Date: January 30, 2017

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

Saving Grace by Julie GarwoodSaving Grace by Julie Garwood
Published by Pocket Books on March 1st 1994
Genres: Romance
Pages: 407
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

When Lady Johanna learned that she was a widow, she vowed she would never marry again. Only sixteen, already she possessed a strength of will that impressed all who looked past her golden-haired beauty. Yet when King John demanded that she remarry and selected a bridegroom for her—it seemed she must acquiesce, until her beloved foster brother suggested she wed his friend, the handsome Scottish warrior Gabriel MacBain.

At first Johanna was shy, but as Gabriel tenderly revealed the splendid pleasures they would share, she came to suspect that she was falling in love with her gruff new husband. And it was soon apparent to the entire Highlands clan that their brusque, gallant laird had surrendered his heart completely. But now a desperate royal intrigue threatened to tear her from his side—and to destroy the man whose love meant more to her than she had ever dreamed!

I read this for Romance Book Bingo 2017: Man in a Kilt square.

I have to have some happy right now and this book is it. I have been reading this since I was 12 or 13 and still have a copy of it on my shelves. The heroine (Johanna) kicks butt. The hero (Gabriel) kicks butt. We actually have a hero/heroine who thank God do not have any rape scenes between them. They reluctantly fall in love with each other which I thought was hilarious. The little family between Judith, Gabriel, and Gabriel’s son was so cute. I was so happy with them. And then we have Judith’s foster brother Nicholas and I maybe swooned a bit there.

Judith was married when she was a child (typical for the time period) and her first husband is a wife beater and also apparently raped and harmed other women. When her husband is believed dead, she is commanded to remarry by King John. She agrees to marry a man her foster brother believes will protect her and also come to love her. That man is Gabriel MacBain, who is in charge of two clans who have recently come together after the death of his father.

Judith wins my heart when on her wedding day when she freaks out over saying obey in her vows and wants to reword them or she’s not going to marry. Gabriel who pretty much has enough of that, decides he is going to marry Judith (it’s pretty much lust in first sight for the guy).

Judith is very interesting though. Even though she appears meek and timid, we find out that she learns to read since it is forbidden for women at the time. She has a hard time reconciling the Church’s teachings that she is less worth an oxen and that her husband beating her is okay. There is a scene with a rival clan where Judith is like a freaking Valkyrie and it was awesome.

We do find out about Gabriel’s background and his constant struggle to lead his clan due to issues that happened with Gabriel’s father not claiming him. He is trying his best to get the two clans to come together, but the backbiting and refusal to trust one another is slowly tearing everything apart. Who knew that Judith in the end will get them to ultimately come together.

I loved the secondary characters in this one a lot. We have Judith’s brother, servants galore, and Gabriel’s trusted men. We also get to see though that Judith though she may be timid around people, does not lack any backbone. And she decides after her first terrible marriage, she is not going to be beaten by anyone ever again.

The romance between Gabriel and Judith is great. The love scenes were excellent and I did love it when Judith starts getting demanding in bed. Hey, orgasms are great.

The writing and flow also works. Though I will say that towards the end things felt a little bit rushed and melodramatic. I didn’t care because I was cheering things the whole time. Evil is slayed (temporarily) and we know that Judith and Gabriel will get their happily ever after.

The book takes place during the 1200s so there was definitely issues aplenty between the Highlands (Scotland) and England at the time. I really enjoyed how Garwood weaved the politics of the day (King John being seen as a murderer and usurper) and how it all tied things together with Johanna. I maybe cheered when the evil priest gets his due in the end as he lays dying and calls out for his mother. I sure as heck toasted.

 

five-stars

Midsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter

Midsummer Magic by Catherine CoulterMidsummer Magic by Catherine Coulter
Published by Signet on July 1st 2003 (originally published 1981)
Genres: Romance
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
one-star

Philip Hawksbury, the Earl of Rothermere, obeying his father's dying wish, hies himself to Scotland to offer for one of the daughters of Alexander Kilbracken, the Earl of Ruthven.

Frances Kilbracken, informed of the earl's arrival and his mission, disguises herself as a bespectacled dowd so she won't be the one selected by the young earl. But choose her he does, and for all the wrong reasons.

The newly married couple return to England, together but not at all happy. Philip dumps Frances at Desborough Hall, his ancestral estate, and heads back to his old life in London. Ah, but Desborough has a stud farm and racing stable, and Frances is magic with horses.

