Closer to 4.5 stars but I won't quibble.
Olivia's first meets Alex at a party given by Olivia's ex-fiance, Patrick. Unbeknownst to Alex, Olivia witnesses him first getting a karaoke serenade/break up song and then getting a blow-job -- in that order, both from the same guy. Such is the allure and mystery that is Alex.
Olivia is fascinated by him, but has been warned by Patrick that Alex doesn't like girls. This is a major point for Olivia as her engagement to Patrick, a mere week before their wedding, was broken because she found out that he didn't like girls either. So much so that he was screwing everything in pants behind her back. The two have since settled into an affectionate yet somewhat toxic relationship.
Despite Patrick's best efforts at keeping Alex and Olivia apart, they gravitate toward each other and Alex ends up renting Olivia's downstairs apartment. The two settle into a great relationship that begins with excellent conversation, great movies and sharing meals and ends with the realization that they are wildly attracted to each other.
I've read two other Megan Hart books: Broken and Dirty. Each time I've picked up one of her books I think I know what to expect. Each time my expectations are subverted. As I mentioned in my review for Dirty
her books are often categorized as erotica or erotic romance and in each book of hers that I've read, i have never felt that she fits into either of those boxes easily.
Yes, this book has some frankly sexual elements and yes it is a story of two people finding each other and falling in love when all is said and done. But I think this book's true focus isn't necessarily he romance of Olivia and Alex, at least in my opinion. No, it feels like it is the story of two --I won't say damaged -- but slightly singed people who have been seeking acceptance and find it within each other.
If this book had to have another title, it could be Choices. Olivia is a biracial woman (she identifies as black) who was adopted into a white family. Her mother is Jewish her father is Catholic. She is in love with a man who has sex with men and women. It seems that there are a lot of duality involved in Olivia's life and she feels as if she needs to settle on one thing or another, make a choice in order to sit right with the world.
With the advent of Alex into her life, she begins to question that need quite a bit. There is one telling point where she and Alex are arguing and he is rightly angry about paying for Patrick's crime. He passionately tells her that it isn't about being with a man or being with a woman, but rather about being with the right person, her
. She is right person for him. I think at this point Olivia begins to breathe a bit. Her struggle for identity becomes a bit easier because she realize she doesn't have to choose.
I think Hart's writing is stellar. I love how effortlessly she guides us through Olivia's thoughts and emotions as she works through her issues with race and religion and her relationship with both Alex and Patrick. Her voice sounds organic and natural. And Olivia is just so darned likeable. She never comes off as whiny or tiresome.
I have to take a moment to talk about Alex. My god, what a guy. I have not read any of the other books that feature him as a character so he was totally new to me. I can see why so many other reviewers really dig this guy. The story is told from Olivia's first person POV. So we hear the poison poured into her ears by Patrick, we live with her uncertainties as she begins this relationship that could just derail
her emotionally. But Alex is wonderful and says and does all the right things. He is a bit enigmatic and mysterious -- at least coming from Olivia's POV, so I was waiting apprehensively for him to do something that would justify some of Olivia's anxieties. But I am glad that Hart didn't go for the cheap shot. Instead we got a relationship that seemed very realistic as the two people navigated around the blind corners and over the bumps that come with a new romance.
I also have to mention a great supporting character cast. I especially love Olivia's BFF Sarah, who was funny and irreverent and just the sort of good girlfriend everyone should have. Patrick, Olivia's ex was a very nuanced character as well. He could easily be despised but under there is a somewhat pitiable person. Previous characters from other books make an appearance. I was actually very glad to see Elle and Dan from Dirty. I didn't like Elle in that book but this view of them shows that Elle has conquered her demons and seems much more easy in her skin that she did in that book. Glad to know that.
And finally I have to mention the cover. It is beautiful and it actually looks like the characters. Olivia's locks and Alex's brown hair. Kudos.
Overall this was a great read with stellar writing, filled with memorable characters. Highly Recommend.