Narrator: Stephanie Bentley
Series: #2 Sweet Home, #1 Carillo Boys
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance
Published by Audible Studios on October 4, 2016
Length: 10 hours 40 minutes
Talk about a tough row to hoe, this pair broke my heart so many times that I gave up trying to hold back the tears and the feels and let it flow.
Running parallel to and going beyond Sweet Home, Sweet Fall tells the story of Austin Carillo and Lexi Hart. In the first book, Austin and Lexi are side characters and part of the circle of friends surrounding Rome and Molly, but here, they take center stage and a dark, painful, desperate, and edgy story is told for a guy who grew up poor and hard, has few choices in life, and despairs of ever getting his chance along with a girl who has succumb to a disorder that preys on her insecurities and will slowly kill her all while she puts a smile on, hiding it all.
Austin Carillo, wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide and strong contender for a place in the next NFL draft, looks like a bruiser under his tats, metal, and edgy attitude, but that is all to cover up the fact that his mama is back in their trashy trailer park home dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease while his older brother and young fourteen year old brother are in the local gang selling drugs on the streets to pay for mama’s medicine and medical needs. Austin is the golden boy of the family, but the pressure builds when the gang leader decides that the UA campus is part of their turf. The dean suspects Austin and would do anything to get his trailer trash butt off the team and then some tiny cheerleader witnesses his brother dealing and Axel threatens to silence her.
Lexi is in her senior year and determined to try out for the cheer squad thinking she has beaten back her demons, but instead the pressure of competition cheer, looking good in her uniform, and being scared for her life when she witnesses a drug deal send her spiraling back down. The voice in her head returns to convince her that she’s fat and ugly and needs to lose some weight to be happy again. Fighting anorexia is tiring and Lexi wants to give up the fight and let it win. She hides this part of her past from her friends, but can’t hide it when the scary bad boy, Austin Carillo, first fascinates her and then he lets her inside behind his walls. Eventually, he gets behind her walls, too.
They are two lost and broken souls who have found something together. Until Austin’s world explodes in gunfire and pain and he has to protect everyone in his life including Lexi by staying away. The voice in her head is strong. Why fight anymore with Austin gone and no one who knows about her struggles?
I give this author full respect for going there with her heroine and talking about her own struggles in the process. This is not an easy story particularly Lexi’s part of it. She has demons that rage inside her and distort her whole world. Austin fights demons, too, and it broke my heart about his mama and Levi, and even his dark older brother Axel. This is a story of people who are forced to fight so hard and deal with the hand they’ve been dealt.
I was particularly struck by how a kid’s flippant remark about another person’s appearance was enough to send her spirally and then later, by how successfully, Lexi was able to fool even close friends. Makes me acutely aware to watch what I say and also to do careful checks on the people in my circle who might be in trouble and I don’t even know it. And it also makes me see folks are doing the very best they can and even a small bit of help or encouragement can go a long way.
Yeah, as you can tell, this one really gut-checked me. It’s that sort of story. Not easy and most definitely not fluffy. I’m not one for too much angst, but this one felt organic in the way it was written. No more and no less than it needed to be. It was raw and honest. But just so you know, it was also triumphant.
In the end, this is a love story. There are many kinds of love stories in this one- romantic love, friends, and family. I was glad to see all those layers of love. The passion is felt, but not acted on right away as this pair must work through Lexi’s body issues and Austin’s need to protect her. At first it is ugly between them, but then it grows into something sweet before the agony sweeps back in. But in the end, it is their love that holds strong.
Along with being the third Sweet Home book, this is also the first Carillo Boys book. I totally fell in love with all three brothers and was glad to see the interaction between them. I can’t wait to get Axel’s story and then Levi’s as the series continues.
The audio reader, Stephanie Bentley, was new to me. I liked her storytelling. She got the feel and the pacing down and her main characters were well done. Some of her male voices were not distinct and her Mama Carillo voice was off for me, but overall, I liked it and would listen to her narration again.
In summary, this series continues to touch something deep and tackles some darker issues. I enjoyed the balance of individual and romantic development in the story and can easily recommend this book/series to New Adult Contemporary Romance fans who want something with great feeling, hot passion, and compelling characters.
My thanks to Audible.com for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #399 NA