I must say that it stuns me that even after so many books read and loved, a story can still take me by surprise so completely and so unexpectedly, and end up being the very opposite of what I thought I would find. When I picked up this book, I expected light-hearted humour, I expected romance, I expected a fun read. Well, as much as those elements were all present, this book is first and foremost a stunning insight into human nature, into short-term escapism versus the vivid reality of everyday life. It is a stunning testament of how even the rarest of human connections need a mutual commitment in order to work out, and how love is as much a reward after a journey travelled as it is a ‘winning lottery ticket’ of sorts. I devoured this book, even re-read parts in order to fully absorb every layer of this story and not miss a word. From impeccable character development, to a truly stimulating storyline, from sizzling sex scenes that had my skin-tingling and my pulse racing, to an engaging writing style that left me craving for more from this talented writing duo—this was a book I could not put down and even before I finished it, I knew it would forever remain one of my favourite reading escapes.
“We have the rest of our lives to be sophisticated, but only the one weekend in Vegas.”
Mia is a woman in her early twenties, fresh out of college, and at an important crossroad in her life where she is about to pick the road that someone else has set before her and embark on the kind of future she never wished for herself. A former ballerina, her dreams were suddenly cut short due to injury, but the performer in her still craves to be ‘in someone else’s head’ as she has never felt as liberated and as free to be herself as while pretending to be someone else. During her last weekend of reckless abandon, she goes to Las Vegas with her two best friend to celebrate their graduation and be irresponsible for the last time in her young life, never expecting that a one-night-stand could change the rest of her life.
“I want to have a different life tonight.”
From the moment Mia sees Ansel from across a crowded bar, the spark between them is hard to ignore. They meet, they flirt, they have too much to drink, they talk, they flirt some more, they have wild monkey sex all night long on every surface of their hotel suite, and… they get married. A typical night of fun in Vegas and up to this point, this story was exactly what I expected it to be. But once the bright morning light sets on the reality of everything that has happened between them, the more Mia remembers of their night together, of the person she became while in Ansel’s arms, of the freedom and passion she felt while talking and making love to him, the less she feels inclined to have their marriage annulled and erase that way the only act of spontaneity in her adult life.
“I have no idea what to do with you.”
From the bright decadence of Las Vegas to the sophisticated elegance of Paris, France, we follow the young couple into their new life together, as temporary as it may be, and from the moment Mia steps onto the plane taking them back to Ansel’s home town, they are faced with the harsh reality of being married to complete strangers, of knowing very little about each other, of having only one thing still tying them to one another, apart from the gold bands on their fingers—the memory of the spark between them.
“I might not remember every touch, but my body certainly does. I can feel his fingertips tattooed all over my skin. They’re in the bruises I can see and they’re invisible, too: the echo of his fingers in my mouth, dragging along my legs, pumping inside me.”
And this is where this book becomes truly spectacular. Mia and Ansel are faced with the impulsiveness of their decisions, struggling to connect now as spouses rather than each other’s one-night-stands. They have to work on their communication, on facing the secrets that could potentially tear them apart, on setting a pace in their marriage that leaves both of them resentment-free even when constantly making small sacrifices along the way, and they have to rediscover each other, from the very beginning, their sole foundation being the memory of a perfect night together. I had to stop on several occasions simply to absorb the intensity of those scenes, to reflect at times on a single sentence exchanged between Mia and Ansel, because their every exchange is so meaningful, so electrifying, and yet always charged with underlying issues that they are both committed to resolve.
“What we know is dimly lit bars, playful banter, the clean, crisp sheets of hotel rooms. What we know is the unrequited possibility, the temptation of the idea. The make-believe. The adventure. But when you choose the adventure, it becomes real life.”
The absolute highlight of this book for me is the way these characters strive to understand each other’s needs and wants, how much they are willing to do to recapture the magic between them, never attempting to change one another in the process. Even during the most electrifying sexual scenes between them, there is always an undercurrent of unconditional mutual acceptance that deepens the meaning of every single touch, every kiss, every stolen breath. I will not deprive you of the indescribable thrill from discovering how they learn to communicate with one another, but I will tell you that I have never been so moved and yet so aroused all at once.
“I reach for my bag, pulling out gum, but he quickly moves to me, sliding his hands up my neck to cup my face. “Don’t.” He leans close, sucking on my mouth the way he seems to like so much. “You taste like me. I taste like you.” He bends, licking my tongue, my lips, my teeth. “I like this so much. Let it stay, just for a bit.”
A deceivingly predictable scenario which turns into one of the most real and realistically told stories I have ever read, this is a book I adored. I laughed, I sighed, I fanned myself, and I even choked up on occasion—the story of Mia and Ansel is what happens when a modern fantasy is faced with the starkness of everyday reality. Reading this book made me happy and it is a top recommendation from me.
“What you feel, Cerise? I feel it too. F*ck, Mia, I feel everything for you.”
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LOVED this book. I like that is wasn’t a reworded Beauty. They really know how to write a good read.