When the earl returns to his home, driven by guilt, he discovers the woman he married has grossly deceived him. What follows is a battle of the sexes that will have you chuckling, maybe even howling with laughter...

Trigger warning: Rape

The only thing that this book had going for it, was that it kept making me think of the Jem and the Holograms song, “Midsummer Madness.”

Image result for midsummer madness jem and the holograms gif

I maybe played that song a lot while reading this book on Saturday. I needed some happy heading my way.

Think of this book as the reverse “She’s All That.” Heroine is actually hot and smart young woman (Frances) who doesn’t want to marry the hero (Phillip). Hero marries her anyway though because he thinks she’s ugly so he can do what he wants and just ignore her. No, I am not kidding about that. He’s also a jerk of the first order and when he realizes his wife is hot decides he is going to bend her to his will and make her want to have sex with him. I don’t know people, I didn’t write this. I may have screamed into a pillow for a second or two though while finishing this book up.

Frances Kilbracken is the daughter of the Earl of Ruthven. Frances father and Phillip’s father (the Earl of Rothermere) obeys his father’s dying wish to run off and marry one of the Earl’s daughters. Phillip chooses Frances because one of the daughters is too attractive, I can’t remember why the second one sucked, and then Frances who disguises herself and acts as if she can’t read seems like the better wife for Phillip. Phillip has a mistress and has no intention of giving her up to a wife. So having a wife he can keep under his thumb sounds like the best arrangement.

I can see why Frances doesn’t want to marry Phillip. I was actually glad she was smart and knew a ton of things about horses. I really wish though that she had gotten the upper hand with Phillip more though. In the end, because Frances likes sex, she just gets cowed by her husband. Once again, I didn’t write this. I repeat I didn’t write this.

Phillip is typical romance hero of the times. He is a jerk and also thinks no means yes. So yes dear readers, we got a rape scene. Nothing to recommend about Phillip. Though he does use cream when he rapes her which I think is Coulter’s way of saying hey he’s not super terrible since he used something to ease his way inside his wife while he rapes her. I am going to keep saying that because good lord I can’t with this book. He speaks graphically to Frances about sex though after he realizes she’s hot. He decides he is going to have his “rights” and is angry about Frances not acting like a typical female. And one wonders what would have happened if Phillip hadn’t realized that Frances was not really unattractive? I guess his behavior would have been okay and yeah to the mistress?

There are side characters in this one and I did enjoy Phillip’s father a lot. Also Frances’s father. They appear to not be heartless men. Phillip’s mistress? No. There is a freaking scene with Frances and the mistress attacking Phillip and I think it was supposed to be funny? I don’t know. I didn’t laugh. Maybe my funny bone doesn’t exist anymore.

Philip’s sister is apparently having relations to a dude she’s not married to, and I wondered at no one blinking an eye about this in the time and day this book was taking place. It was weird it occurs and that Phillip used this as a reason to talk dirty to Frances. Yes that really did happen. I may have had some wine to stop thinking about this scene.

The writing is okay and the plot is straight forward. After reading “The Nightingale Legacy” it was nice to read a book that wasn’t so confusing.

The ending was a well I guess things are alright even though some of these people are awful. I am so donating all of my romance reads to the library this weekend.

one-star

The Nightingale Legacy (Legacy #2) by Catherine Coulter

The Nightingale Legacy (Legacy #2) by Catherine CoulterThe Nightingale Legacy by Catherine Coulter
Published by Jove on September 1st 1995
Genres: Romance
Pages: 457
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
two-stars

Caroline Derwent-Jones is at the eve of her nineteenth birthday. She's chomping at the bit to get out from under the control of her smarmy guardian, the frighteningly obsessive Roland Ffalkes. But Ffalkes has other plans for Caroline. She manages to escape him only to find herself in the fascinating company of Frederick North Nightingale, Lord Chilton.

As tragedy and mystery thicken the air, Caroline finds herself more and more drawn to Lord Chilton, a man who claims he's a lonely beggar, his soul suited for solitude and for walking his hounds on the moors.

Mysteries old and mysteries new abound. Misogyny is rampant in Lord Chilton's house, Mount Hawke, filled only with men. But to his surprise, Lord Chilton finds he wants nothing more than to have Caroline Derwent-Jones in his life....

