Reviewed by Kini
Blurb: I was born a fighter. You had to be, to survive in Camden. Lucky for me, I loved it. The thrill, the pain, the glory. Until one night things went too far and I almost lost my ticket out.
So I swore off fighting. Never again. No matter how much I wanted it.
I went to college. Got a degree. A job on Wall Street. Yet I still wasn’t smart enough to stay away. So now I’m back. And it’s just as bad as I remember.
Enter Dr. Susan Jones, superstar neurosurgeon. She’s brilliant, she’s sexy and she’s a pain in my ass. I can’t get enough and she’s too busy for a relationship. She wants to hook up, get off, go home. She doesn’t have time for a thug from Camden. But she keeps coming back.
This place brings out the worst in people. Every day it threatens the project I’m working on, the plans I’m making. Every day it drags me down just a little more, until the hands I vowed to keep clean start itching to get dirty.
If I don’t start fighting for what I want, I’ll wind up with nothing.
I didn’t come back to Camden for nothing.
I came back to start something. And when people hurt the things I care about, the gloves come off.
I adore this author’s voice. She has been an auto-buy for since I first discovered her. Earlier this year I made one of her heroes, Crosby, a book boyfriend. The hero from this book, Oscar “Oz” Hall has joined my growing list of book boyfriends. This is the third in a series, I recommend the previous two, but this can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.
This book is told entirely from Oz’s POV. I don’t read enough books that are strictly from the hero. It was a nice change of pace. Oz is what I would describe as a betay-alpha. I love the betas. He grew up in a poor suburb of Chicago. After college he moved to New York and had a great job as an accountant. But he felt a calling to return to his hometown, kind of as a way to prove to himself he was more than that. Oz is fairly alone in the world, he lost his family a while back. Oz also seems to suffer from what I would diagnose as anxiety and is filled with self-doubt. He is somewhat tortured and I LOVED him.
Oz is just kind of floating in his life. Back in Camden he runs an accounting firm and has a wonderful assistant, Jade, who deserves to have her story told. But back to Oz. Camden is a what could be described as a food desert, particularly in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables. Because of this he goes to Chicago to buy all his produce. On one of the visits he is assaulted by a display of watermelons and injures his wrist. The employees force him to go to the hospital. At the hospital he meets the beautiful Dr. Susan Jones.
“Everything about her is sharp, no-nonsense and entirely uninterested. I’m interested.”
Dr. Susan Jones is the sister of Caitlin Dufresne from the previous book. Susan is a surgeon and comes off as a little cold and aloof. She is brilliant, but lacks people skills. Even as Oscar is immediately drawn to her, he recognizes that she may not be as drawn to him.
Because something tells me that Dr. Jones is used to getting exactly what she wants, when she wants it and I am not that guy. I want a fight, and if I am not mistaken, she could use one too.
As Oscar leaves the hospital, he sees Susan getting a horribly sugar-filled coffee drink and he chats her up. He recognizes she isn’t ready to think about dating him but he doesn’t give up hope. He bides his time and the next time he is in Chicago he times it so that he might run into her. Not in a stalker way, but in the hopes that he might be able to say hi to her. Oscar invites Susan to go to a restaurant his college roomie runs with a rooftop bar. Oscar realizes that Susan may be interested in him. They kiss. It’s hot, but Oscar takes it down a notch.
It’s because it wouldn’t be enough, and for the first time in years I’m feeling the piece of me I’ve tucked away for so long stir to life. It’s like that marshmallow test,… I am a thirty-four-year old man and I want all the marshmallows.
I am pretty sure this is when I fell in love with Oscar.
After the visit to the restaurant with the roof top garden, Oscar asks Susan on a proper date to have dinner at said bar. She stands him up. I was so upset with her. Oscar was so upset with her. Perhaps I would relate to the way that he was angry with her and would not respond to her calls and texts.
“I’ve never been so fucking angry in my life.”
Then as his ignoring her continues, she continues to try to apologize.
“She’s the absolute worst. I hate her.”
Within the context of the book and what happened, his anger is well deserved.
Of course he and Susan patch things up. Susan lights a fire under Oz’s butt to start this green space he has dreamed of for Camden. It is a great project. Along the way this allows for the relationship between Oz and Susan to grow. It is a tough road for them. There are some up and downs. But their love had a realness about it that just made me love them both so much. Oz’s betaness comes out in scenes like this-
For a long while we just lay like that, side by side, spent and sweaty, and I feel around between us until I find her hand. I squeeze lightly and she presses our palms together, linking her fingers through mine. And then we just hold on.
Oz is tortured. His father died when Oz was a baby. He lost his mother and sisters in a tragedy. His only friends are the guys at the gym where he works. He seeks solace in this green space he builds. His life is messy. He wants to fight and wants to be challenged, but he is afraid. Susan challenges him. Makes him question who the real Oscar/Oz is. Does he have to choose? Can he be both?
There is a lot going in this book, but I loved almost every moment of it. There is a tiny bit of suspense thrown in that I could have done without, but it leads to the big conflict. Susan and Oz both handle things inappropriately throughout the book. Life is messy, love is messy and but love is worth the mess, or at least the author made me believe in their love in this book. I highly recommend this book.