The 3 of them were like the Three Musketeers since heroine was 6.
Until a year ago, when both of them got closer like never before.
And then everything changed. Popular Arizona college quarterback Hero is now a college dropout and works as a handyman for a remote inn.
Heroine has since changed her appearance
and artistic style.
A far cry from how she was 13 months ago.
Neither of them know how to break their distance. No matter how thick their sexual tension is getting.
No matter their shared pain and guilt.
But an easing in their tension occurs with heroine's breakup with her boyfriend.
Is this all that they've been waiting for to seal their romance?
If so, then why did she insist on remaining friends only?
I haven't read any Fine books til this one. I liked it. There's a lot of burgeoning tension throughout the book. Multiple kinds of tension: sexual chemistry, poignancy, despair, deprivation, frustration, resistance, and shared but unspoken memories. I loved how all these were conveyed mostly non-verbally. Hero and heroine were either tiptoeing or aggressively walling-off any talk about what happened 13 months ago. They were in so much pain and mired in guilt and self-blame. Yet both feared worsening the thread of contact they now have again, temporarily living and working at the inn together.
We don't find out what actually happened 13 months ago until about 50% of the book. The ongoing hints of what it could be added to my tension as I read it. When it was finally revealed, it explained a lot. Yet it also made me question some things.
--------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-------------
Thirteen months ago, heroine and Hero's sister were drunk but Hero's sister decided she could still drive home in that condition. Nothing bad happened. Because Hero blocked them from the driving further. They got a reprimand from him and heroine felt bad for letting her friend drive them in a drunken condition. They also got a ride from him in his truck. And that's when the devastation happened. A truck driver hit them. Hero's sister died and heroine was hospitalized for a hip to chest injury that left a long, reddish scar.
Hero blamed himself for what happened. if he didn't interfere with his sister and heroine, they'd still be alive. Hero suffered in silence because no one comforted him or supported him through his grief. His parents were too busy fighting. Then, they soon split up and moved away. Their avoidance with him added to his self-blame. So, he did what they did and he avoided heroine. Even during his sister's funeral, where he saw grieving heroine all bruised and in a wheelchair. He wanted to hug and comfort her but he believed himself to be the cause of her injury and didn't think she'd ever want his touch again. He had hopes for a romance with heroine after their first make-out session the day before the accident happened. But the accident killed those too.
Heroine also blamed herself for what happened. If she didn't let her best friend drive drunk in the first place, the accident wouldn't have occurred. The fact that Hero and his parents never talked to her and moved away after the accident confirmed her self-blame. Even though she and Hero went to the same college, Hero never went near her or talked to her. The accident was her fault and they wanted nothing to do with her ever again. So, she effectively lost her best friend and the only family she'd ever had. Her cruel mother added to her pain by blaming her for the accident like she blamed heroine for many negative things in her life.
The extreme avoidance and zero communication would've annoyed me if not for Hero and heroine's ages. I had to remind myself that Hero and heroine were only ages 20 and 19. Very young and understandably emotionally immature. They both went through something horrible and blamed themselves as most kids do when something personally horrible happens. They didn't have the emotional wherewithal to step back and objectively assess their situation. Neither did they have the social support to help them get through it. Hero and heroine were mired in their pain and guilt, as encouraged by the avoidance and blame by the people around them. So they were alone with their self-recriminations and emotions. And they both settled for avoidance as the best way to handle them. As a result, their emotional detachment produced a physical detachment from each other for a year. So, now that they're forced to be in close contact again, the tension between them increased the more that they both avoid what they clearly share so much of. At some point, they both had to choose if they kept on running away from their shared pain. Or share their pain together. I liked seeing the beginnings of their emotional maturity as they finally chose to face their pain.
What I had questions about was heroine's blaming Hero for abandoning her in her grief. I understood her viewpoint because Hero and his family was who she considered her family since she was a young girl. Yes, Hero avoided her at the funeral and at their college. Yes, it must be because he blamed her for the accident. So why blame him for abandoning her? He didn't blame her, even though he thought the exact same thing but blaming himself instead. Hero didn't get mad and sorry for himself that heroine avoided him at the funeral and at their college. He thought it was his fault too and understood that she'd want nothing to do with him now. Yes, he was selfishly self-focused on his pain and guilt. But so was she. Hero later felt bad for being selfish and not considering what heroine was going through at that time. Well, she did the same but she didn't acknowledge it like he did. I did like that she forgave him and asked for his forgiveness. That was such a difficult adult thing to do but she did it anyway. If I could pat her back, I would've. I was proud of her for being the emotionally braver one between the 2 of them and initiating their emotional confrontations. Several times. She risked and experienced rejection from him yet she pushed through because she chose to heal and go past the emotional muck they were stuck at for a full year.
The resolution was good but just the beginning. I think Hero and heroine had much going for them with their love for each other. But I had questions about heroine's emotional dependency on Hero and his family. I don't know how entangled her romantic love for Hero was with her love for him as her link to her best friend and his family. Was her love for him purely because she loved him for himself? Or was it her way of staying connected with the family she almost completely lost? Was her decision to stay in Arizona because of Hero or was it due to her fear of the unknown like many new adults have? It would've helped if the epilogue showed us Hero and heroine 3 or 5 years later instead of a few months later. I would've liked to see them still together but having healed more and matured more fully. I would've like to see what career path they took and what their plans were for cementing their relationship. I do think they have a very good HEA(happy ever after) chance but their young ages and their emotional maturity at close of the book make it harder to realistically believe that their decisions now will stick later.
I recommend this book.