Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…
Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.
But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…
Praise for Erin McCarthy
“McCarthy’s entry in the burgeoning new adult subgenre is a page-turning, gut-wrenching success.”—RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)
“McCarthy has written a new adult love story that takes us on a journey filled with love, laughter, growth, and a bit of angst.”—Smexybooks
“Not everything in life is wrapped up nicely with a pretty ribbon on top and this book shows that…If you are a fan of NA, this one is a must-read.”—Between the Lines
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I spent my sophomore year in college partying. I wasn’t even original about it. Just the totally typical pattern of skipping class and going out every single night. If there was a keg party, I went. If there was a shot, I drank it. If there was a guy, I made out with him. I wore short skirts, showed as much cleavage as I could, and I felt sexy and confident while having the time of my life. I threw up in more than one toilet, made out with a taxidermied deer on a dare, and came home without my shoes, dorm key, or phone on a regular basis.
Later, I tried to look back and figure out why I had slid so easily into party girl, but all I could come up with was maybe I just wanted a louder voice, and drinking gave me that. I wanted some attention, I guess, or maybe just to have a good time where there were no rules. Or maybe there was just no reason at all.
It all seemed normal. What you do in college, right? You party. You make superficial friends. You drink. Do stupid things that you laugh about the next day and take pictures that will prevent you from ever being a senator.
It wasn’t anything I felt bad about. I mean, sure, I could have done without some of those hangovers, and I did end up dodging a few guys who wanted to date after I spent a drunken night telling them they were awesome, but nothing to make me feel ashamed.
Until I hooked up with one of my best friend’s boyfriend when she was out of town.
Then I hated myself and the existence of vodka. Because I wasn’t one of those girls. Or I hadn’t been. Never, under any circumstances at all, would I have come even remotely close to doing anything with a friend’s guy sober, so why would I do that? How could alcohol make me cross a boundary so high and thick and barb-wired? I wasn’t even hot for Nathan. I never had been. I mean, he was cute, whatever, but it wasn’t like I nurtured a secret crush or anything.
So how did I end up waking up next to him on his plaid sheets, his arm thrown carelessly over my naked chest? I came awake with a start, head pounding, mouth dry, for a second wondering where the hell I was and who I had had sex with. When I blinked and took in the face above that arm, I thought I was going to throw up. Getting to the apartment, sex, it was completely a black, yawning hole of nothing. I didn’t remember even leaving the party. No idea how Nathan and I had wound up in bed together. All I had were a few flashes that suddenly came back to me of him biting my nipple, hard, so that I had protested, my legs on his shoulders. Nothing else.
As I lay there, heart racing, wondering how the hell I could live with this, with myself, the horror slicing through me like a sharp knife, Nathan woke up.
He gave me a sleepy, cocky smile, punctuated by a yawn. “Hey, Robin.”
“Hey.” I tried to sink down under the sheet, not wanting him to see me naked, not wanting to be naked.
“Well, that was fun,” he said, his lazy smile expanding into a grin. “We should do that again before we get up.”
The thought made my stomach turn. “But Kylie,” I said weakly, because I wanted to remind him that while his girlfriend was back at her parents’ for the summer, she still very much existed. His girlfriend. My best friend.
“I love Kylie, but she’s not here. And we’re not going to tell her.” He shrugged. “I didn’t expect this to happen, but it did and we’re still naked.” He pulled my hand over his erection. “No reason we shouldn’t enjoy it.”
And he leaned over to kiss me. I scooted backward so fast, I fell off the mattress onto my bare ass. “I’m going to puke,” I told him.
Grabbing my clothes off the floor, I stumbled into the hallway, hoping his roommate Bill wasn’t around. In the bathroom, I leaned over the sink, trembling, eyes that stared back at me in the mirror shocked, the skin under them bruised. I didn’t get sick. I wished I would. I wished I could vomit out of myself the horrible realization that I had done something terrible, appalling, unforgiveable, mega disgusting.
I couldn’t use vodka as an excuse. And now I knew Nathan was an asshole on top of it all.
Without asking him if I could use the shower, I turned on the water and stepped in, wanting to wash away the night, the dirty, nasty smell of skank sex off of my skin. I felt like a slut, like a bitch, like someone I didn’t even know, and my tears mixed with the steady stream of water from the shower as I scrubbed and scrubbed.
I spent the rest of the summer sober, far away from parties, guilt nibbling at my insides, making me chronically nauseous, and I avoided everyone. I begged Nathan to stop when he kept sending me sexy texts, and I ignored my friend Jessica, who had stayed in town for the summer and who kept asking what was wrong.
By August I was consumed by anxiety and the fear that someone knew, that someone would tell, that I would be responsible for Kylie having her heart broken.
I slept whole days away and I couldn’t eat. I thought about getting meds from the doctor for sleeping or for anxiety or for depression or for alcoholism or for sluttiness. But what was done was done, and a pill wasn’t going to fix it. Or me.
When Jessica called and said Nathan’s friend Tyler was picking me up whether I liked it or not and we were going to hang out, I tried to say no. But then I decided that I liked to be with myself even less than I liked to be with other people.
Besides, once Kylie got back in a week, I wasn’t going to be able to be friends with any of them anymore, and this might be my last chance to spend time hanging out. I couldn’t be in the same room with Kylie and pretend that I hadn’t betrayed our friendship in the worst way possible. I wasn’t going to be able to sit there and have her and Nathan kissing on each other, knowing that he had spent all summer trying to hook up with me again.
I was going to have to find a new place to live, and disappear from our group of friends.
If only it had been that simple.
If only I had walked away right then and there.
Then I never would have met Phoenix and my life would never have changed in ways I still don’t understand.
Tyler was a good person to catch a ride from, because he didn’t need to talk. He just drove and smoked, and I stared out the window, my art supplies in my lap. I had promised to paint a pop art portrait of Tyler’s little brother Easton, and I had to do it tonight because I might never see him again if I had the guts to follow through with my plan to move out of the apartment. I hadn’t painted all summer. I wasn’t inspired. And I didn’t want to now, but I had promised I would back before the morning after with Nathan.
So since I couldn’t explain any of that, I stayed mostly silent. I did say, “Rory gets back tomorrow.”
