If You Stay by Courtney Cole (Beautifully Broken #1)
New Adult Romance
February 5, 2014
Reviewed by Mandi
When I was offered this book for review, I went to Goodreads to read the blurb and the first sentence, “24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.” was pretty much a guarantee I would read this one. I’m weak for an asshole hero. Well, I’m weak for a well done asshole hero. Like a well done steak, I want my asshole hero to cook for a long time. To really let that asshole-ness sizzle and then be redeemed at the end. Did Pax fit the bill? He has a great start, but may have fizzled a tiny bit towards the middle. Let me set up the story.
Pax is a rich, arrogant, drug addict (although he says he is not addicted, just uses drugs when he is stressed out…which is often). His mother died when he was seven, and when he reflects on the events of her death, he just sees a white haze. This will play out prominently in the story later. After his mother’s death, his father moved him to Chicago where Pax was raised by nannies and housekeepers. He now lives by himself at Angel Bay, on a lake in Michigan. He doesn’t really have many friends, spends most of his time alone, doing cocaine and drinking whiskey.
On one fateful night, after getting a blow job from his every trusty coked-out friend Jill, he keeps using and using and overdoses in his car which is parked right at the beach by the lake. By chance, artist Mila is there taking some photographs. Mila’s parents both died in a car accident when she was in college. Her sister took over running the family restaurant in Angel Bay and Mila has also stayed local, opening a shop selling her paintings which are popular with the tourists in the summer. As she is leaving her peaceful beach, she notices a a man half hanging out of his car. Rushing to him, she sees he has vomited and is barely breathing. She saves this stranger’s life this night, and curious to learn more about him, she visits him in the hospital.
Pax is stunned to find out he overdosed and his heart actually stopped beating for a moment or two. He also realizes he never properly thanked Mila for saving his life. He is so drawn to her – as he feels she all the good in the world he isn’t. They start a relationship, even though Mila is scared that Pax is going to go down that black abyss again. The one thing Pax must do is confront the hazy memories of what happened to his mother all those years ago.
The first 20-30% of this book is so raw and gritty and well done. Pax is on the track of devastation, not caring at all about himself. He uses drugs and women and the author gives it to us in such dark detail. She really holds nothing back about his character and I became a bit obsessed while reading it. After he overdoses and meets Mila, he wants to be a better person for her and she often tells him he can’t change for her, he can only change for himself. This is a very pivotal moment, at least in my eyes. Pax stresses that he only uses drugs when he can’t deal with life, that he doesn’t have to use them. But he has used them for so long, I expected continuing drug use to be a problem for him in this book. And it isn’t. He uses alcohol as a substitute of sorts, but I kept waiting for him to go find drugs and go at it again, and he doesn’t.
He has this recurring dream of what turns out to be a memory of how his mom died that his therapist tries to help Pax work through so he can finally come to terms to what happened to his mother that day (although his father knows yet has never told Pax. I think by age 24 I would be asking daddy to tell me). The therapist puts Pax under hypnosis and all of a sudden Pax knows every single detail and sentence that occurred that day all those years ago. Is this how hypnosis really works? I honestly have no idea, but it seemed like quite a vivid and detailed recollection.
So the second half of the book is Pax working through his mother’s death. I don’t’ know – I wish the author had dealt more with Pax’s out of control behavior. And yes, I understand he acted this way because of his mother’s death and he has to accept her death before he can be a better person. I just wanted it to be a little more dark and gritty in the second half. And I also felt it was odd that Pax gets dealt this huge news about his mother, and Mila gets angry when Pax freaks out and shuts everyone out of his life for a week. Yeah – I think anyone would. But Mila pushes him away and that didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
To summarize my rambling – I like this book. I liked Pax and Mila. I think all being revealed by hypnosis and Mila’s sudden anger while Pax struggled and deals with life was weak. There was a missed opportunity to really explore the dark depths Pax goes through at the end. Instead, the focus shifts more to how Mila is hurt because Pax pushes her a way which annoyed me. Still a pretty good story with a believable HEA.