I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review as part of a book-review tour.
Two families, the Rileys (wealthy, old family from Shanwick) and the Martins (father a musician and British, mother mixed-race. Bohemian and alternative). A boy, Riley (Nick, but known as Riley), who is the black-sheep of his family. Handsome, talented, attractive, has all the women he wants and he’s even chased by those he can’t bear. A girl, Christina (Dina, because her older brother, Johnny, couldn’t pronounce her name when they were kids), responsible, serious, clever, good at school, big boobs but not classically pretty otherwise. They’ve grown together (their mothers had been good friends and so were both families. Later Dina’s mother dies of cancer, but by that point their mothers were no longer friends and their families weren’t in very good terms either), Riley is Johnny’s best friend. Yes, they fall in love, and although they seem destined and fated for each other, chaos and destruction ensues. The series chronicles the story of their relationship. I know you’re probably familiar with the story of the star-crossed lovers, and their complications. This is not Romeo and Juliet but the hilarious moments (mostly when the girls get together) alternate with pretty sad ones where the relationship crashes and burns.
Book two is told, like the rest of the series, in the third person and from alternate points of view. One chapter from Dina’s point of view (when the series opens she’s been living in Washington D.C. for years and works as a lawyer, so she’s more Christina than Dina) and the next from Riley’s. They are divorced but as Dina’s little sister, Gabby (she is one of the greatest characters in a book with plenty of amazing secondary characters), is in hospital and Riley manages the band where Johnny, Dina’s brother, plays, they seem fated to meet again. The story follows their collision course. The two are like the opposite poles of magnets and despite their best intentions they can’t avoid revisiting and reliving their story, both the good and the bad.
The novel is a rollercoaster of emotions. Each character goes through hope and desperation many times over, and shows why they got together in the first place, and also how they ended up hurting each other so badly. They are clearly in love still, but don’t seem able to move past their past. They keep bringing up things that happened before, and the novel moves backwards and forward in time to share with the reader many of the events that brought the couple to where they are now. Although I did not find the story in general difficult to follow, I must admit that at times I wasn’t so sure what had happened first and it wasn’t simple to keep the timeline straight in one’s head.
The two characters are likeable. Christina cares deeply for her family and her friends (the fabulous and fiery Bonnie, I adore Bonnie, and Mandy, the common-sense and practical one) and tries her best to be grown-up and responsible, always allowing her sense of duty to dictate her actions (even when it means risking her self-esteem and sanity), but her insecurities are brought to the fore when she has to go back to Shanwick, where she had been badly treated. Riley wants Dina back, but he is also bitter and has insecurities of his own, and both of them hide secrets that mean there’s plenty of heartbreak and healing to be done.
As I mentioned, I enjoyed the variety of characters, especially the secondary ones, although as tends to happens in these novels, I also wanted to grab the two protagonists by their necks and shake them, telling them to stop being so silly and start being honest with each other.
There are some sex scenes, and although not erotica and not the most explicit I’ve read, I wouldn’t recommend it to people looking for a good clean and sweet romance. The couple are passionate and it shows.
The style of writing makes it easy to read and the dialogue sparkles at times, with characters having distinctive voices. Some of their expressions and quirks I won’t easily forget.
There were many unsolved questions by the end of the book and I look forward to learning more about the characters and their adventures.