It was a stupid comment. Of course he knew his girlfriend was coming back to school. But I wanted to make some sort of effort. It was hot, even for August, and the windows were open, air rushing in and swirling his smoke around in front of me.
“Yep. I missed her. A lot.”
I didn’t doubt he had. And I didn’t think for one minute he would have betrayed her the way Nathan had Kylie. Even if he wasn’t living with his brother and Jessica, who were also dating. Tyler just wasn’t that kind of guy. Both Riley and Tyler were loyal, and I wondered why I always seemed to attract the wrong kind of guy. The liars, the cheaters. My boyfriend freshman year had been a douche, flirting with other girls in front of me, laughing it off when I complained. My high school boyfriend had told me he wanted a girl who had her life together, who had goals. What kind of goals was I supposed to have at seventeen? At that point I already knew I was going to college to study graphic design, wasn’t that good enough? So apparently his way to fix my deficiency was to hook up with his ex at a party and humiliate me.
It was hard to believe that someday there would be a guy in my life who would love me the way my friends’ guys loved them.
Of course, I was never going to find that guy at a keg party. Another reason I had stopped going to the frat house all-nighters. I didn’t have the stomach for the so-called living-in-the-moment fun since I had woken up next to Nathan. So maybe I didn’t have my life all mapped out, but I knew that I was done with the superficial crap. I knew that I had crossed a line I never wanted to cross again and if that meant giving up alcohol forever, then that’s what I was going to do because I had gone from being cheated on to the cheater, and I could barely live with myself.
And if I couldn’t live with myself, what guy would want to?
When we went in Tyler’s house, there was someone sleeping on the couch. I couldn’t see his face since he was turned away from the room on his side, but he had black hair and a serious lack of a tan. “Who is that?” I asked Tyler.
“My cousin, Phoenix. He’s crashing here for a while.” Tyler kept walking past him to the kitchen. “Do you want a beer?”
“No, thanks.” I hadn’t had a drink in ten weeks and I didn’t even miss it.
Jessica was in the kitchen, heating up food in the microwave. It was weird to me that she lived there with her boyfriend and his three younger brothers. I had never been to her parents’ house, but I knew she had grown up with a lot of money, and this was no spacious colonial in the suburbs. The house was small and dark and hot and run-down, but truthfully she seemed the happiest she’d been since I’d met her. Riley came in from the patio and kissed the back of her head, looking at her like he thought she was the most beautiful creature the world had ever created.
“Want some?” she asked me, dishing up rice and vegetables onto four plates.
She switched out plates in the microwave and said, “Then let’s go in the other room. I want to talk to you alone.” She touched Riley’s elbow. “Can you put these in for the boys?”
I followed her back into the living room, and she sat on the floor by the coffee table. “Sit. I want to talk to you about what the hell is going on.”
I did want to tell her. I wanted to get the awful truth out and ask her what I was supposed to do about Nathan. But I couldn’t. All I could tell her was a small portion of the truth. I looked nervously at the sleeping cousin. “He can hear us. I feel weird talking in front of him.”
“He’s totally out. He just got out after five months in jail and he’s been sleeping for two days.”
“Jail?” I whispered, a little horrified. “For what?” How could she say that so casually, like it was no big deal?
She scooped rice into her mouth. “Fuck me, that is so good.” She closed her eyes and chewed. “I’m going to have to step up the workouts, but I think carbs are worth it.”
I didn’t say anything, sitting down on the floor next to her, drawing my knees up to my chest. I was wearing a sloppy T-shirt, and I dragged it over my bare knees, making a tent, cocooning myself.
“Okay, so what is going on? Seriously. You won’t drink, you won’t go out. You’ve lost weight. You don’t answer my texts. You’re even dressing differently. I’m totally worried about you.”
I was worried about me, too. I couldn’t seem to drag myself out of the anxiety that had been following me around. “I’m moving out of the house as soon as I find a new place to live.”
“What? Why the hell would you do that?”
Tears came to my eyes before I could stop them. “I just have to. I need to stop drinking.”
“But, it’s not like Rory is a big drinker. And I’m sure Kylie would respect it if you said you wanted to chill with the alcohol.” She looked hurt. “We would never pressure you to party, God, that’s so not us.”
“I know.” It made me feel even worse. “It’s just I feel like I need to be alone for a while. I was even thinking about moving home and being a commuter. It’s not that far to my parents’, only like a forty-five-minute drive to class.”
“You would seriously want to move home? That just blows my mind.” Jessica stared hard at me, tucking her blond hair behind her ear. “Besides, this is going to leave Rory and Kylie with a whole house to pay for since we’ve both bailed on them. I feel really bad about doing that.”
So did I. But I felt worse about screwing Kylie’s boyfriend. What would I do when Nathan came over to hang out? I couldn’t play it cool, like nothing had happened. I wasn’t drawn that way. “Didn’t Tyler say he wouldn’t mind moving in with Rory?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if he can actually afford it.” Jessica frowned, picking up her fork. “I guess I can ask him. I guess maybe Nathan could move in there, too, with Kylie. Bill is moving into the engineering frat house.”
I dropped my knees, alarmed. That was not what I wanted to happen. I didn’t want Kylie to become even more dependent and more in love with Nathan.
“This is so weird,” she said. “This is totally not what we planned. It’s like complete roommate shuffle. What happened?”
Rory fell in love with Tyler. Jessica fell in love with Riley. I blacked out and had sex with Nathan.
Not exactly the same happy ending for me. I wanted to tell her so desperately I swallowed hard and clamped my mouth shut. Telling her would only mean she would have to keep a secret from Kylie. From Riley, too. Telling Kylie would only hurt her to appease my guilt.
I couldn’t do it.
Shrugging, I said, “Things change.”
“If you got attacked or something, you would tell me, right? You know you can tell me.” She reached out and touched my arm, expression filled with concern.
And it went from bad to worse. Now she thought I was a victim. I nodded. “I would tell you. It’s nothing like that, I swear.”
“Because it seems like you started acting strange after the party at the Shit Shack. Something is obviously wrong. So if that Aaron guy did something to you, tell me.”
“No, he didn’t.” I shook my head emphatically. Aaron had just been a guy I had danced with, flirted with, kissed. Before he ditched me and somehow I ended up going home with Nathan.
