I was curious to see what one of my favorite Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance authors would do with a contemporary New Adult. She brought together elements that I find very attractive: opposites, class and ethnic group issues, wounded characters with pasts, sports and strong secondary characters. This was a hit with me and a definite win.
Evelyn Preston’s life is drastically different from what it was pre-scandalous crime of father, pre-suicide of father, pre-desertion by family and fiancé’. She grew up as one of the wealthy and elite as far from a barmaid, low-rent apartment, community college girl as she could get, but this is her life now. That’s right, hers. She was abandoned by all, but one of the family’s help. She’s on her feet, wobbly though she is and dealing with some deep-seated fears. She watches the big, built Mateo the head bouncer at the club she works at like a scared rabbit. He’s an ex-con so she wants nothing to do with him even though he has been nothing, but kind. Finally a big act of kindness and the candid words of his best friend make her realize that she judged Mateo and might have got him all wrong.
Slowly Evelyn and Mateo get to know each other and she likes what she sees. He is so much more than she assumed and the man seems to have as many deep-seated emotions and secrets as she has so they make a fitting pair in ways. But then the secrets start unraveling, will what they have survive it?
I was engaged from the beginning and it just pulled me in closer and tighter as the story progressed. The worldbuilding isn’t innovative by any stretch. I’ve seen a variation this story before, but that doesn’t make it sadly trite or boring. The author drew her settings well, her characters had depth and the dialogue, thoughts and actions were tight and sharp. Pacing was good. I loved the time spent building up tension over the secrets and the couple’s attraction. All is brought along believably and I’m glad for that considering their pasts. I enjoyed the sequence of scenes that varied between exciting nailbiting and just tender moments or heartbreaking moments. It was a New Adult in tone and feel, but didn’t make a lot of the mistakes that the average NA does with the too quick, too much, or not enough.
At first, the scared rabbit thing that Evelyn had going made me nervous. I don’t have a lot of patience with those types, but there was enough there to keep me hooked and keep me reading long enough to guess the awful truth. The reveal on this doesn’t come out until near the end, but it was probably good that it wasn’t that hard to figure out. I was much more tolerant, sympathetic and powerfully angry on Evelyn’s behalf as a result. Mateo’s issues were a bit harder to figure out. Evelyn’s first person perspective kept me from getting inside Mateo’s head and rummaging around. They were an interesting pair. Evelyn grew up in the lap of luxury in a McMansion and had private school education and posh friends all white and all as spoilt and sheltered as herself. Mateo is from a poor Cuban family growing up in a tired Philly neighborhood. His chance to better himself was the army, but he lost that when he went to prison so now he works at the nightclub as the head bouncer and makes extra as an MMA fighter in underground cage fights. Evelyn has adjusted by the time the story begins so I wasn’t treated to spoiled rich girl stuff. In fact, she’s got a really good head on her shoulders for all her tentativeness. She might be naive and gentle, but she does possess a spine. She had to be patient with Teo and his story was just as touching as Evelyn’s. He is the provider and protector for ‘his girls’ as he calls his sisters and sadly, he is doing that when they have two able-bodied living parents. I was so livid with his folks by the end of this book that I wanted to do them some real violence.
The Cuban culture that Teo and the girls grew up in was vastly different and at times really confounded Evelyn (me too). I’m going to assume it was told authentically since I really have no idea. I did love that cultural diversity plays a strong role in this book.
Quick note of warning- if rape or abuse are triggers for you, there are references to both in this story. They are not intimately described, but it is present for a significant portion.
So as I bring it all together, I would say that the author totally slammed this one and the series has the go-ahead for me. New Adult fans should definitely try this one, but I’m also going to suggest it to adult Contemporary Sports Romance fans because of the maturity of the storyline and characters.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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