between trust and self-preservation, and a balance between friendship and love. A must MUST read.
“Gentlemen are gentlemen in bed. They make sure you're having a good time."
"I'll make sure you're having a good time, and that you're okay with everything. I just won't be well mannered about it.”
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Great review, Natasha! I just finished this one earlier today after re-reading/listening to the last hour of it via audiobook. The narrator was phenomenally good. I loved her voice for Braden and adored her accents for the Scottish characters! I am so bummed she isn’t the same narrator all throughout the series. I would have bumped the subsequent novels in this series of standalone up if she had been. No matter what though, I will eventually listen to them all. I’m hooked!