“Did something freaky happen? Did you do something you regret, like anal?”
Not that I was aware of. I couldn’t prevent a shudder. “No. No anal.” Though I did do something I regretted, more than anything else I’d ever done. The person who said that life was too short for regrets clearly had never done something super shitty.
“Jessica!” Jayden called her name from the kitchen. “Can you come here?”
“Yeah, I’ll be right there, buddy.” She set down her fork. “Be right back.”
Jayden was eighteen, but he had Down syndrome, and I knew that Rory and Jessica both cut him a lot of slack. If he asked for attention, they gave it to him, and I was totally grateful for the interruption. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could lie to direct questions.
As Jessica went into the kitchen, the guy on the couch suddenly coughed. I turned and saw dark eyes staring at me. He had rolled onto his back and was sitting up on the arm roll, his hair sticking up in front. My palms got clammy, and I stared back, horrified.
Not only was he completely and totally hot, he had obviously been awake for more than thirty seconds. He looked way too alert to have just opened his eyes.
“Uh, hi. I’m Robin,” I said, my hands starting to shake. What had we said? Nothing incriminating, I didn’t think. I hadn’t admitted anything. Though I had said “anal” out loud and that was awkward enough. All those nasty jokes about prison popped into my head and my cheeks burned.
His expression was inscrutable, but he nodded. “Phoenix.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, because that’s what you say even if there was zero truth to it. It wasn’t nice to meet him. He was a criminal and I was a lying cheat, and I was way too preoccupied with my own self-hatred to have anything interesting to say to him.
“Yeah. Sure.” He sounded about as enthusiastic as I felt.
Agitated, I sat down on the coffee table next to the couch, wiping my hands on my denim shorts. “Sorry if we woke you up.”
He shrugged. “No big deal.”
I wasn’t sure what to say after that. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and like his cousins, he had tattoos covering his chest and arms. The one that caught my attention was the bleeding heart. It looked severed in two, the blood draining down his flesh toward his abdomen. It was beautiful and creepy and bold. Was it a metaphor? It seemed a little poetic for the average guy, but something about his steady stare suggested he was no ordinary guy. His dark hair stuck up then fell over one eye, so it felt like he had an extra advantage, that he could watch me from behind that cascade of hair.
Jessica hadn’t told me why he had been in jail, and I decided I really didn’t want to know. Phoenix was trouble and trouble was exactly what I was trying to avoid.
“I’m not a big fan of anal either,” he said.
Giving or receiving? I couldn’t tell if he was making fun of me. He didn’t seem to be trying to lighten the mood with a joke for my benefit since he still looked stone-faced. It made me super uncomfortable.
“We thought you were asleep.”
“What difference does it make? You didn’t confess to a crime.”
Thank God. “I don’t like just anyone hearing my personal business. You don’t even know me.”
“You’re right, I don’t.” He threw back the blanket that had been covering him below the waist and he stood up. He was in his underwear, black boxer briefs that clung to his thighs. “Robin.” He added my name at the end like it was an accusation.
His body was lean and wiry, yet muscular. He looked like he worked out constantly but had been born with a raging high metabolism, so he would never be bulky. Every muscle was obvious, the V of his hips so defined it made my mouth thick with saliva in a totally inappropriate way for the situation. He bent over and picked up a pair of shorts off the floor, stepping into them and drawing them up. But he left them partially unzipped and the belt clanked against his thighs as he moved out of the living room and down the hall into the bathroom without another word to me.
I watched him, unnerved. There was something hard about him, mysterious. His name suited him, unusual and intriguing. Annoyed with myself, I went into the kitchen, where Jessica was clearly laying out the situation for Tyler.
“So what are we going to do? Kylie and I were supposed to share, and Rory and Robin each had their own room, but now there’s an empty room completely.”
“Can you guys just break the lease?” Riley asked. “I mean, what difference does it make? Everyone can move out.”
“My dad and Rory’s dad are the ones who signed the lease. I don’t think either one of us needs to piss our dads off any more.”
Riley frowned. “No. That’s no good.” He looked at me. “I guess you should find a replacement, since you’re the one moving out.”
Hovering in the doorway, I crossed my arms over my chest, miserable. “I’ll just move home and I’ll pay my portion of the rent. I can cover it with my paychecks from waitressing.”
I was trying to be fair. To not stick them with either a bigger rent or with a roommate they didn’t know and may not get along with, but Jessica’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Wait a minute. So you’d rather live at home with your parents who are like sixty years old, and your ancient, evil-eye-giving grandmother, while paying rent on a place you don’t live in, than room with Kylie and Rory? Okay, I call bullshit. What the fuck is going on?”
When she put it like that, it did sound insane. “Nothing is going on. I just need time to . . . reevaluate.”
But Jessica was tenacious. “There is something going on and you need to tell me what it is.”
Phoenix strolled into the kitchen, scratching his chest, and went to the fridge. “I think if she wanted to tell you she would have already,” he commented.
That about summed it up.
“And who asked you?” Jessica said, whirling to glare at him as she yanked Jayden’s empty plate out from in front of him and started scrubbing it aggressively in the sink.
“Just an observation.”
“Well, mind your own business.”
“I think Robin would probably say the same to you.”
They stared at each other, and I felt the tension between them. Phoenix being in the house obviously upset the balance of Jessica being house princess. She was a strong personality, and she enjoyed being the only girl in the house, the one in charge. Somehow Phoenix was challenging her, and it was obvious to Riley, too. He held up his hand.
“Alright, chill out. Both of you.”
“Please don’t fight because of me,” I pleaded, feeling even more horrible with each passing second. “Just please don’t.” And to my horror, I started crying, tears welling up and rushing out of both eyes silently.
Everyone looked at me in shock, and no one seemed to have a clue what to say. I wasn’t known for being particularly emotional. Fortunately, Easton intervened. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to draw me?” He tapped the canvas Tyler had propped on the floor next to the table. “When are you doing that?”
“Now,” I said, taking an empty seat next to him and wiping my face, concentrating on drawing my breath in and out, slowly, evenly. “I just need some space.”
That was definitely a metaphor.
