Time and time again, my reading history has proved to me that all I need for a book to make me pay attention is a confident, articulate writing style and multifaceted characters who take shape in my mind, regardless of how distant their reality is from my own. But for a book to truly make me fall in love with its story, there needs to be a certain synergy of all its elements, an undeniable spark flickering between the characters that arouses my interest immediately and makes me unable to step away. And this book had it all. I can honestly say that very few stories end up truly satisfying the picky reader in me to such an extent that I see no faults, but this heartwarming, funny, unexpectedly profound little gem took me by surprise and ended up rocking my world. Deceivingly nothing more than a cliché college scenario at first glance—a jock falling for the ‘invisible’ girl—this is a story of courage, inner strength, of paving one’s own way in life, and of love…unplanned, unequivocal, impassioned love that you feel all the way to your toes. I read this book in one day, sporting a permanent smile on my face because everything about this story made me happy, and at the end, I so desperately wanted to re-read it all over again.
“You’re not talking.”
“I don’t want to scare you off.”
“Dude, you’re standing there naked in front of me with your dick in your hand. If that doesn’t scare me, I doubt anything you say will.”
Hannah Wells is not a popular girl. A college junior and music major, she has spent the last five years of her young life battling the emotional remnants of one single night from her childhood, a night her innocence was stolen from her and her family’s lives changed forever. And yet, Hannah does not hide from the world or shy away from attention, never letting the past steal her future away from her or prevent her from giving her heart to someone. But when her latest crush happens to be the star wide receiver of the football team, she is clueless as to how to make him notice her. Until another jock makes her an offer she wishes she could refuse.
“For the love of God, I’m not tutoring you.”
“Sure you are.” I shrug. “I just need to figure out what you want in return.”
“I want to not tutor you. That’s what I want.”
Garrett Graham is a star athlete, the captain of the hockey team, a cocky flirt used to women throwing themselves at him and never refusing him anything…until he meets Hannah, the only girl on campus who doesn’t go gaga over his every move. Or any of his moves for that matter. Desperate for her help in order to pass a course he is suddenly failing, and thus putting his sporting career in jeopardy, he strikes a deal with her that would benefit them both, but in two very different ways—her tutoring services for his help in getting her crush to finally see her. But the closer they get to his goal, the further they both want to be from hers, their banter and bickering soon replaced by mutual attraction, protectiveness and affection. And then one kiss changes it all…
“Yes, Hannah and I are friends. In fact, she’s the only female friend I’ve ever had. And yes, I want to keep being Hannah’s friend. But…I also want to sleep with her.”
It might appear like a typical college romance formula, but nothing about this story felt predictable or overdone. The leading characters, as stereotypical as they might seem within the New Adult framework, are well rounded and dynamic, fresh and unique in every way. The smug and gregarious hockey star hides a world of hurt under his confident façade, and the one thing that the sassy, outspoken geek wants the most in her life is to feel safe and whole again, and these unexpected layers to their personalities are what endears them to us. They are opposites, but what attracts them to each other are not those differences—it is the way they empower one another, and the way their hearts are capable of loving, regardless of their painful pasts. There are so many heartbreaking layers to this story, so many themes to ponder on, but even more reasons to smile and walk away with a spring in our step. If you’re looking for a flawlessly written book with the perfect blend of light-hearted humour, heart-warming romance and a convincing storyline, I cannot recommend this story highly enough. And no matter what you hear, Garrett is mine.
“Living well and being happy is how we get over the shit in our past.”
Thirty minutes before my shift ends, I find Garrett Graham in one of my booths.
Does this guy ever give up?
I have no desire to go over there and serve him, but I don’t have much of a choice. Lisa, the other waitress on duty, is busy tending to a group of faculty members at a table across the room, and my boss Della is behind the baby-blue Formica counter dishing out slices of pecan pie to three freshman girls sitting on the tall swivel stools.
I set my jaw and march up to Garrett, making my displeasure obvious as I meet his twinkling gray eyes. He runs a hand through his cropped dark hair and flashes a lopsided grin.
“Hey there, Hannah. Fancy meeting you here.”
“Yeah, fancy,” I mutter, yanking my order pad out of my apron pocket. “What can I get you?”
“Sorry, that’s not on the menu.” I smile sweetly. “We serve really good pecan pie, though.”
“You know what I did last night?” he says without acknowledging the sarcasm.
“Yep. You were text stalking me.”
He rolls his eyes. “Before that, I mean.”
