I wasn't always in love with Colton Calloway; I was in love with his younger brother, Kyle, first. Kyle was my first one true love, my first in every way. Then, one stormy August night, he died, and the person I was died with him. Colton didn't teach me how to live. He didn't heal the pain. He didn't make it okay. He taught me how to hurt, how to not be okay, and, eventually, how to let go.
Nell Hawthorne is in love with her life-long best friend, Kyle Calloway. Their young love is invincible and life is full of promise; then one night Kyle dies suddenly in a tragic accident and Nell is forever changed. She meets Kyle's older brother, Colton, for the first time at the funeral. They both struggle to move on with life as best they can. Years later, they meet again in New York City, and Colton realizes that Nell has never really gotten over Kyle's death. She seems to be harboring a deeply rooted pain, a heavy weight of guilt, and regret. He knows he shouldn't get involved, but he can't help himself. Trust doesn't come easily for either of them, and they both have demons. Together, they learn the purpose of pain and the meaning of healing, and the importance of forgiveness.
Mature Content Warning: 17+ for language, and adult situations
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I cannot go on. This book has defeated my powers of endurance, I am annoyed to have wasted a credit but enough is enough.
First half of this book is the fairytale of Kyle and Nell. We know Kyle is going to die so it’s a little hard to get invested in him emotionally. Nevertheless they are both perfect. Perfect friendship into perfect romance into perfect sex. They have wonderful friends, wonderful parents, wealthy lifestyles. They breeze through school and life, without a problem, a zit, or apparently, a single argument. He, naturally, pops the question as soon as they turn 18. She wants to wait – but decides to join him at Stanford because, she muses, “Daddy will make sure I get a place”. During what is, apparently, their first ever argument, he dies saving her from a falling tree. And then the story really gets bad.
Seemingly paralysed with grief at the funeral of Kyle, she still manages to ponder on the colour of brother Cole’s eyes, the size of his chest and the tingle she feels when he touches her. As you do. She dreams about him at night and kisses him the next day. And then we skip forward two years.
Here are some of my (many) problems with this story:
· During the fairytale of Kyle and Nell, Nell never met Kyle’s brother – not at school, not at Kyle’s home, not at social events. Never. Ever. Cole did not leave home until Kyle and Nell were 12. Was he invisible? Locked in the attic? During this time he was apparently failing at school, getting into fights and learning how to build car engines but she never saw him. Ever.
· Kyle’s father, with political ambitions, warns Kyle and Nell to “be careful” It seems he thinks an unplanned pregnancy between two consenting adults would be more scandalous than the fact that his other son is running with street gangs in New York.
· Two years after the funeral, an unreal coincidence sees Cole and Nell meeting in Central Park and performing an impromptu guitar duet to huge admiring crowds. Of course Cole is so brilliant that yet another annoying record producer hands him a business card. I guess he can add it to the pile of UFC scouts that were also after him.
· Cole was part of a New York street gang. He admits to drink, drugs, girls, “enforcement” and alludes to murder. He walks around with a knuckle duster in his pocket. But the gang, apparently, let him walk away from all this to live a straight lifestyle. But they stay “friends”. And he calls them “honorable”. And they rush to help him save Nell from her rapist boyfriend – because we all know that gang members are such good guys and really don’t approve of a woman being mistreated in any way.
· Cole, having lived with gangs on the streets for years, then apparently manages to buy a building in Queens, big enough for a garage with a flat above. How?
Oh – and the misery. The endless wallowing in self-indulgent grief. Apparently once Kyle died, Nell was abandoned by her loving family to live in misery, drinking and cutting herself. She is so tortured inside, and so guilty and grief stricken and so endlessly miserable. She wallows in the misery, drowns in the agony. I just got bored with the whole issue. Cole admires her. Why? He only met her once at the funeral. And he tells her she is strong. What? This girl is weak and pathetic. She dates a violent underground fighter for three months, and then is surprised he wants sex? He tries to rape her, Cole saves her (another timely coincidence) and she then goes to his place and sleeps in his bed. He sings to her. Really?? I read from reviews that the book gets pretty steamy after this, which is weird. Because I would say this book is for teenage girls only. The dialogue is awful in the part of the book. The poor narrator was trying his best but no man talks or thinks like that. He was an idealised, sanitised version of the bad boy for teenage girls to dream about. He even kindly uses Windex and Pledge to remove the blood of the man he almost beat to death from Nell's floorboards and walls.
I love a good romance, and I love a little escape from reality. But I could never get into this book because it was just so far removed from reality that it jarred. People are the result of their circumstances and this is where this book fails for me. These characters did not make sense. Logic dictates that Nell would have gone into expensive therapy, her family and friends would have surrounded her with love and support and she would have, eventually, successfully gone on with her life. And Cole’s politically ambitious family would have had Cole in therapy at the first sign of rebellion and would have easily spotted a highly recognisable problem such as dyslexia. But even in rebellion things are perfect. Cole doesn’t just fight – he is so good that talent scouts want him to go professional. He sings, writes his own songs, and is so good record producers tell him to call. He apparently taught himself to rebuild car engines and is so good he now runs a successful business with several employees. He was even such a good gangster that his former buddies happily let him leave the gang but still “have his back” on speed dial. But throughout all the brilliance and achievement he is still so tortured that he cuts himself. And he has OCD. Whatever. Enough. Delete.
I found this to be a very powerfully written and thought provoking love story on all levels. The number of situations it covers, so raw, so touching, yet always empathetic. I loved listening to this book which was brilliantly narrated by Piper Goodeve and Gabriel Vaughan. I've not read Jasinda Wilde before, but will certainly be getting another of hers.