Jessica went into the other room, clearly agitated, and Riley followed her, murmuring in a low voice. Tyler encouraged Jayden to go outside and shoot hoops with him. It left me at the table, methodically squeezing my oils into my paint tray, Easton across from me, bouncing up and down on his chair, and Phoenix leaning on the counter eating rice straight out of the container.
He was watching us, but I ignored him. Yellow, pink, blue. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. If I just focused on one thing at a time, I could function.
And it actually felt good to have my brush in my hand, the smell of the acrylics familiar and soothing. I felt calmer.
There was a knock at the back door, and Easton jumped. “Who is that?”
“It’s probably my girlfriend,” Phoenix said. “Or my ex-girlfriend, if this conversation doesn’t go well. She’s supposed to come over.”
So of course the gorgeous bad boy had a girlfriend, despite his incarceration.
Phoenix opened the back door, and I have to admit, I tried to pretend I was busy working, paintbrush in my hand as I used a bold magenta to do the outline of Easton’s head. But I snuck a glance up at the girl who walked into the kitchen and I tried not to be judgmental. She looked hard. Older than she probably was. Bad dye job, turning naturally brown hair bleach blond, drying out the texture. Lots of eyeliner. Bad skin. Her jeans were too tight in the waist and too big in the butt. Not the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen but maybe she was super sweet. And who was I to judge?
“Hey,” she said, and tried to kiss Phoenix.
He shifted out of the way and rejected her effort. “Why didn’t you come see me when I was locked up?” he demanded with no other greeting. “Not once. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on, Angel.”
Oh, God, seriously? Her name was Angel? I threw up a little in my mouth. I couldn’t think of a name less suited to a girl who looked like she could beat the shit out of me if I looked at her wrong. Carefully, I set down my paintbrush and pushed back my chair. Clearly this was a private conversation, and I had enough drama of my own. I didn’t want to be involved in someone else’s.
“Who are you?” she asked angrily, shooting me a glare as the noisy scraping sound of the chair made her aware of my presence.
“I’m just going in the other room,” I said carefully, not wanting to go a round with her. I had no doubt I would lose, especially in my current emotional state. Easton obviously felt the same way. He bolted into the living room without a word.
“Good,” Angel said, playing with the ring in her nose.
“She doesn’t have to leave,” Phoenix said, gesturing for me to stay. “This is only going to take a minute. So what did you want to tell me, Angel?” He crossed his arms and leaned on the kitchen counter.
I stood up anyway, despite his words.
I couldn’t prevent a gasp from leaving my mouth. Yeah, I should have left the room. But Phoenix didn’t react at all. His face never revealed any surprise, and the only movement he made was to flick his eyes over her flat stomach.
“You don’t look six months pregnant to me.”
“I’m not. I’m only two.”
He’d been in prison more than five months. Jessica had said that. I knew that. What I didn’t know was why I cared one way or the other about it being his baby, but I felt horrified for him that he’d been cheated on, and a little bit of relief that he wasn’t the father.
“Then I don’t need to know that.” Phoenix went and opened the door. “Bye, Angel.”
“Don’t you even want to know what happened?” She looked disappointed. “Who the father is?”
“No. All I wanted was to know for sure that we’re broken up, and we clearly are, so good luck. Lose my number.”
“You’re an asshole,” she said.
I wasn’t sure how he qualified as the jerk in this situation, but I kept my eyes on the canvas as she stomped out the back door, and he slammed it loudly behind her.
“Well, now I guess we’re even,” he said.
I glanced up, curious to see if he was going to rage or look upset. But he didn’t. He looked . . . neutral. “Even how?” I asked.
“Now we both know each other’s personal business.”
I finished my brushstroke. “True. And I’m going to stay out of it, like you did with me.” I just wanted to paint, to lose myself in the wet sound of sliding paint.
He came over and looked down at my canvas. “You don’t need Easton here to paint? You’re doing it from memory?”
He watched me for a minute, and I didn’t actually mind. I didn’t need quiet or solitude to paint pop art, and it felt good to lose myself in the narrow focus of creating lines on canvas. But while I wanted to respect his privacy, I also knew that it had to have hurt him that his girlfriend hasn’t visited him in prison, that she had cheated on him. I also felt guilty that I was a cheater, that if it ever came out, I would be the one causing pain. I hated that.
“I’m sorry,” I told him, glancing up, hoping he would understand.
I didn’t want to be specific. I didn’t think he would appreciate that. “For what I heard. For what you heard.”
“That you heard it? Or because it happened?”
“Both. But mostly that it happened. It hurts, I know. And I’m sorry.”
Phoenix shrugged. “I’ll live. I’ve survived worse.”
I wanted to say that she wasn’t good enough for him anyway, that she was a liar and a cheat and a shitty girlfriend who didn’t deserve him, but did I really know that? And if I was no better than her, did I have any right to say anything?
“Sometimes we do stupid things.” Very stupid things. Sometimes we needed forgiveness.
“Yeah. Some of us more than others.” Phoenix pulled out a chair and sat down across from me. “I’ve never painted before. I sketch. It must be hard to get the subtlety of the lines and the shading in paint.”
“You sketch?” I asked, amazed, then not sure why.
He nodded. “And I do tattoos. I guess the difference is with oil paint you layer on top, right? With a tattoo you do a little, but mostly it’s about precision and shading.”
“Do you have pictures of your work?” I asked, curious to see it. The idea of tattooing someone with a needle scared me. There was no retracting a mistake.
Sort of like life.
“Nah. But I did the original design for my cousins’ arm tat, the one they all have, and I did Tyler’s dragon on his leg.”
“Cool. That dragon is beautiful.”
“Thanks.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “We’re a fucked-up family, you know. We haven’t always gotten along, depending on whose mom was hooking the other on what drugs.”
“Why aren’t you living with your mom?” I finished the outline of Easton and started shading in his strong features. Even in the brilliance of yellow and magenta, I wanted to capture the deep sensitivity of his eyes.
“I don’t know where she is. She didn’t leave a forwarding address.”
So not only had his girlfriend cheated on him when he was in jail, his mom disappeared and neglected to tell him? I wasn’t sure I could be so casual about it. In fact, I knew I couldn’t. My parents were all about family. They loved me and my older brothers in a way that was almost smothering, and I was grateful for it. “Oh my God, I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “She’ll turn up eventually. But Riley and Tyler are being cool and letting me stay here.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. “Family seems important to them.”