I pretend to think it over. “Um…you hooked up with a cheerleader? No, you hooked up with the girls’ hockey team. No, wait, they’re probably not ditzy enough for you. I stick with my original guess—cheerleader.”
“Sorority sister, actually,” he says smugly. “But I’m talking about what I did before that.” He raises one dark eyebrow. “But I’m very intrigued by your interest in my sex life. I can give you details about that another time if you want.”
“Another time,” he echoes in a dismissive tone, folding his hands on the blue-and-white-checkered tablecloth.
He’s got big hands with long fingers, short nails, and knuckles that are slightly red and cracked. I wonder if he’s been in a fight recently, but then I realize the busted-up knuckles are probably a hockey player thing.
“I was at study group yesterday,” he informs me. “There were eight other people there, and you know what the highest mark in the group was?” He blurts out the answer before I can hazard a guess. “C-plus. And our combined average was a D. How am I supposed to pass this makeup if I’m studying with people who are as dumb as I am? I need you, Wellsy.”
Wellsy? Is that a nickname? And how on earth does he know that my last name is Wells?
I never told—argh. Damn sign-up sheet.
Garrett notices my surprised look and cocks his brows again. “I learned a lot about you in study group. Got your number, your full name, even found out where you work.”
“Congratulations, you really are a stalker.”
“Nope, just thorough. I like to know what I’m up against.”
“Jesus Harold Christ! I’m not tutoring you, okay? Go bug somebody else.” I point at the menu in front of him. “Are you ordering? Because if not, then please go away and let me do my job in peace.”
“Jesus Harold Christ?” Garrett snickers before picking up the laminated menu and giving it a cursory glance. “I’ll have a turkey club.” He sets the menu down, then reaches for it again. “And a bacon double cheeseburger. Just the burger, no fries. Actually, I changed my mind—yes to the fries. Oh, and a side order of onion rings.”
My jaw almost hits the floor. “You’re seriously going to eat all that?”
He grins. “Of course. I’m a growing boy.”
Boy? Nuh-uh. I’m only noticing it now—probably because I’ve been too distracted by how insufferable he is—but Garrett Graham is all man. There’s nothing boyish about him, not his chiseled good looks or his tall frame or that ripped chest of his, which suddenly flashes to mind as I remember the picture he sent me.
“I’ll also take a slice of that pecan pie and a Dr. Pepper to drink. Oh, and some tutoring.”
“Not on the menu,” I say cheerfully. “But the rest is coming right up.”
Before he can argue, I abandon his booth and head to the back counter to place his order with Julio, our night cook. A nanosecond later, Lisa rushes over and addresses me in a hushed voice.
“Oh my God. You know who that is, right?”
“It’s Garrett Graham.”
“I know,” I answer dryly. “That’s why I said yep.”
Lisa looks outraged. “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you freaking out right now?
Garrett Graham is sitting in your booth. He talked to you.”
“Holy shit, he did? I mean, his lips were moving, but I didn’t realize he was talking.”
I roll my eyes and walk over to the drink station to pour Garrett’s drink. I don’t look his way, but I can feel those smoky gray eyes following my every movement. He’s probably sending telepathic orders for me to tutor him. Well, too bad for him. There’s no way I’m wasting the little spare time I have on a college hockey player who thinks he’s a rock star.
Lisa trails after me, oblivious to my sarcasm and still gushing about Graham. “He’s so gorgeous. Like unbelievably gorgeous.” Her voice lowers to a whisper. “And I hear he’s amazing in bed.”
I snort. “He probably started that rumor himself.”
“No, Samantha Richardson told me. She hooked up with him last year at the Theta kegger. Said it was the best sex of her life.”
I have no response, because I couldn’t care less about the sex life of some girl I don’t even know. Instead, I shrug and hold out the Dr. Pepper. “You know what? Why don’t you take his booth?”
The way Lisa gasps, you’d think I just handed her a check for five million dollars. “Are you sure?”
“Yep. He’s all yours.”
“Oh my God.” She takes a step forward as if she’s going to hug me, but then her gaze darts to Garrett and she appears to have second thoughts about broadcasting her terribly unwarranted joy. “I owe you so big for this, Han.”
I want to tell her that she’s actually doing me the favor, but she’s already dashing toward the booth to wait on her prince. I watch in amusement as Garrett’s expression clouds over at Lisa’s approach. He picks up the glass she sets in front of him, then meets my gaze and slants his head.
As if to say, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.