A new love will test the boundaries of passion between a privileged boy next door and the tattooed, blue-haired girl who helps him embrace his wild side...
Nate has developed quite a playboy reputation around campus. It's not that he doesn't respect or trust women; he doesn't trust himself. The men in Nate’s family are prone to abusive behavior—a dirty secret that Nate’s been running from his entire life—so Nate doesn't do relationships. But he can’t help himself around one girl…
Jessie is strong, independent, and works at a tattoo parlor. Nate can’t resist getting close to her, even if it’s strictly a friendship. But it doesn't take long for Nate to admit that what he wants with Jessie is more than just friendly.
With Jessie, he can be himself and explore what he’s always felt was a terrifying darkness inside him. Even when Nate begins to crave her in a way that both shocks and horrifies him, Jessie still wants to know every part of him. Testing their boundaries together will take a trust that could render them inseparable… or tear them apart.
Some subjects are so painful and dark- not romantic at all in fact- so it takes a talented writer to weave the two together to create a heartwarming, passionate and hope-filled story that is above all about love. Each book in this series introduces characters that need to heal and find that special someone who is right there to love them and encourage them along their path. In this case, the story swirls around two characters that were introduced in the first book, Nate and Jessie.
I didn’t read the first book, but read the others in order since. I think this one would be fine as a standalone or out of order as it is only loosely connected to the series, but my recommendation is to stick with the order of the series as best because several of the minor characters were introduced in earlier books.
Nate is nearly eaten alive by trying to contain his emotions over growing up in a home rife with domestic violence and seeing evidence that his brother is on the cusp of continuing what their dad started. He is also confused about his sexual needs that, in his mind, tie in to his fears that he’ll be just like his father. It is for these reasons that he has strict rules when he gets physical with women which he does often enough to get the manwhore label. His reputation is that of a one and done and as a daredevil with the adrenaline-filled stunts he engages in. But one night, he is brought up short when Jessie, his only female friend, pushes her way into the women’s bathroom he is in with an anonymous hook-up. Having her seem him like that shakes him and he slowly starts to realize that he cares about her opinion because he has always cared about her as something more that he doesn’t feel he can have.
Jessie and the gang from the tattoo shop she works at to help pay for college are pretty tight and they hang at the bar together once a week. This week, Jessie finally saw how Nate, the guy she calls Square, earned his reputation. His clean cut looks and the fact that he comes from money is generally not her thing, but the look in his eyes in that bathroom haunt her. There is more going on under the surface of Nate than she could ever imagine. She feels attracted to him and really wants to get to know the real Nate. A day trip to another town for her photography project with Nate as her guide brings her exactly what she wished for- and more.
Spending time with Jessie in his old town, opens up the painful past for Nate. They both open up actually and it’s scary, but freeing. An unexpected night in a hotel has him unleashing a bit of his dark side. Instead of scaring her or disgusting her, Jessie is right there urging him on. He draws back, confused and scared about what is going on. Jessie gives him space and encouragement, but each time he draws away it is hard on her too. Jessie shows him that it is okay to open up and trust others, to get help, and he starts to do that very thing. Change is hard and Nate feels lost. Jessie doesn’t know how long she can keep putting her heart out there and if Nate can ever heal enough to take it and offer her his own heart too.
As I said, this one gets into some dark things with Nate’s past, but it was an incredible journey of self-discovery, acceptance, courage, hope and love. I was amazed how the author told her tale without me once feeling it slid into useless drama or affectations of feeling. It was hot and passionate without that aspect overwhelming the story. All elements balanced well and the story was so well paced considering it was strongly character-driven.
Nate needed to heal and it was tough on him, but he was courageous and tender enough to do it. He had a reputation for being a shallow, rich boy user, but that wasn’t even more than a thin veneer. I loved getting to know this guy through his first person narration. He was barely holding it together and trying so hard to do the right thing. I felt so sad for him that he mistook that his taste in dominating his sexual partner was the same as his dad’s abusive nature. He berated himself and tried to hold back while all the while he was miserable. It was a vicious cycle.
Jessie came along and was his rock and the catalyst for change in him without being pushy, snarky or moody about it all. Jessie’s experiences were so different, but she was a breath of fresh air. She didn’t judge and she tried to be so patient and understanding even when her heart got involved. Jessie was mature and, for lack of a better term, seasoned in her experience with relationships and sex. She was honest and had so much to give. This made her perfect for a guy like Nate. I spent the last half of the book silently cheering him on to just take what she was holding out to him freely.
My eyebrows creased together. “What did he mean?”
“I remember asking the same thing,” she said, smiling at me. “He said, “Jessie, promise me this: Explore all the different sides of you. We all have darkness and brightness inside of us. You won’t know exactly what you’re made of until you embrace all of it, feel it, live it. Only then will you be able to face all that life as to offer, head-on.”
She turned and looked straight into my eyes and I felt sucker punched in the gut.
Loc 637 Jessie and Nate, Promise Me This
All in all, I was enchanted and all my emotions from laughter to tears were engaged. I keep saying it, because its true- this author and series are some of the best New Adult Contemporary Romance out there and I recommend it highly to those who enjoy this genre. Even though who prefer adult contemporary romance would probably enjoy these for the depth of the characters and plotting.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.