Those fingers increased their rhythm, but the rest of him stayed completely still. The only movement seemed to come from those anxious fingers and the intensity of his stare as his eyes raked both over me and the canvas. I was never still. My mom had always commented on that. I fidgeted and shifted and couldn’t stay in a chair longer than ten minutes without creating a reason to get up for a task before sitting down again. I struggled to sit through movies and I hopped up and down off bar stools, going out on the dance floor and outside to smoke cigarettes, which I didn’t even like. Even now I was bouncing my knee up and down rapidly and chewing hard on a piece of gum. His immobility fascinated me.
Which may explain why I said, “Do you want to paint? I have another canvas and brush.”
Again, there was no reaction. I wondered what it would take to draw emotion out of him. “Nah, I don’t want to waste your supplies.”
“It’s a cheap canvas. It was only five bucks.”
But he just shook his head. Then a second later he asked me, “Do you have a boyfriend?”
“What?” I almost dropped my paintbrush. “No. Why?”
His phone slid across the table toward me. “Then give me your number.”
“Why?” I said again, which was a totally moronic thing to say. But I didn’t get any vibe he even liked me, let alone was interested in me.
For the first time, I saw the glimmer of a smile on his face. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly before he controlled it again. “Why do you think?”
For a split second, I felt like myself, and I said the first thing that popped into my head. “So you can send me honey badger videos?” I joked, because it seemed like a safer response. He was just out of prison, and he had just broken up with his girlfriend ten minutes earlier. So not a good idea to get involved with him. I wasn’t up for dating anyone, let alone him.
“Yes. And kitten memes.”
“Well, in that case.” I took his phone because I wasn’t exactly sure how to say no. It seemed super rude, and I doubted he was actually going to ask me out. He would probably send me a typical guy text of “hi” or “what’s up?” and I could say “hi” back or “nothing” and we’d be done with it. Guys put no effort at all into communication or pursuing a girl. If you didn’t go into a huge, long text of explanation of what you were doing and dug deep into their text to get an adequate response back, the conversation just died. A big old waste of time, that’s what most texting with guys was.
So I typed my number into his phone with my name. It was an old smartphone, with a cracked screen, like he had dropped it on the pavement. I set it back on the table.
Tyler came back into the kitchen and looked over my shoulder at my work. “Hey, that’s cool so far. You got Easton’s nose just right.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Phoenix palm his phone and put it back into his pocket, tossing back his hair. Then he just stood up and left.
My phone buzzed in my own pocket as Tyler went to the fridge and started rummaging around. I pulled it out and saw it was a text from a number I didn’t recognize. When I opened it, there was a honey badger video. At your request was the message.
I smiled for the first time in what felt like weeks.
Way better than writing “hi.”
When I was in third grade, I realized two things: That the doctors thought something was wrong with me, and that my mother loved drugs more than she loved me.
Because while the doctors kept asking me questions and taking scans of my brain and giving my mother prescriptions for me to take, I never swallowed a single one of those pills. She would take me to the pharmacy, collect the pills, then sell them to a guy behind the gas station who smelled like my grandmother’s basement. Then she would use that money to buy little plastic bags from a different guy, the one I thought looked like a Ninja Turtle because he always wore a bandana around his forehead. Then those bags would open and the needle would come out and she would lie on the couch for hours and hours, scratching her arm and drooling, eyes unfocused.
When she was like that, I could do whatever I wanted, and I didn’t really mind that she was checked out, not exactly. I could watch TV and drink chocolate syrup out of the bottle and go play down the street until way after dark and she wouldn’t notice any of it and there was a cool sense of freedom.
But I didn’t like it when she would forget to buy groceries or make me lie to the doctors and say that even though I took all the pills the way I was supposed to, I still felt angry, I still couldn’t concentrate. Because it wasn’t true. I hadn’t taken those pills, and I didn’t feel angry.
It wasn’t until later that I figured out that my meds had a black market value as appetite suppressants and she could exchange them for heroin.
At eight, I just knew there was something wrong with both of us because I was supposed to have the drugs but she was one who couldn’t go a day without them.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised that she had disappeared during my stint in jail, but I was. I kept waiting for the day when she actually gave a shit about me, and she kept proving over and over that she didn’t.
It wouldn’t have mattered so much except that all my stuff was at her apartment, and the landlord had cleaned it out when she ditched on the rent. There was no question in my mind that she hadn’t bothered to pack up my clothes and the miscellaneous crap from twenty years to take with her. An old yearbook, the only one I’d ever had the money to buy, with the inscription from Heather Newcomb of “Stay Sweet, Phoenix,” which I had thumbed my finger over a thousand times, wondering what it meant. A Little League trophy for Best Pitcher. A watch my grandmother gave me. Nothing of value. Stupid stuff, but mine. All I had. Gone.
Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts I had borrowed from Tyler, I texted the girl painting in the kitchen, Robin. I shouldn’t, I knew that. She was way out of my league, I knew that, too. Girls like her didn’t look twice at guys who didn’t even own the shirt on their back. Or, in my case, the shorts on my ass. But for whatever reason—good manners would be my guess—she had given me her number and I was going to use it, because I needed a distraction. Someone to talk to about nothing.
I thought maybe she did, too. There was something . . . bruised about the way she looked. She kept her head down when talking to Jessica and held her arms across her chest a lot. Jessica, who was fucking bossy in my opinion, kept poking at her, and Robin didn’t protest, but she didn’t answer either. Not really.
There was something about the way she had sat in the living room while she thought I was asleep and hugged her knees to herself, stretching out her shirt to cover them, that made me feel just a little bit sorry for her. I’m a sucker for a sad girl, I can’t help it. It’s fucked-up, but it is what it is. Maybe because for once I feel like I actually have something to offer. Understanding, at least. There’s a difference between sad and depressed, though, and even I know not to go there with a chick who is clinical, but I knew Robin wasn’t because of the way her face changed when she started painting.
It was like her shoulders dropped and her forehead smoothed out. She was content with that brush in her hand or at least not miserable. Pretty, too. She had a tiny nose and cherry red lips and dark hair that spilled over her shoulders and made me want to bury my face in it.
