Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication date: November 8, 2013
Format: eARC, 264 pages
How I got it: From the author
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
One night they can't forget...
Tess McMann lives her life according to the secrets she's sworn to keep: the father who won't acknowledge her, the sister who doesn't know she exists, and the mother who's content playing mistress to a prominent businessman. When she meets the distractingly cute Dylan Kingsley at a prestigious summer program and falls in love, Tess allows herself to imagine a life beyond these secrets. But when summer ends, so does their relationship -- Dylan heads off to Canton College while Tess enrolls at the state university.
One love they can't ignore...
Two years later, a scholarship brings Tess to Canton and back into Dylan's life. Their attraction is as strong as ever, but Dylan has a girlfriend…who also happens to be Tess's legitimate half-sister. Tess refuses to follow in her mother's footsteps, which leaves her only one choice: break the rules she’s always followed, or allow Dylan to slip away for a second time.
...And only one chance to get things right.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review consideration.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In Review: My Thoughts
I’m going to try to write this review without gushing. I make no promises. I was so excited to get my hands on an early review copy of this one. I love Diana’s young adult books and was oh-so-happy to learn she was going to release a new adult book under a pseudonym. I suspected I would fall in love with this book and the characters, but I had no way of knowing just how hard I would fall for them.
“My mom had been into boys and love and the whole sweep-you-off-your-feet romance thing. And look where she ended up – a mistress to a married man, raising a secret daughter, able neither to live the life she forged nor escape it.”
Tess McMann has her head on straight. She knows what she wants out of life. She’s strong and smart, my favorite type of heroine. She’s lived her entire life according to the rules set by her father. Her mother was “the other woman” and her father has another family. One that doesn’t know anything about her, and he’s determined to keep it that way. He exerts a huge amount of control over her life and gives her little in return. Tess’ mom goes along with his rules and insists Tess does as well because of the financial support he gives them… and the fact that she loves him despite everything.
“Look, Dylan, you’re” – Cute. Funny. Disconcerting. – “fun and all, but I should probably tell you something. I’m not here to flirt and I’m not here to date and I’m not here to hook up. I’m here to work.”
Tess is determined to not make the same mistakes as her mother. She’s going to be a bioengineer. When she gets accepted to an amazing science program at a nearby private college, she’s heartbroken when her father tells her she can’t go. Even when she tries to reason with him, he’s unwilling to compromise. Tess’ mother takes her father’s side and that’s that. Tess goes on to place as a runner-up in the state science fair and she was named a regional Siemens finalist. Her father didn’t show up or recognize her achievements. She was thrilled to receive an invitation to spend three weeks of the summer after graduation at a science camp at Cornell. She felt free. She and her mother we able to pay for the trip themselves, not having to rely on her father for once.
“Day after day, night after night, study session after study session, we exchanged emails, we talked about our project, we read and worked and researched together, and there were times that I wanted him so much, I worried if he so much as touched my hand, I’d split right open and spill my soul all over the floor.”
Tess meets Dylan Kingsley shortly after arriving at Cornell. He was geeky, but cute, awkward but charming, sweet, funny and brilliant. They partnered up for a project and began spending a lot of time together. They may have been studying biology, but they shared an intense chemistry. They were a perfect fit. But as long as they were partners for this project, they could have nothing more. Tess was making her own rules.
“You are so beautiful,” he said, running his finger across my jaw.
“Oh, is that why you wanted to be my project partner?” I asked wryly.
“No, I wanted to be your project partner because I thought you’d be good at it,” he said. “I flirted with you because I thought you were beautiful.”
Their dynamic shifted dramatically after they finished their project and gave in to their desires. They shared one amazing night together. Despite the distance that would be between them, Dylan wanted a relationship. Tess wanted him, but she was terrified of what it would mean to her life, her goals. She wanted to live her life on her own terms and feared she wouldn’t be able to do that if she was tied to him, so she walked away. Dylan tried to stay in touch, but she ignored him and he eventually gave up. She was heartbroken, but this was how it had to be.
