Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them.”
Jessica Sweet doesn’t want to go home to her uber religious parents for the summer but her sublet won’t be available for her to move into for a week. When she is unable to stay with a friend, her nemesis, the sexy cocky Riley Mann, offers her a place to stay with him.
Riley has enough going on with trying to keep custody of his younger brothers, he doesn’t need a ditzy debutante cramping his style, but he also can’t leave her with no place to live. As Jessica and Riley spend more time together, they realize that their first impressions of each other were wrong and soon they fall into a comfortable routine that develops into deeper feelings. But while Jessica has never had a problem sleeping with a guy, she doesn’t know how to handle a relationship without sex.
Jessica finds herself in a difficult position concerning her future and Riley when her parents find out about her deception. Can she let go of her fears or will she lose the only man for her?
Sweet is a sexy, romantic, emotional coming of age new adult that uses a different approach to the defining romance than the usual NA offerings. Crisp writing, indulgent humor, and a smooth flowing storyline makes it incredibly easy to become fully invested in this book. Heavily character driven, we are instantly engaged with our hero and heroine from first contact. Jessica, our heroine, was first introduced in book one, True. She, along with a friend, set up their roommate Rory to lose her virginity to her now boyfriend, Tyler Mann. Jessica has issues in that she is unsure of her place in the world. Her ultra conservative religious parents place unrealistic expectations on her and punish her when she realistically fails. Because of this, Jessica doesn’t place a lot of value on herself. With an innate fear of rejection, a friends with benefits relationship works better for her. She has no expectations and can’t be disappointed or more importantly, can’t disappoint anyone. This is not to say she has no respect for herself, because she does in spades. She doesn’t take any crap about the way she lives her life.
“I don’t need to be judged, Riley.”
She is strong, intelligent, loyal, and honest. She also has an incredible amount of snark that makes for some funny scenes.
“You think the air freshener smells worse than this room did?” I was in awe. In my opinion it already smelled better from the ocean breeze mister and the air blowing in through the open window.
“This thing smells like dead old lady.”
I laughed. “It’s called ocean breeze.”
“No ocean I’ve ever been to smelled like that.”
“How many oceans have you been to?”
He grinned. “None.”
“Have you smelled dead old lady?”
Riley is a fascinating contradiction in his make up. He is just like Jessica in some key ways. He too is loyal, intelligent, and honest. He works hard and has had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders for years. He and his brother Tyler protected their younger brothers from their mom’s drug addiction while struggling to keep her from killing herself. Now with his mother gone and Tyler’s drug arrest, he is having to go for custody of the boys all by himself. The reason I say he’s a contradiction is that the persona he shows the world doesn’t match what’s inside. Gorgeous, tattooed, with a cocky ego, you instantly think he’s a player but that is the furthest thing from the truth and in this way he and Jessica are very different. Riley doesn’t believe in sex just to scratch an itch. No friends with benefits. No one night stands. Riley believes sex should only occur between two people after they have developed a relationship that has a chance of going somewhere.
“I rolled my eyes. “So having sex now, pre-relationship or dating, would have made us friends with benefits and we can’t have that.”
“No! We’re not actually friends, you know. You can’t be friends with someone you want to have sex with, you just can’t.”
“You’ve been saying we’re friends all week! So if we’re not really friends, then you want me to be a booty call, clearly.”
“No, damn it. A booty call is someone you just have sex with, nothing else. No hanging out, no conversation. You just text and make plans to hook up.”
“I’m guessing you don’t spend the night either.”
“No, of course not.” He sounded frustrated, which was exactly how I felt.
“You’ve given this so much thought it scares me.” I tossed my magazine on the floor and myself on the bed. “You’re worse than a girl and I’m done with this conversation.”
McCarthy builds the romance between Jessica and Riley very slowly. Though their chemistry is apparent from the beginning, they both struggle with their friendship; especially Jessica as this is uncharted territory for her. Jessica is confused by Riley’s no sex edict and finds herself struggling not to fall back into her old habits.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
In the dark room, he leaned over and gave me a half smile. “Vodka happens. No big deal.”
That wasn’t what I meant. I was trying to tell him that I was sorry for being me.
Watching them each let down their barriers and let each other in was interesting to watch. McCarty uses their personalities to show us that even with their much different backgrounds, they are more similar than they first imagine. I liked that they communicated their feelings to one another and neither let the other get away with deflecting. Though the romance remains the main element of the storyline, McCarthy intertwines it with the multiple plot lines, using them to further develop Jessica’s and Riley’s relationship and guide it along the path to love.
“I want to be important to you. Special…Do you know how stupid I feel saying that? I think my balls just dropped to the floor.”
Character development is at a premium as we watch Jessica and Riley grow and become more comfortable with themselves without changing the basic elements that makes them so enjoyable. I liked that neither felt they really had to change in order to be with each other. The changes they make are internal and are more reflective than extreme. Riley’s love for his family is heartwarming and Jessica fills a void he didn’t even know existed. Jessica learns to love herself and to stop trying to please everyone else.
Though we don’t see as much secondary character interaction in here as we did in True, we still get some moments with Tyler, Rory, and of course, Riley’s mischievous brothers. All of them add depth, humor, and realism to the story. I enjoyed watching the grand reveal between Jessica, Riley, and Tyler. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have reacted in that situation. It does give Jessica some insight into Riley and herself. She learns that her actions have consequences regardless of her intentions. Riley learns that snap judgments are not cool and sometimes you shouldn’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers.
Sweet is a wonderful love story that takes us on a journey filled with love, laughter, growth, and angst to led us to a respectable HFN. Though some may be incredulous at the ending, I found it keeping in the way Riley thinks. McCarthy continues to entertain with the second installment of True Believers series. She also includes a brief look at book three, Believe, which releases in January 2014.
Overall Rating: B