So I got her number and then she left the house and I texted her and she answered me twice and then nothing. That was that.
College Girl wasn’t going to play with me, and hell, who could blame her? It had been an impulsive long shot. Disappointing, but I was used to that feeling.
Shoving the phone back in my pocket, I went into the kitchen to see if I could borrow Riley’s car. I needed to see about getting a job, as fun as that sounded. When I came into the room, conversation between Jessica and Riley came to a stop, making it pretty freakin’ obvious they were talking about me. I didn’t quite understand the new dynamics in my cousins’ house. When I had gone into jail, my aunt Dawn had still been alive, and everyone here walked on eggshells around her. Now she was dead, and Riley’s girlfriend was in the house, and she was possessive and territorial, it seemed. She had done some home improvement shit like pulling up the nasty carpet and putting cookies in the cookie jar and washing dishes.
Weird. That’s what it was. Disorienting. I think maybe she was what you call maternal, but I had such little experience with the concept I couldn’t exactly be sure. All I know is that she was a bitch to me and I wasn’t so crazy about her myself.
“What’s up?” I asked, casual. Friendly. I could kiss ass and be nice. No one had to let me stay there, and Riley and Tyler were being cool about it, so I had to watch what I said. Besides, they were the only family I had, and I didn’t want to lose them.
“You know that Riley just got custody of Easton, right?” Jessica asked, twirling her blond hair around one finger and looking nervous.
I nodded. I had been glad to hear it. The system would chew that kid up and spit him out. I knew Riley had worked hard to get custody and that his girlfriend, even though she and I rubbed each other the wrong way, clearly wanted the best for Easton and Jayden, too. I’d seen the family photos she’d hung in the hallway, like families who weren’t fucked-up did, and I personally appreciated her no smoking in the house rule.
“Well, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a social worker could drop by at any time unannounced. And Tyler is already living here when he really shouldn’t be.”
That was all she said, clearly waiting for me to volunteer the conclusion.
So I did. No sense in beating around the bush. “So having two convicted felons in the house is maybe one too many?”
She nodded, biting her lip.
Riley looked pained. “Look, bro, you know you can stay here until you get a job and a place, but you probably can’t stay here forever, that’s all we’re saying. I can’t lose custody of Easton, not now.”
“I understand.” I did. I also understood that Easton was lucky, despite his shithole parents. He had his brothers.
Their bond was a steel cable. Mine with them was more like cooked spaghetti. We were family. They cared. They would help. But the loyalty wasn’t the same, and I was jealous of that, I admit it. I felt alone.
My mom had figured out birth control after me, unlike my aunt. My mom made a point of telling me that once was enough for her and she wasn’t taking any chances of making that mistake twice, unlike Aunt Dawn, who got drunk and forgot condoms existed.
So it was just me.
“I’m going to see about getting a job today, actually. Can I borrow your car for an hour?” I didn’t have anywhere to go. No friends I trusted enough to crash with. But I could always go to the shelter if I had to. I didn’t want to be responsible for Easton ending up in foster care. He was a cool kid. In fact, he kind of reminded me of myself at that age. And hey, I was a cool kid, right? Quiet, weird, prone to random outbursts, but whatever. I was comfortable in my own skin now, which was good, because it was about all I owned.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
~Reviewed by FRANCESCA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog BELIEVE brings us to party girl Robin and her story. How far she had to fall and build herself back up. Let me just say this book was not what I expected. From Robin and what she went through, through the hero and how different he was from my first impression. I actually really liked Phoenix (the hero, yeah cool name, huh?). He’s got the bad boy thing going, just got out of jail, not a penny in his pocket, no job. But I swear after all those bad marks against him he’s a great guy! I can see how easy it was for Robin to fall for him (or lean on him?) and at the end I do think he was the right kind of hero to help Robin through her issues. Robin I wasn’t so crazy abut. She’s got issues with drinking, issues with having slept with her friends’ boyfriend during one of those drunken nights, and issues with her guilt. I don’t mind that these issues were touched, just wasn’t a fan of Robin and her level of maturity. I have enjoyed this series in the past for what it was. Light entertainment, a few deeper issues, and some interesting but young characters. I can’t say the same for BELIEVE. Maybe it was just my disconnect with the heroine from the very beginning because of the string of bad decisions she’s made. And maybe it was just the fact that I thought she was just seeking refuge in her relationship with Phoenix. Not sure. It just fell a bit flat for me, although it was still entertaining enough to read. *ARC provided by publisher
Feel good story about getting past the negative opinions that others have of you and moving forward to become the person you would have been sooner under different circumstances. I love when the underdog prevails in spite of the obstacles that life presents.
I have been waiting for this book to come out. I wasn't disappointed either. I couldn't put this book down.
sometimes its hard to believe that good things will happen to you. Robin was not ready for love although she admired those who had it, she just could not believe that she could have love for herself.
what more can I say
Erin McCarthy brings readers the next book in the True Believers series, Believe. This is the story of two people trying to outlive some very bad choices in their lives. It is a story about being able to be yourself and own your mistakes, as well as, your triumphs. McCarthy gives the reader strong characters who are flawed, yet perfect in their own way. A great new adult novel that will have readers re-thinking how they look at bad boys! What I liked: McCarthy has done such a great job with this new adult series. Her heroes and heroines are young men and women on the cusp of life. Starting out on their own, which unfortunately doesn't mean they always make the right choices. Readers who have read other books in the series will appreciate the authentic feel that McCarthy shots for in her books. Her characters are certainly not perfect, but that's what makes them so real and easy to relate too. I can remember being in college and wanting to be free and able to make my own decisions. But I can also remember the pain of making the wrong ones. That's what I enjoyed about this book. Seeing the characters move forward. It's not how you fall down, it's how you get back up. Robin is a character I wasn't too sure I would be able to get into. She cheated with Kiley's boyfriend and then didn't tell her the truth. Double no-no in my book. I really didn't expect to like her. I understood where she was coming from, but I wasn't sure I could get past that. McCarthy really surprised me by making Robin into someone I wanted to succeed. She took a bad situation and she moved on. She didn't stay stuck in the rut of bad decision making. She decided to take a different road and it worked for her. I enjoyed reading about her struggle to see herself differently and the changes she makes in her life, including laying off the alcohol and partying. Phoenix of course was a big help with that and I loved him for it. Phoenix was a bad, bad boy. He ended up in jail and then he ended up with nothing. He was sleeping on his cousins couch with five dollars to his name when he meets Robin, but there is just something in the sadness he sees in her that draws him. I liked the way McCarthy shows readers someone who has never had a break in life and what that can do to a person. Phoenix becomes a lifeline for Robin. A person she can be herself with, the good parts and the bad. There relationship is complicated but Phoenix isn't afraid and he helps Robin see herself as she wants to be and not as a failure. She does the same for him. This is a great relationship that makes both Robin and Phoenix better, just from being together. She makes him want to be a better man and he does the same thing for her. Supporting each other and loving each other. It was pretty amazing watching them grow into the kind of people they wanted to be. There is definitely some steam and chemistry between these two and they fit together perfectly in and out of the bedroom. McCarthy doesn't pull any punches with the romance in this one. Robin and Phoenix may fog up the windows, but their tenderness and love for each other was a joy to read. Bottom Line: This one is probably not my favorite of the series, but it's close. I wasn't sure I could like the heroine, but McCarthy made me want to see this sad young woman find love. Phoenix was a bad boy hero with a heart of gold. It was a good feel good read that fit in well with the rest of the series!