Trigger warning: Rape

The heroine saved this book. Also though the hero did too eventually. A legacy of husbands only bedding their wives for an heir, and for them to wander along the moors being all sad and aloof was just flat out stupid. I maybe said that a few times. A family tradition of being cuckholded is some alt-right (you are Nazis!) crap. We have an appearance by Marcus and the Duchess (also we get to read about Marcus talking about how much his wife loves sex) and I just hate this couple more and more. I refused to re-read The Valentine Legacy (Legacy #3) because I don’t hate myself that much. There are too many plots happening in this book though. We have Caroline looking for King Mark’s treasure, North’s household of only men who hate women, someone is trying to murder Caroline, kidnapping, and young women who have gotten themselves into the family way, rape, and oh women who are not married and pregnant are thereby damaged goods so rape is actually okay, etc. I was over it by the time I got to the final page. Still not as bad as Legacy #1 though.

Caroline Derwent-Jones runs away from her guardian who is making a lot of noises that he doesn’t consider rape a bad thing. As she flees, she finds herself saved by Frederick North Nightingale, Lord Chilton. I definitely get that Coulter was going with a Heathcliff vibe with North, but thank goodness though he completely does not live up to that brooding mess. We find out more and more that North has missed his mother (after his father exiled her) and falls in love with Caroline because she is so alive and loving to him.  If the book had just dealt with Caroline and North and his weird household that would have been enough. But somehow Caroline has inherited a house full of young women who are in the family way. I can’t even with this whole sub-plot. She is also looking for King Mark’s treasure when she has free time.

The writing at times doesn’t work, and the whole Lord of Chilton’s supposed to be aloof and cold thing was beyond stupid. The all male household could have worked and been funny, but honestly, it goes on too long for me to really care anymore. The flow was all over the place though. I think because of the multiple sub-plots I just found it hard to follow what was going on. If we had stuck to one thing it would have been fine.

The setting is typical Regency England only the whole Caroline being so feminist at the time was not working at all. I had the same issue with this while I was reading “Stalking Jack the Ripper” too. It makes for a good modern female character being so in your face about equal rights, but if it’s not taking place during England’s Women’s Movement it really doesn’t work for the time period. Women do not have equal rights period. And Caroline not having to worry about her and her husband’s reputation for dealing with a home full of unwed teen mothers was stretching things way too much.

The ending was eh. I am still confused about it. Probably because we have the treasure found, Caroline’s would be murderer identified, and blah blah blah other stuff happens. I threw in the towel here and just gave up on reading “The Valentine Legacy”.

two-stars

The Wyndham Legacy (Legacy #1) by Catherine Coulter

The Wyndham Legacy (Legacy #1) by Catherine CoulterThe Wyndham Legacy by Catherine Coulter
Published by Jove on September 1st 1994
Genres: Romance
Pages: 392
Source: Purchased: print book
Goodreads
one-star

Marcus Wyndham never asked to become the Earl of Chase. The Duchess never asked to be illegitimate. And neither of these two asked that their fates become so entwined.

Marcus is passionate, quick to rage, just as quick to laughter. He's tough, opinionated, domineering, known as the devil's own son. The Duchess is serene and aloof -- she has silence down to a fine art. She is always in control, her smiles as rare as bawdy jests in the pulpit. She is self-reliant once she realizes that a very special talent can make her so, a talent no one suspects.

Surrounding this unlikely pair are three servants cast in the Shakespearean mold: Spears, Badger, and Maggie -- all cocky, smart, good plotters and better friends, who don't know the meaning of subservient.

Trigger warning: Rape. 

I read this for Romance Book Bingo: Wedding Bells square. If I have to read this horrible book I am going to make it count towards something.

Lord. Some of my favorite romance reads do not age well at all. Can we just say right now, that forceful marital relations (rape) between the hero and heroine is just appalling and gross to read about. I get it, those were the times, but I don’t want to read about it if I can help it. Marcus sucked and I wanted the Duchess to run off and leave his butt somewhere. Plus they were first cousins and no, just a thousand times no. My gross out sentiment was running high while I was reading this. And the Duchess also drugs and forces the hero to marry her and man I don’t think I am on anyone’s side in this.

