I was so curious about this book! I see that it has quite a positive rating on Amazon, but as everyone knows these days that ratings can be manipulated shamelessly so that doesn't help. There is no editorial review available and of all the ratings not a single person gives a synopsis. I had no idea of the plot. Added to that, this publisher does not allow a peek inside nor does it provide e-books, so I couldn't even see a sample of the writing. I waffled for awhile as this is a a new to me author and i was a bit hesitant to spend the money on an unproven commodity. But, in the end, my curiosity won out. I figure, if i hated the book, I'd punish myself by not getting a couple of week's worth of Lattes.
But, happily, that is not the case. I really, really enjoyed this book.
Reye Jackson (pronounced Ray) is on her way back to school after a small break when she literally bumps into Stephen Stuart at the airport. The two laugh over their mishap and get to chatting during their flight. It turns out they are both students at the Unversity in Austin. She is a senior finishing up an degree in education and he is in his third year of Law school. After they land, Reye boldly programs her number into his phone and he promises to call.
This was a great start to the book. Even though this book is the debut book for this author it never really felt that way. She doesn't fall into the first book trap of overtly long exposition and data dumps. Instead the story really, really, flows with a naturalness that allows the story to move.
Stephen doesn't call Reye right away and even though she is disappointed, she is also philosophical about it. No biggee. But the two run into each other on the soccer field where they both play for the Unversity's pick-up intramural league. They are both shocked but pleased to see each other. And it is at this point that the relationship really starts.
Again, I was struck by how natural the story flowed. One thing I think the author did well was to create an atmosphere showing that Reye and Stephen were college students. These two aren't 30 something professionals who approach every relationship with an eye to whether or not it will have a future. They are about-to-graduate students who aren't quite looking to settle down, but are ready to embark on the careers they are training for right now. While they are dating they also study, hang out with their friends, go to parties and navigate this relationship which is new to both of them.
One thing that I thought was refreshing in this book is that it is Stephen who is having most of the adjustment problems. In most IR books where the hero is white, he is portrayed as being genuinely confused about why the AA heroine is generally so resistant to the pairing. But in this case, Reye is the one who is remarkably well adjusted and takes their relationship in stride. It is Stephen who is the worrier, mostly hyper sensitive to his family and friends' reactions.
I also liked the fact that the author did not make him a Super Hero. You know, the guy who all but does back-flips and hand stands for heroine and is so wonderful and reassuring and understanding all the the while the heroine is being snippy and bratty? Nope, Stephen is realistically flawed. He's the brat sometimes. This is not to say that he is a bad character, on the contrary I really liked him. I actually thought he was very nuanced. The author does a great job of articulating his struggle in his own head even when he isn't aware that is what he is doing.
There is also a lot of what I like to call additional flavor to the book. Reye and Stephen have a lot of interest and activities outside of each other. She is working on an internship and we get to see a lot of that, they both play soccer and that plays a large part in the story. There are also some great supporting characters in Reye's brother Sam who is a grad student and in some of Stephen's frat brothers. A minor character also gets a very satisfying redemptive arc that didn't feel at all fake.
of course this book includes conflict and most of it is internal, even as Stephen seeks to externalize it. At the end of the school year he precipitates a break up. What follows are chapters of the 'Great Grovel.' I am always gratified when an author allows a jerky hero to grovel to get back in the heroine's good graces. This author does a great job of it. And Reye doesn't make it easy either. Not only that there were some genuinely amusing parts as her family gets in on the fun.
All in all this was a really nice book. A satisfying romance with just the right amount of angst with a couple that was full of sexy chemistry. And I must say this did not read like a first book. The writing was incredibly polished.