This is an emotional book. I laughed, I cried. From the beginning I could not put this book down. You could feel Robin's pain. She is a good person, who when drunk made a mistake and is truly sorry for what happened. Phoenix is so different from who she would date. He's a bad boy, with a good heart. Robin can just be herself with Phoenix. I was rooting for them from the beginning. I loved this book.
I have come to thoroughly enjoy this series, and though it is a series, each book can also be read as a standalone. Each of the novels in the True Believer's Series focuses on a different couple, but yet you get to see all the characters from previous books in the mix, which is something I love. I really liked True, and Jessica and Riley in Sweet are my favorite couple. Believe is Robin and Pheonix's story. We met Robin we in the previous novels, but in Believe, we get to meet Pheonix, Riley and Tyler's cousin. Pheonix one of those bad*** guys whose silence says more than a thousand words. He has just gotten out of jail, he's tattooed, and gives off that dangerous vibe, though he is really a stand-up guy. Robin has spent the summer in remorse over something she did when she was drunk, something that could destroy her relationship with her best friend. Robin and Pheonix are both artists. Pheonix has had a rough childhood and life in general, which has left him scarred with issues he secretly, and sometimes not so secretly battles. Robin grew up in a good home, but nonetheless, she is plagued my her own demons. As different as the worlds are that these two come from, they just click. They get each other, there is chemistry, and there is acceptance. That said, their relationship is not without its struggles, something they come face-to-face with when the past catches up with them both and turns their world upside down. Overall, I really enjoyed Believe. The romance was great with just the right amount of steam, and the story itself was very good. Erin McCarthy also addresses some very prevalent social issues that many people deal with in one way or another. I really like McCarthy's writing style, and the book definitely kept my attention from beginning to end. Believe is a great addition to this series.
I really like this series! What I liked about Believe: Phoenix was really great! He wasn't afraid to be sweet and to actually show it; he didn't hide his feelings. I also liked that there wasn't any cheating or some other person trying to come between them. I liked getting a look at the other couples from the previous books in the series, and I'm hoping that as the series continues we start to see growth in the previous relationships of the series. There was a bit of instalove, but I wasn't really bothered by it; both of the main characters were looking for a true connection and when they found it, they both wanted to grab ahold. I do wish Robin would have handled the situation better, but I like how it turned out. I look forward to the next book in the series!
5 stars - Adore Phoenix! First Impressions... I love this series! Loved True and Sweet and couldn't wait to read Believe. The Characters... Robin changes a lot in this story. She blacks out while drinking and wakes up in bed with her best friends boyfriend. Totally devastated that she could do something like that, she stops drinking, partying and dressing for attention. Her guilt and emotions are turned into her art and Phoenix. I loved seeing her grow from the mistake. She could have ignored it and kept going but she took pause and handled her pain in a grown up way. I was very impressed with her. I adore Phoenix. He's not a fan of his name but I am. I love different names and he certainly rises from the ashes as his namesake. Both of these characters are named after birds and it's interesting how that plays into their relationship. I love that they have both made mistakes but give each other space about it. I love how Phoenix tries to not be hurt by his mom or Robin but he really does have a bleeding heart. He's sexy, fierce, determined and happy. I like that he can find that happiness even though most people would fail to see it in his circumstances. The Story... Together these two are magical. Never did I feel like they were at risk. The story was never about losing each other but healing each other. Adorable - these two are just adorable. This idea of them them being so right for each other really drives this story. Their relationship happens quickly but easily...comfortably. They are hot together. They belong to each other. Even when things are rough..and they do get rough...they still belong to each other. Mine. That's how they think of each other even when they are upset with each other. I liked that. Could I Put It Down... I didn't want to. This story came while I was dealing with the lose of my puppy. I didn't want to think about what could have happened to him so I got stuck in a book. This book took me to a world where I didn't think about anything but Phoenix and Robin. In The End... If you have read the first two, then this one must be next. This is my favorite of the series for sure. If you haven't met the bad boys of the True Believers series, you must. Tattoos, mistakes, sex, and love make this series so, so good. Anyone who enjoys New Adult needs to read this series.
This is a young adult book to read for a college student. There is some really good points that the author touches on, like binge drinking, rage issues, not judging a person by their cover, pursuing your dreams and taking a chance on love. Even though it is a quick read, it gives you a lot to think about. The sex scenes are mild but the POV of the characters are great. My college years came back to haunt me, 20/20 vision. There is a HEA in this book in this TRUE series. This is a different type of writing for this author.