The Wyndham Legacy follows Marcus (hero) and the Duchess (heroine). We find out that the Duchess is the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Chase. He instructs his daughter she is to marry the new Earl of Chase, her cousin Marcus and Marcus doesn’t inherit if he doesn’t marry the Duchess. We have the American side of the family coming over thinking they will get some money (oh joy, terrible Americans) and this whole book was a who who of who do you hope gets it first.

I don’t even get this book. Marcus who does rightfully have a bone to pick with the Duchess drugging him and marrying him against his will is just terrible. He rapes his new wife twice and verbally abuses her almost until the end of the book. One time when he threatens her she defends herself and knocks him unconscious. I recall in later books they are all in love, but did I just block this mess out when I was a teenager? I hope I wasn’t swooning over this mess. Man, I probably did. I am just going to hang my head in shame right now.

shame

The Duchess is called that since she is aloof and cold. Well shoot, you get why quick and in a hurry why she acts this way. It’s a defense mechanism from Marcus and others who would hurt her. Him goading her in order to get her to break was way too “The Taming of the Shrew” for me. You get repeated references to the Duchess being a bastard which someone means she is less than any other human being in the room at any one time. I wish she had told Marcus to pound sand.

There are “love” scenes, I skipped over them so I can’t tell you much about them.

Secondary characters are so paper thin and evil you have to wonder why in the world Marcus and the Duchess even let them anywhere near them. The only saving grace were the servants in this one. They needed to just kill everyone and take over the estate.

The plot is really just about the fact that Marcus and the Duchess could lose their sizable inheritance if they don’t stay married. The whole book is just people trying to off them. The flow is bad, we just go from one awful scene to another when eventually Marcus is all sorry about all those times I raped you.

The ending was just a quick wrap up of things, and also of Marcus and the Duchess being in love.

 

one-star

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever by Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 11th 2004
Genres: YA, Romance
Pages: 398
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

In The Truth About Forever, when asked how she is coping with her father's death, invariably seventeen year old Macy Queen's answer is "fine," when nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, she is drowning in grief while maintaining a flawless façade of good grades and unblemished behavior. Though she feels lost when her boyfriend heads to "Brain Camp" for the summer, she finds herself a job with the quirky Wish Catering crew, and meets "sa-woon"-worthy Wes, whose chaotic lifestyle is in direct opposition to her own.

As the two share their stories over the summer, Macy realizes she can no longer keep her feelings on ice. Though it feels like her future ended with her dad's death, Macy's learns that forever is all about beginnings.

This one hit all of the high marks for me. I think that Dessen takes a really good look at grief and how hard it is to bounce back from a death. We have several teens in this book that had tragic things occur and I loved the different reactions by all of them. And I thought the ending, while showing how one can move on, didn’t just slap a bow on things either.

Macy Queen is dealing with the death of her father. Her favorite person in the world dies before the start of this novel. Readers find out that Macy and her dad loved to go running together, and one day when she decided to sleep in rather than go with him, she finds him later on the ground having CPR administered to him. That moment and others haunts Macy. I maybe teared up a lot while reading this book. Probably because it hit close to home for me. Something similar happened to me in college with coming home to find ambulances surrounding my home and finding paramedics working on my father. My brother was upstairs hiding, and I was hit with the thought that my father was dead. You don’t understand a world in which you exist and your parents no longer do. It feels just as backwards to us as it does to parents when they have to bury a child.

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Image result for george greys anatomy my dad is dead gif

So believe me I got the character of Macy. You go from being in a fog and okay again so many times you don’t know what to do with yourself. Macy who is dating the most terrible person ever named Jason (seriously he is the literature version of Ted Cruz) is doing what she can be to be perfect for her mom and Jason. She finds herself opening up a bit though when she gets interested in the catering family that comes to one of her mother’s house selling events. Macy becomes intrigued by them and finds herself working for the catering crew because she finds them so loud and also just alive. The owner of the catering company, Delia made me laugh a lot.   But I also loved brothers Bert and Wes (Delia’s nephews) and sisters Kristy and Monica. There’s a running gag that Monica doesn’t really talk just mmmms and when she speaks in complete sentences at the end of the book I maybe fell over laughing my butt off.

