BLOG REVIEW: Before You Break by Christina Lee

Psychology student has more good days than bad now, after learning to cope with the loss of her brother's suicide death a few years ago.
Working at her college's suicide hotline center helps her do with others what she wasn't able to with her brother: be a lifeline for those contemplating suicide.
And that's what she unknowingly provides for college baseball player Hero when he calls the hotline anonymously.
It was their first real interaction and neither knew each other's real identities. She thought he was just another frat boy player like many of her boyfriend's frat brothers were.
And he thought she was a curvy hottie but blind to her boyfriend's cheating ways.
Their paths cross personally after he helped her one drunken frat party.
They get closer.
But no matter how available she's showing him she is,
he limits their intimacy.
He does let her in his life
but not the part that truly bothers him.
As he learns to trust himself and trust her,
he shares the truth with her.  The fallout, however, was unexpected.
How can she keep him from taking the plunge literally?

Suicide isn't a popular topic in romance novels. This book puts the issue of suicide front and center without overwhelming the romance. And it was handled sensitively and pragmatically by the author. It provided the book with depth without making it a depressing read. It didn't romanticize suicide nor fix it with romantic love. We saw Hero have good days and awful days. We got to see him gradually heal from a variety of social resources (i.e., heroine, suicide hotline, his aunt & uncle) and his own difficult emotional struggle to push beyond his pain and suicidal thoughts. It was poignant to see him go through his emotional hardship but it was well-balanced with the love and support he had from his loved ones. 

Interestingly, Hero's uncertainties, self-recriminations, and guilt didn't at all detract from his alpha-maleness. 

       ----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------

Hero blamed himself for causing the death of his BFF (best friend) a few days after their high school graduation. He was the driver of the car which collided with a truck. At the time of the accident, his drunk BFF was asleep in the backseat while he was holding hands with his BFF's girlfriend. He and his BFF's girlfriend had been fighting their mutual attraction for awhile. That night, his BFF's girlfriend initiated the hand-holding in the car and he accepted it. Even though that was the closest they ever got, Hero viewed it as a betrayal of his BFF in light of the car accident that occurred minutes later. Furthermore, he felt guilty for being jealous of his popular BFF's charisma and wanting what he had. 

As a result, Hero put all effort into living the life his BFF planned for. College, joining their dad's fraternity, and continuing on with baseball in college. In the meantime, he pushed his own plans and desires to forego college and focus on becoming a car restorer on the side. Despite all this, he was still wrought with guilt and depression. Nothing he did was ever going to be enough to pay for his friend's death. Including his own death. And that's part of why he went back and forth about killing himself or not. He was damned no matter what & there was no escaping it.

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His brokenness and subsequent healing actually made him look that much stronger. And hotter. It added a hard edge to his quiet, private, and caring self. He didn't want the limelight that his politician parents and aspiring politician BFF reveled in. He had simpler desires and and aspirations. As emotionally controlled and neglected as he was by his parents, Hero grew up to be a loving person due to the co-parenting of his beloved aunt and uncle. However, he became emotionally and socially restrained after his BFF's death. Having him become open to others after the torture his soul went through showed the strength of his character.

Heroine was also a survivor. She had many commonalities with Hero. They both struggled with guilt and depression over their part in a loved one's death. They both had to deal with survivor's guilt. But heroine began her healing much earlier than Hero with the help of therapy and her social support.  The main differences were that her support system were actively involved in her welfare and she allowed herself to go through the normal emotional turmoil of grief. Hero, on the other hand, had parents who didn't bother to get to know him and handled things with power and money. He also put a stopper on his emotions and tried to  escape his grief and his memories. So, heroine was at a steady place in her life when she and Hero meet. Her empathy and tried-&-true experience on the other side of suicide were the primary reasons why they connected so well, both on the phone as anonymous crisis-intervention worker and caller and as friends/lovers. It was interesting how their 2 different relationships progressed and came together later.

This book straddles the fence on infidelity. There wasn't sexual cheating per se.

       ---------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------

Hero's holding hands with his BFF's girlfriend and the light touching between Hero and heroine via their brief not-quite-embrace (but close enough that she could feel his hard-on) in the bathroom were forms of getting physical. They were beginnings of sexual foreplay, albeit brief and minor in intimacy degree. Still, in both cases, the attraction were mutually acknowledged and the touches were  motivated by mutual desire for sexual intimacy. 

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There's definitely emotional infidelity. Heroine's boyfriend was Hero's frat brother and, despite  the dwindling relationship heroine had with her boyfriend, she had not broken up with him yet when she and Hero made known their attraction to one another. I understood why heroine had a difficult time letting go of her neglectful boyfriend. And, kudos for her, for realizing and apologizing to her boyfriend about how she used him for her own emotional needs re: grieving her deceased brother who her boyfriend coached.  Heroine was much more impulsive than Hero and was ready to jump from breaking up with her boyfriend to getting it on with Hero in a matter of minutes. Hero's restraint helped both of them make wiser and less emotionally-driven choices for their romance. I loved how he controlled himself because he wanted to do things right with her, as she deserved, even though his sexual desires were urging him to accept heroine's intimate willingness. When they finally became sexually intimate, their connection was so much more because they both were in it with everything in place. All secrets laid bare. All confessions told. It was beautiful & hot. And worth the wait.

I recommend this book.