Believe is the third book in Erin McCarthy's True Believers series. I loved the second book so much, I couldn't wait to read this one. This book revolves around Robin – a friend of the main characters from the first two books. Robin had always been a partier, and one morning she wakes up in bed with her best friend's boyfriend – though she doesn't remember a thing. She had blacked out and vows to never drink again. Robin seems to go through a deep depression over this. She doesn't want her friends to know what happened, so she avoids them. She changes completely. She no longer drinks or parties, and doesn't even care how she looks. She loses weight and is sad and lonely. One day, one of Robin's friends drags her out of the house and this is when she meets Phoenix. He is definitely not the type of guy she normally dates – he is covered in tattoos and just got out of prison. They both just sort of connect. They can both tell that the other is lonely, and they form a friendship out of the need for companionship. They fall in love, and their romance is both sweet and hot. I'm not a drinker myself, so I really liked the message behind this book. Getting yourself wasted can have serious consequences. I love how these books don't have cliffhangers, and they each focus on a different character. The fourth book comes out in September – such a long time to wait!!
I haven’t read the others in the series, but I definitely will after reading this one. I love the friendships and the little elements that add a little grit. It’s pretty light hearted, but there are things like Phoenix having been in jail that are little touches that I appreciate. It’s a story about redemption in more ways than one. I enjoyed all the characters, except Nathan (which is how it should be). It felt real and I was taken for a ride right along with Robin. The conflicts were very authentic and the resolutions realistic – no easy ways out here! My biggest problem here is that the few people that knew the big secret, wanted to keep it just that – a secret! Why? I believe it’s better to let that kind of secret out, because it’s more hurtful and insulting when buried, especially when it’s only found out later. So that bothered me a lot, but that’s the only thing that did. The rest resonated with me beautifully. Believe is a story that takes you on a journey about self-realization and redemption, particularly for Robin. I was captivated by this story and only want to read more about this circle of friends.
“Believe” in Erin McCarthy’s True Believer’s Series An ARC was provided by Netgally for an honest review. True (True Believers Book #1) was my first Erin McCarthy book. Can I tell you it has not been my last. I really like this series. I have to confess that True set the bar pretty high for what has come after it. Of the three – Believe – as a story was not as compelling as True and Sweet. However, the characters totally were if that makes sense. Let me elaborate. Phoenix to Robin: “You doing anything? Want go hang out? They don’t need me to work today.” I nodded. “Yes.” I did. I wanted to spend every minute with him. Every single second. Every nanosecond. Without thinking about it, I put down my coffee, snaked my arms around his neck and kissed the sh*t out of him. “I want to kidnap you,” he murmured in my ear. “So that I never have to let you go. ” Phoenix’s thoughts: I kissed the top of her head. And long after she fell asleep, I lay there wide awade, naked. Wondering if I had finally experienced the one high I couldn’t resist. Falling in love. I think those two passages give you a good idea of what goes on here. These two are in deep and fast. Both are feeling, hoping but afraid to trust if this thing going on between them is the real thing. Phoenix has just gotten out of jail. He is the Tyler and Riley’s cousin (both characters from True & Sweet) so he’s crashing at their place. Where he meets Robin. He doesn’t have a pot to you know what in, but he’s likeable because he is so open and honest. He’s not the type to sugar coating anything. Robin screwed up BIG TIME! At first you want to believe that it’s some mistake. Then you realize that this girl is flawed, as nice as she is, which makes her human – doesn’t it? Despite everything that is going against them – these two seem to click on all cylinders. Phoenix is tatted up bad boy with a bad temper and not exactly what Robin can bring home to her parents. Robin partied the days away, not really feeling anything until the night she drinks too much and blacks out. She is hiding a secret from her friends. She stopped drinking, she stopped partying, she stopped wearing makeup. It’s like she wants to make herself invisible. If the events of that night got out, the chain reaction would hurt one of her best friends terribly. It could possibly fracture the chain of all their friendships. How this couple comes to an understanding about their past, themselves, their future and how they deal with those events is what makes up Believe. A solid, engaging read, with likeable characters that is certainly worth your time and money.
Erin McCarthy brings another wonderful New Adult contemporary romance to life with Believe, the third book in the True Believers Series. Two young people, damaged by their pasts find a friendship that relieves their feelings of isolation. As Robin and Phoenix find true acceptance with each other their feelings grow and they find love, even though neither believes they are deserving of it. Robin, a college student who became the campus party girl made a drunken mistake one night that will change her life and possibly destroy her best friend. As it haunts her every day, she isolates herself from those around her and vows never to drink again. Enter Phoenix, just released from prison, alone, with nothing but the borrowed clothes on his back, and a couch to sleep on at his cousins’ house. Phoenix seems to be in control of himself at all times, until any type of spark ignites the rage he keeps bottled up inside. Will these two find the support they need from each other or will they need to face their demons alone? Filled with angst, anger, guilt, and the tenuous threads of love, Believe is the story of two individuals who must learn to love themselves and accept that their own shortcomings are their greatest enemies while accepting that they are worthy of love that is given freely. Erin McCarthy has done a wonderful job creating characters that feel real and could be someone one could find on any campus when first cut loose into the world. Using the POVs of both main characters further illustrates her ability to give life to her tale. The fact that I wanted to shake them both one minute and hug them the next, means I was in the moment from start to finish. Her world is like a tour of campus life, the friendships and bonds, the turmoil of being a young person out on their own in a world they were not expecting. Another great read from this talented author. I received a review edition from PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW/Intermix in exchange for my honest review.
I truly loved this book it was a refreshing quick read. I loved the two characters of Phoenix and Robin. The both have had some very large challenges occur in there lifetimes. Robin was a previous party animal in her college years always the life of the party until all of a sudden something goes wrong and Robin changes everything she does and reverts into herself and pulls away from her friends. We meet Phoenix he has been recently been released from jail and been staying on his cousins couch until he can get on his feet and find a place to live and get a job. This book follows how Robin and Phoenix find that they are drawn to each other by there life struggles and mutual attractions. They also find that they are able to help each other heal a little because they are not in judgement of each other. I loved the twist and turns this book took. I loved all the other characters in this book they are all a contrasting mix of personalities that create a very unique dynamic of people that are all friends. I felt that this story was a very realistic story line and could be occuring in every day society and that helped drawn me in as the reader. I loved that this book is a continuation in a series and you didn't have to read others to be able to read this as a stand alone book. i will be going back to read the previous two book and also looking forward to the next book coming out I highly recommend this book and author to readers who are looking for a little something different to read that want a little bit of romance with a whole lot of heart and soul. I received this book as an advanced reader copy from Net Galley and this is my honest review from it.