All of the secondary characters felt very real to me. I get why Macy pulled away from her friends at school and quit the track team. You are just in self-protection mode there for a while. And we get to see how Macy’s sister and her mother deal with their grief as well. What I thought was great though is that as Macy meets Kristy and Wes and becomes close to them, she starts to realize that other people have their own private griefs too, but they keep moving forward. I loved that part of it, because believe me for about two years I had my head up my ass regarding what a pain in the butt I was to my friends who kept reaching out.

Once again Dessen nails the dialogue with teens and adults. I didn’t have an issue with flow in this one. I would say make sure you have a box of tissues nearby though. The scenes with Macy trying to hide her dad’s stuff from her mother’s trash purge, and her dream of trying to catch up to him had me sniffling.

Once again the book takes place in the town of Lakeview. I am wondering why this is not considered a series though? Lakeview in this one was a bit more interesting. We get to see Macy who is definitely on the right side of the tracks dealing with the stress caused by her mother who is trying to build up the community around them with designer townhouses. It felt a little more in sync with the world I was introduced to in “Lock and Key” and I enjoyed that.

The ending for this one definitely leaves you with hope for Macy and her family. You can tell they are not 100 percent healed (you never are really) but you can see them starting to come out on the other side.

 

five-stars

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah DessenSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile on May 5th 2015
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 432
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I really enjoyed “Saint Anything” by Sarah Dessen, but not as much as I did “Lock and Key.” The biggest issue I really had with this book was the fact that Sydney’s mother and father were 100 percent ridiculous. And them not realizing the danger of Ames. I also hated the final scene between Ames and Sydney with Sydney rushing off. It didn’t feel real at all.

This book tackles a really big issue right away. Sydney is dealing with years of fallout from her older brother Peyton. Petyon though charismatic, is a huge mess. We find out that he is sent away time and time again due to breaking and entering, drinking, and drugs. Throughout it all Sydney’s parents have been supportive. Until the night Peyton goes out, gets drunk and high and hits someone with his car. This leads to Peyton being sent to jail for several months and Sydney and her family trying to pick up the pieces.

Sydney has always done the right thing. However, she is floundering with transferring schools and going to Jackson High School. Due to her parents having money issues because of her brother’s constant arrests and fines, Sydney suggests transferring for the good of the family. Seriously though, Sydney is a touch too martyrish for me at times.

Image result for no one likes a martyr gif

After transferring to Jackson, Sydney goes to a pizza place after school and meets the Chatham family. Pretty soon she finds that she has friends for lives in Layla and Mac (brother and sister) and there friends Eric and Irv. Though Sydney has old friends from her school (Jenn and someone I am forgetting) they were pretty much non-entities throughout the book. Besides one scene where Sydney goes and deal with their mess, I was not feeling old school friends that much.

I honestly didn’t feel the romance between Sydney and Mac. I thought they really worked out well as friends. I would have loved it if Dessen had them be best friends just like Sydney is with Layla.

I have to say, that for me, my favorite character was the secondary character in this one, Layla. We eventually see how Sydney re-meets Layla and comes to become part of her inner group at Jackson High School. Layla and her chaotic family were so bigger than life, it may have been better to flip this and make her the main character. I mean Layla in five seconds gets what is going on with Ames and Sydney’s parents are totally oblivious.

The parents in this one were infuriating. I don’t know why, but I kept thinking of Brock Turner’s parents, and their total 100 percent backing of their son and blaming everyone else for what he did. So to read a book where Sydney’s dad was checked out, and her mom was so insistent about being there every step of the way for her son without acknowledging what he did. At least Dessen redeems the character of Peyton by having him having a dang clue about what he did and why it was so awful. I can’t even give the parents kudos for finally clicking onto what a creep Ames was, guess what, don’t move people into your house when you don’t really know them. I know Ames was a fictional character, but my stranger danger alert was going off in every scene he was in.

The dialogue felt off at times. We have a lot of Sydney “inner dialogue”. I really wanted and needed her to speak up more. Her anger at her parents when she gets grounded (she invites people over after they say no and gets caught having a sip of vodka) was hilarious to me. Um no dear, you don’t get to be outraged when you are drinking underage and have people in a house you don’t pay the mortgage on.

Image result for no one likes a martyr gif

I was ready to shake Sydney, and this is where the martyrdom needed to die.

The book’s flow was off while I was reading this. I think it’s because it wanted to cram too much in it, and honestly there was a lot in it. Between Peyton’s jail time, Sydney’s transfer, we also have the Chathams dealing with the matriarch of the family dealing with MS, Layla’s dating woes, and oh yeah Ames and his totally not subtle I am going to try to do something evil self.

