Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Six months is nothing when considering the potential of forever without you”
Soccer goalie Rachel Jameson is in her last year at Glendale College. After surviving an abusive home life, Rachel has her sights set on graduating and moving forward with her life.
Until she meets Mack.
With his gorgeous looks and flirty smile, he pushes his way past her boundaries and into her life with a speed that surprises them both. Rachel finds herself falling in love for the first time in her life.
Until she discovers exactly who he is.
Forced to abandon their romance before it really starts, Rachel’s carefully structured life begin to spiral out of control as she struggles to repair her broken heart. When it looks like she may lose Mack for good, Rachel has to decide whose future means more. Hers or theirs.
Jillian Liota’s debut book, The Keeper, is a contemporary romance with a faint NA feel that flirts with a taboo romance and other serious subject matters. Fans of Zapata’s Kulti will enjoy as it has a similar premise. Told in the first person narrative, Liota builds a humorous, engaging, and bittersweet story that focuses on a college student whose carefully scripted life is blown to pieces when she unknowingly falls for an unsuitable man. While I’m not fond of 1st person narrative, Liota does an excellent job of not only characterizing Rachel but also the supporting characters. Solid writing, a strong cast, and addictive dialogue keeps you engaged as you watch this young woman’s life fall apart in a way that forces her to finally deal with issues she buried long ago.
Rachel Jameson is a college goalie whose older brother plays professional soccer. A born athlete, she grew up playing male dominated sports which only served to fuel the abuse her father heaped on her. Finally out from under his thumb, thanks to an athletic and academic scholarship, Rachel keeps her head down and focuses on her goals.
At a party her brother throws, she meets a mysterious man who pretends she is his girlfriend to help guard him against an overzealous party goer. They strike up a conversation, the witty banter between them and they end up on a balcony screaming to the stars. This meet cute sets the stage that begins to bring Rachel out of her shell and show us the real Rachel.
Mack is everything Rachel likes in a person and that scares her to death. Their chemistry is soft but potent, illuminating that instant zing some couples get at first meeting. Only one date and Rachel is hooked until she discovers he’s been hired as one of the team’s new soccer coaches. Liota handles this reveal well. She expertly voices all that Rachel is feeling.The hurt, pain, sorrow, anger, confusion, and sense of betrayal all flows true. We feel it right along with Rachel.
“I know that it’s way to fast, way to soon to let my heart get this emotionally involved. I don’t let my heart get involved. I’m not this person. We went on one date. We kissed one time. But God, there was something special there. Something really special.”
I will admit I was a little skeptical that Rachel didn’t recognize this man when they first met. He was a former soccer star who not only played on the same team as her brother but is good friends with her brother.
Rachel was very easy to relate to. A bit of a nerd; her intelligence, common sense, and dry snark shines through in all her actions and dialogue. Though introverted, she doesn’t roll over for anyone. She speaks her mind quite often. She’s a fighter-a bet a quiet one. Her strength is phenomenal but it’s the flashes of vulnerabilities she reluctantly shows that grab hold of the reader. Liota captures the essence of a 22/23 year old perfectly.
“Jeremy thinks you can go pro.”
“Jeremy also thinks the Black Eyed Peas are the Beatles of our generation. He’s been known to think stupid things.”
Mack is the perfect guy. As we see everything through Rachel’s eyes, her views of him are flavored by prejudice. He comes off gorgeous, kind, funny, and seemingly very into Rachel. I liked how she was with him. More open and self-confident. He makes her feel safe and wanted, something she didn’t even realize she wanted or needed. Liota doesn’t give their romance an instant fix nor fuel it with heavy bouts of angst and over the top dramatics. Rachel and Mack both have issues that need addressing and some tough decisions to make. Especially Rachel. But they communicate this to one another with all misconceptions clearing up in a reasonable amount of time. Rachel finally opens up completely about the abuse and her resulting behavior. I liked that Liota not only brings in a therapist but we get to see some of their sessions. Often the subject is broached but it fades to black and suddenly the person in question is fixed.
A strong and dynamic cast of friends and family are all on board as they offer advice, laughter, a shoulder to cry on, and some needed kicks in the butt. Rachel’s bff Charlie is a vivacious addition who always has Rachel’s back along with Rachel’s fellow team mates.
“You have to get it out of your head your worthless, RJ. You’re anything but, and it sounds like this guy knows it.”
Her brother Jeremy is a good guy and your heartbreaks a little when he realizes just what Rachel went through when he left home. Apparently, there is a little something-something between Charlie and Jeremy and their story will be told in Keep Away.
Liota’s debut The Keeper is definitely a “keeper.” Some mild grammar issues aside, I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.