BLOG REVIEW: Full Steam Ahead by Valerie Chase

Art-history college senior may seem like she's having the time of her life at the New Year's Eve cruise with her sorority and fraternity friends.
But she's actually trying to quell her despair
at being dumped and quickly replaced by her ex-boyfriend
and the never-ending blackmail 
that's causing her continued trouble in the last 2 years. Being stuck in the same cabin as her ex-boyfriend's frat brother doesn't make things any easier,
with his distracting attractiveness
and man-ho reputation.
But spending time together lets her see that he may not be as bad others say he is.
Pre-med college senior Hero is also finding out that heroine may not be the stuck-up rich girl he thought she was.
And trading secrets
opens them up to an unexpected closeness.
But, when he learns that she's been holding back from him, does that spell the end of their new romance?

A good start by Chase. This felt like a more realistic romance between 2 college-aged main characters. Their language, attitude, behaviors, and romance fit their ages & college lifestyle. Hero and heroine felt relatable and realistic, with their insecurities, wishes and plans, & not having everything together.  I liked that they weren't depicted so extravagantly like other romance-novel characters tend to be. Hero and heroine stumbled about and didn't get things right the first or second time. They made mistakes and, even at the end, it didn't feel like they had it all figured out. Their alternating first-person POV(point of view) helped give us a good sense of who they both were. Especially since both were good at hiding their personal problems with their outside appearances: Hero with his devil-may-care flirty attitude and heroine with her aloof and snobbish one. They both misjudged the other and it took awhile for either of them to realize they were wrong or to lay things out in the open. It was different. It was real and the ending gave us enough to expect that they'll be together for awhile. As far as marriage in their future? I'm not sure. They're both still quite young and embarking on adulthood post-college. They're definitely in love with each other but how their potential careers, further education, and future plans will play out in their relationship later is something the book doesn't answer. In some way, I appreciate its realism. But, on the other hand, the romantic idealist in me wished for a more clear-cut HEA(happy ever after) guarantee between these 2.  An epilogue showing them 5 years later, still very much in love but more emotionally mature, more settled in their careers, and maybe married or engaged, would've helped.

Both Hero and heroine had secrets they're used to handling on their own. Heroine's, though, was the bigger one.

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

Two years ago, heroine was involved in a car accident with some minor injury. Her parents presented her with the idea that she could help rescue their family from financial and social disaster if she claimed to be seriously injured from the car accident, with the aid of a crooked doctor who'll attest to her medical claims. Heroine agreed and her family was rewarded a large sum by their insurance company that kept them financially solvent for awhile. However, somebody got a hold of the audio-recording from the doctor's office with heroine and her parents making arrangements to commit insurance fraud.  And that person has been blackmailing heroine's family for money, which heroine has been consistently paying off for fear of legal ramifications for her and her parents.

She told her boyfriend of 18 months about it because she knew he was going to propose marriage to her soon. He broke up with her instead as she feared. He didn't want such a scandal affecting him and his affluent family.

        ---------------------------------------------END SPOILERS----------------------------------------------------

Both had secrets regarding their families. They were motivated to keep their secrets from their friends and sorority/fraternity groups they belonged to. So they shared a secret isolation rooted in fear of being socially rejected while externally seeming like they were just like everybody else in their sorority/fraternity. It was what drew them together the first time. They learned that the other had inner depth they didn't expect and shared their struggles that helped them understood. Although their romance unfolded only in a span of a few days, their honesty with each other produced some major breakthroughs that pushed them to risk social and romantic rejection. It was a beginning for both of them and they made a pretty good start to living life less pretentiously.  

I moderately recommend this book.

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