The setting in this one was once again Lakeview. The town didn’t feel set up as well as it did in “Lock and Key.” I don’t know why that is, but maybe the flow had something to do with it.

The ending was a bit too much everything is awesome for me. We do have Sydney taking a step to go and have closure on something that has been worrying her this whole book. But man oh man, I found the whole thing inappropriate. Send a letter first, and then see about it. Showing up on someone’s door didn’t feel right to me at all.

three-half-stars

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Lock and Key by Sarah DessenLock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on May 14th 2008
Genres: Romance, YA
Pages: 444
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
five-stars

"Ruby, where is your mother?" Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she's been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That's how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn't seen in ten years, and Cora's husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it's a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

What can I really say. I loved this book to pieces. It’s been a while since I can say that a book was picture perfect from beginning to end, but I really did find this book worked great. I had no issues with the writing, dialogue, plot, setting or pacing. I went and borrowed a ton of other Sarah Dessen books from the library as soon as I finished “Lock and Key.” I read this for the “Key to My Heart” square for Romance Book Bingo 2017.

The main character in “Lock and Key” is Ruby Conner. Ruby is a senior at Jackson High School living in North Carolina. Through bits and pieces we find out that Ruby was in foster care temporarily after it becomes known that she is living alone and her mother is nowhere to be found. Placed with her older sister Cora that she hasn’t seen in years, “Lock and Key” is really Ruby’s journey learning to figure out what it truly means to be family, and how sometimes the hardest thing to do is stay and just support someone.

I freaking loved Ruby. I mean loved her. I wanted to hug her, give her some chocolate cake, and tell her that she is awesome. I have never fallen so quickly into another teen character’s head since Harry Potter. Ruby’s vulnerability and her general belief that she could take care of herself with help from no one we see get reworked from the beginning of the book to the end. Ruby and Cora’s shaky relationship due to Ruby’s belief that her sister had abandoned her we also see slowly changes through the course of the book. I loved that Dessen didn’t just throw out hey Ruby you are wrong from other characters either. Ruby had to see and feel that her way or really her mother’s way of acting was just not what she needed anymore. Ruby’s reluctant friendship with Nate also got me too. I loved how she got to see that someone who she thought had a perfect life, really did not, and that her just saying this is too hard, was actually not what he or she needed.

All of the secondary characters got to shine in this too. I loved Nate. Man oh man, his backstory regarding his mother and his father was just heartbreaking. A kid who doesn’t want to be in the situation he is, but doing the best he can until he is 18 and can be free.

Ruby’s sister Cora was also such a great character. There is a scene when Cora’s husband Jamie is rightfully angry and yelling at Ruby, and Cora steps in front of her like she did when they were kids and their mom was on a tear. I wanted to hug them both. We get to see that Cora is just as unsettled having what she considers a “good” life and not being used to things like huge family dinners, Christmas cards, etc.

I loved Harriet and Reggie, and heck pretty much everyone. Well except for Ruby’s old friends at Jackson who she got to see for herself were not true blue friends at all.

The writing takes a look at a lot of things. Drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and even abandonment. Dessen does a good job of not prettying things up which I appreciated. I also applaud her since she writes Ruby really well. I have a hard time with some YA authors having teens talking like characters from Dawson’s Creek.

Image result for dawson creeks gif

That was always my big thing about that show, no one my age sounded that pretentious. Did we sound like asses though? Yes, all teens do at one time or the other.

The flow was great too. We pretty much get to see Ruby over a course of a school year til her graduation which I really appreciated. Spare me from books that have a character do a day/night change in a month or two. It’s not realistic. It would have been great to see Ruby in her therapy sessions, but I was happy with what we got.

The setting of Lakeview, North Carolina sounded pretty polarizing. When Ruby is transferred from Jackson to what she considers the rich kid school, I was so happy we didn’t see some Mean Girls shtick in this book. We got to see a lot of secondary characters there with tons of nuance as well.

Image result for means girls gif

The ending was really great. I can picture Ruby and now her family and her family of choice. I am going to see if Dessen ever follows up on Ruby and others from this book. It looks like she revisits the town of Lakeview in a lot of books, so it be nice to see a shout out to Ruby and other characters we have met.

 

five-stars

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