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REVIEW:  Promise Me This by Christina Lee

REVIEW: Promise Me This by Christina Lee

promise-me-this-lee

Dear Ms. Lee,

Promise Me This is the fourth novel in your new adult series. I’ve enjoyed the previous books to greater and lesser degrees but overall, I’m a loyal reader interested in seeing where you take us next.

In your latest novel, we catch up with Nate and Jessie, two characters introduced earlier in the series. Jessie and Nate seem to come from two different worlds. Tattooed and edgy, Jessie works at the same tattoo parlor as Bennett (the hero of All of You). She’s an independent free spirit, who loves photography. Preppy and brother of their university’s star football player, Nate comes from a rich family. (He’s the cousin of the hero from Whisper to Me.) They’re happy being just friends and intend to stay that way.

Nate has reasons for this, though. He doesn’t do girlfriends, only one-night-stands. His family background is extremely abusive, and he grew up watching his father abuse his mother. Afraid that he’ll turn out like his father, he’d rather not make romantic connections with anyone at all. Jessie is his safe girl. He can have a relationship with her, but only platonically. That’s enough for him.

But then Jessie walks in Nate with one of his hopeful random hook-ups, and suddenly the guy she’d always thought of as clean-cut and not her type intrigues her. Her curiosity gets the best of her, and courtesy of a photography project Jessie needs to complete, the wall that Nate carefully constructed in his head comes down.

My feelings are mixed about Promise Me This. When I finished, I liked the book overall. I still do. But it took a while to get my thoughts together to write this review. Why? Because despite liking the book, something was missing.

Promise Me This is Nate’s story. He has a lot of damage because of his father, and the effects show internally in the ways he thinks about himself and his predilections in bed. (Nate likes kink, but because of his father, he associates that kind of behavior with abuse, even though it’s nothing of the sort when all parties are consenting.) Much of the book is devoted to Nate overcoming this and healing himself, coming to the realization that he does want a relationship with Jessie and that he isn’t like his father at all.

In that aspect, I actually thought the book did a great job.

The problem is that the book is unbalanced. We see Nate grow and change. We do not see Jessie go through the same transformation. Don’t get me wrong. I liked that Jessie was independent and self-reliant. It’s refreshing when a character has their shit together. But coming to the realization that Nate has depth beyond his preppy playboy ways is not a character transformation. Nor is being the supportive rock as he wrestles with his demons. I want to believe Jessie could be all the traits I loved about her and work through something at the same time.

For me, a satisfying (standard) romance is about two people meeting and overcoming some sort of internal conflict so reach their HEA. But each person should have their own, separate internal conflicts. Each person should work through their issues to reach their happy ending. Nate did but in my opinion, Jessie did not. As a result, I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied.

I think readers who enjoyed your previous ones will like Promise Me This as well. It read fast, and I found it to be a mellow read. (This isn’t damning praise. I need mellow reads sometimes.) It just lacks a couple ingredients to make it great. B-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  You Own Me by Shiloh Walker

REVIEW: You Own Me by Shiloh Walker

You Own Me Shiloh Walker

Dear Ms. Walker:

Thank you for sending this book to me for review. I’m a big fan of the friends to lovers trope and was excited to dig in. The premise of this story is that Decker Calhoun went to prison for actions related to Elizabeth Waters. The why isn’t revealed until late in the story.  He’s yearned for Lizzie for a long time but has never acted on it; instead being a good guy friend. The big tattooed felon has it bad for Lizzie and its utterly sweet to watch him sweat over her dating another guy and how to best approach her.

Individually each character worked for me. It was the setup I struggled with. Decker has gone to prison for something which is only alluded to in the beginning. We know it has to do with Lizzie and we know he doesn’t regret it even though he gave up a college scholarship, a potential budding professional sports career, and spent time in prison. It’s all good.  He’s fine, for the most part, being a felon. He has a small circle of friends including the guy who gave him a post prison job as well as Selah and Lizzie.

Lizzie has her small circle of friends and an asshole boyfriend.  Said boyfriend tells Lizzie he’d like an open relationship where he gets to screw around. Rather than dump him, Lizzie is sent into an emotional tailspin. Selah convinces her to sign up for the same fetish dating site as her boyfriend and try the open relationship her boyfriend suggests. Selah’s motivations are to get Decker and Lizzie together.

It was so obvious to everyone that Decker and Lizzie were in love with each other that it didn’t make sense that Lizzie would continue to date anyone but Decker; that she’d hang on to her dumb boyfriend; that she’d sign up for a fetish dating profile. The two character’s actions of refusing to talk to each other once came off as unnatural.  Decker holding off because he thought Lizzie was happy was completely believable. Decker not pursuing Lizzie once she told him what her boyfriend wanted? Not believable.

Lizzie’s insecurity based on her boyfriend’s request? Believable. Lizzie not pursuing Decker when he practically laid at her feet? Not believable.

When the reveal of Decker’s big actions came about, it was a bit anticlimactic and I had a hard time buying into it. If he truly had no regrets because he loved Lizzie and had always loved her, that made some sense, but it didn’t seem like his love developed until he was in prison.

It was a short novella–under 100 pages. Decker and Lizzie were sweet characters. I loved that they ended up together. It’s the romance, the courtship part of the story, that I struggled with. C

Best regards,

Jane

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