and to ruin her husband and his high-society friends in the process. More than a decade ago, he was so badly beaten by them in high school due to heroine preferring his company over theirs that he needed facial reconstructive surgery and was made to leave school to move to England for his safety.
Hero went from a thin & geeky teen, tutoring and secretly mooning over popular cheerleader
and time again.
Even after she was abducted and almost killed.
especially her reason why she married the guy who beat him up and made him lose so much in the past. How can they make their relationship work with all their secrets?
I've never read Weaver before. Never heard of her either. But the lone short review on Amazon & Goodreads on Feb. 2016 intrigued me so I read a sample & got hooked. Although it seems like a lot is going on, the writing is tight, keeping the focus on Hero and heroine's romance. And the plot and characterization, well-rounded (except for a couple plot events re: heroine's best friend that didn't make sense to me). Some funny moments, lots of romantic steam in the bedroom/bathroom/supply closet/etc., and a side of action-suspense. I really liked it. I love, love, love this possessive-obsessed-with-heroine Hero. He was so into heroine. He spent more than10 years of his life planning around her. To get her back and keep her in his life for good. To wait until she was ready to divorce her husband before he'll meet her for the 1st time as adults. To respect her wish to not have sex & not pressure into until her divorce was complete while remaining celibate during that 6-week period. To buy out the ghetto neighborhood where she did her house calls & improve it for her clients' well-being and to ensure her safety at work. This is the kind of stalker Hero I like. A Hero who will overturn the earth to get to heroine & keep her, despite her seeming betrayal of him. He wasn't totally blind to her. He knew that he was idealizing her and how she hurt him may have put an end to his openness with her. Yet he still loved her anyway and wanted her in his life even if all they had to share was a marriage with only good sex and future children. He didn't let his ensuing coldness and distance towards her stop him from tenderly taking care of her, ensuring she was safe, and going after her abductors. His love for her was greater than his anger.
Great character growth. With Hero, his character development was in terms of his emotional maturity. A decade of planning vengeance can stunt emotional growth. You'd think he'd act out more aggressively since was liked to cage-fight after all. Instead, he froze her off with his emotional distance, after he felt betrayed by her:
------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------
After watching Hero cage-fight for the first time, heroine became quiet around him that night. She felt confused & unsettled at seeing that vicious and animalistic side of him. When he asked her what was going on, she told him about her shock at seeing that side of him and how she didn't find it acceptable. She needed some time to figure out her thoughts about that part of Hero (see more below). But he took it as a major personal rejection. Her distaste for his ruthless side seemed like a rejection of his whole person. It seemed like high school again, where it seemed like he didn't measure up to her standards. It seemed like he was all alone, fighting the bullies on his own. He had no clue that she went through a horrific ordeal herself with those same bullies. Her reaction to his cage-fighting also made him feel devalued for all that he'd done for her, even though she had no idea what all he did for her since he was keeping his true identity a secret.
Heroine's unsettled reactions to his cage-fighting was partly the newness of seeing that side of him. And partly wondering where that ruthless part of him came about. But, more than that, seeing his violent side while cage-fighting set off some really bad memories of the group of masked guys who chased her like a prey in the woods, captured her, and drugged her to unconsciousness when she was a teen. She wasn't raped but she was stripped naked and left alone in a field. They also took naked pictures of her and plastered it all over the internet, heaping on the shame and helplessness she was already feeling. She felt so alone, since her good friend & secret crush (she didn't know it was Hero) just recently left without any notice. She secluded herself in her room for months and tried to commit suicide 1 day with a bottle of pills. Her parents shipped her off to her grandmother after, where heroine was able to get some support and healing. Yet, upon coming back to her parents' house, she was still emotionally and mentally weak. So it was easier to just give in to being pushed back in to their snotty social circle by her parents. It was familiar and she'd already lost Hero. Hence, she eventually drifted back to her football player boyfriend and later married him.
She wanted to share all her past with Hero but he'd already felt rejected by her and shut her down. She made many attempts to talk to him about it, seeing how mistaken he was in his conclusions about her reactions to his cage-fighting. But he'd already made his judgment and defended himself to more hurt by just shutting her down. He thought that she already had a big problem with his aggressive side. He feared that hearing about her being hurt in the past would bring out the worst in him and really scare her off to leave him forever. So, he took his chances and chose to not know that part of her.
But he didn't. He never once physically hurt her or verbally abused her. Even their sexual intimacy didn't become a punishing sort. He was adult enough to put aside his pain for her safety and her pleasure. When it came to sex and sleeping together, he didn't hold back on his feelings towards her. It was outside these 2 activities that he became with-holding (i.e., no more smiles/laughter/lounging around together/comfortable discussions). He saw her attempts to tell him about her past but he feared going out of control and killing whoever it was that may have hurt her. So, he'd rather not hear it. But, when she finally pushed it, he listened, punched some holes on the wall, and planned strategic vengeance with her. His emotional maturity showed in his ability to control his animalistic urges to hurt others physically ASAP or take some out on heroine.
Heroine's character growth was even more so. It's written from a dual POV(point of view) so we get to truly know what goes on in their hearts and minds. Heroine was a combo of sassy yet wishy-washy doormat type of person when the book began. She wanted out of her marriage and her uppity social circle, before she even met Hero as an adult. But her husband and parents disapproved due to her husband's senatorial ambitious. She was too scared of the unknown and the disapproval of her snotty parents & social circle to fully rebel. So, she acted out passive aggressively. One foot in but secretly complaining and sabotaging. Meeting Hero pushed her buttons in many ways, giving her a bigger reason to finally file for divorce. The anonymous compromising photos of her husband was icing on the cake, making it impossible for her husband to contest the divorce. Being with Hero healed her from whatever emotional neglect she had and she flourished. She'd always been kinda snarky. But she became this kick-butt snarky person who will tell you how she felt & damn the social consequences. I loved how she blood-thirsty she became, desiring to avenge the men who not only hurt her but hurt Hero. Her therapist worried a bit about how aggressive she'd become. But heroine reveled in becoming a confident, clever, and courageous woman by about 70% of the book. It was fun to see her in action. She made Hero proud. And proved to him that she truly did love him more than social approval or her own comfort. After multiple attempts to share her traumatized past with him and him shushing her, she finally made him listen to her one day or else they were over. She understood why he became the man he'd become and supported him, after all secrets were revealed. She'd come around far enough to be his equal in determination, inner strength, and confidence. They reached a give and take relationship, where they can take turns depending on each other. It was no longer just Hero who was the strength, the brains, or the aggressor. They became partners in every sense of the word. They made a great couple. HEA(happy ever after) guaranteed.
I greatly recommend this book.