“Sylvia wanted me to resent Hannah because she was dating Dylan. She wanted me to be jealous of her because Hannah had the affection and attention of the only guy I’d ever really liked. Sylvia had no freakin’ clue. I couldn’t allow myself to begin hating Hannah Swift. If I started down that path, I’d never, ever stop.”
After two years of attending a state school, Tess achieves her dream and transfers to Canton, the private college her father forbade her from attending years ago. It won’t be easy for her to continue to stay there without financial assistance from her father, but she’s determined to make it work. She gets student aid and picks up a job a local diner. She comes face-to-face with Dylan again at a mixer on campus. He’s changed, but is somehow still the same guy she fell in love with that summer. But now he’s grown into his body and his looks and he’s no longer cute. He’s hot. He admits he was hurt when she left and avoided his attempts to contact her, but he got over it. Or so he says. She didn’t. She’s still very much in love with him. Of course, he has a girlfriend now. A girlfriend who just happens to be Tess’ sister, Hannah.
“Here’s the truth, unvarnished and inalienable: I wanted him. I’d always wanted him. I could pretend otherwise, I could walk away, I could avoid him for two years, but it didn’t change a thing. Dylan was mine. First, last, and always.”
Tess and Dylan team up, once again, to work on a project and old feelings more than emerge – they explode. Their feelings for each other are intense and unwavering, even after two years. The time they’ve spent together since she arrived at Canton has only strengthened them. Tess and Dylan know what they want, but there’s only one obstacle – Hannah. Dylan tries to do the right thing, but an unexpected twist in the story causes Tess to start doing what she never wanted to do – repeat her mother’s mistakes. Tess was torn. She wanted, needed Dylan so much, but she was afraid that need would lead her to repeat her mom’s history. She resented Hannah for more than just the fact that she had Dylan, but she felt guilt for what she was doing to her little sister. Dylan isn’t like her father. He’s a good man. The situation just sucks all around. I won’t say more because I don’t want to give anything else away, but this book took me on a complete emotional roller coaster ride.
“When particles collide, they explode, strewing pieces of themselves in waves across the universe and combining to make something entirely new. And when I kissed Dylan in his dorm room kitchen, the universe expanded. It had to, because this – this – was not something that had belonged to our reality before.”
“He tasted like white wine and pine needles. He tasted like two years of waiting. I wanted to breathe for him, I wanted to swallow him whole. I ached with a sudden, pulsing need, an overwhelming desire I’d never felt before.”
The characters make this book. Don’t get me wrong, the storyline is fantastic. I frequently say how much I love books where characters with a past are reunited. There’s something about that that speaks to me. It was especially true in this book. But, I digress. The characters! Tess was amazing. She was strong, but conflicted, smart and driven. Tess was fantastic and complex. She made me laugh and cry, made me want to celebrate her successes and scream at her when she made dumb decisions. And Dylan. My word. Has there ever been a more swoon-worthy, geeky, hot book boyfriend? He was perfection – in both the past and the present. Tess’ mother was more than a great cautionary tale. She was a wonderful, supportive woman. I might not have agreed with all her choices, but I liked her. Love makes us do silly things. Two of Tess’ biggest advocates, her co-workers Sylvia and Annabel, while minor characters, played a huge part in Tess’ development throughout this book. Tess’ dad, however, was a jerk and a coward. He’s the only character in the book I never grew to appreciate at any level. I was even able to find something I liked about Hannah. I can’t wait for the next book in this series because I want to learn more about her.
“Maybe I hadn’t been giving my parents enough credit all these years. Lust you could ignore. Lust you could forget. But this was way worse. I was in love with him, and he was never, ever off my mind.”
This book was so beautifully-written, the phrases so exquisite, that I think I highlighted half of it in my Kindle app. I found myself going back to re-read passages because they were so gorgeous. This will be a book that I read again and again for years to come. This is what new adult lit should be. There were sweet and sad moments, swoony and sexy moments. It was one of the most realistic college books that I’ve ever read and I connected with these characters deeply. I feel like I’m limiting it by calling it a story of soul mates and second chances, because it was so much more. It was about fate and family, guilt and acceptance. It was a coming of age story. It was perfection.