Reviewed by Kini
“You’re the hero of this story,” he says, fierce and plain, the clearest he’s spoken since he sat down. “You were my rescue boat, Zo.” “Your— what?” “My rescue boat. I was on this island, all by myself, and you came to rescue me.” “Aiden, I’m not sure—” “The island is where I’ve been since he died. Or maybe it’s where I always was, but I used to have him there with me. He died and he took half of me with him, I guess, and damn if I didn’t know what to do. Damn if I didn’t feel like I’d die on that island too.”
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Beginner’s Luck, and I ABSOLUTELY adored Ben that hero. I am friendly with the author of these books, she is wonderful. I am in awe of her writing skills. This book is going at the top of my favorites list for 2018. The characters in this book are so very broken. They are mismatched, yet perfect for each other. This book took an emotional toll on me and covers some very heavy topics- guilt, grief, and anger are just a few, but I absolutely loved every single moment of it. Clayborn gave me a story of two imperfect and deserving characters who get together for the wrong reasons and quickly fall in love for all the best reasons.
Zoe, our heroine, is a an attorney who worked on settlements. She won the lottery with her two best friends and has been drifting since then. She was unhappy at her job and left promptly upon winning the lottery. She has been plans but can’t move forward on any. She’s stuck. She sees an article on a Pinterest type site about making a gratitude jar, but instead makes one filled with all the things she feels guilty about. All her wrongs if you will. She feels like she deserves to continue to carry this guilt because she’s sad and overwhelmed and just doesn’t know what else to do.
Aiden is a paramedic who has recently moved back to Virginia. He is grieving the loss of his brother who was an addict and died of an overdose. Aiden is shy and it comes out as gruff. But at his core he is a caretaker. Aiden wants to turn a camp in to a wellness recovery center as tribute to his brother.
Zoe and Aiden meet when she shows up at his house looking for his parents. They are in her guilt jar. The parents don’t live there, but Aiden is. He recognizes her as the attorney on the settlement from his brother’s death and he is angry. But Zoe faints. Aiden slips in to caretaking/paramedic role and so their story begins. He asks her to pretend to be his fiance for the bidding process on the camp he wants. Activate Fake Relationship trope!
This book worked for me on every level. I love emotional broken characters who work through their shit. But also this book was heavy and hard for me to read at times. There is a lot of grief related sadness in the book. So if grief is a trigger for you, this may not be the book for you. Grief and loss is hard for me to read, because it causes me to reflect on my own issues of grieving. So there were spots that I had to take breaks while reading, but it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book.
Zoe and Aiden are amazing characters on their own, but together they helped each other in so many ways. Both needed to learn that having a strong support network behind you helps you and is not a hindrance on your person.
The writing is superb in this book. I have so many passages and quotes highlighted. It is told in alternating, first person POV and I loved every moment of it. Everything felt luscious and real. The conflict is internal and external and it felt visceral to me. Everything about this book felt visceral to me.
Here are some more favorite quotes to help convince you to READ THIS BOOK.
Aiden about Zoe
Here’s the problem: I don’t feel the right things around Zoe. She’s supposed to be an enemy I’m keeping close, a tool I need to get something I want. But I don’t feel what she’s supposed to be to me; I haven’t since that first day.
He lifts his head, pushes himself up so he can kiss me again. “It’s like that with you,” he says. “Half the time I don’t know if I want to yell at you or fuck you.”
Zoe about Aiden
He pushes me too, and it feels good, that pushing, or at least it feels right. Necessary. But I don’t know how to explain it to them. I don’t know how to explain that fighting with him makes me feel as if I’m finally getting somewhere.
But all I see is Aiden, far below me, his arms still crossed over his chest. I feel something, when I look at him, some… I don’t know what. An exchange, I guess, something physical in his body that seems to charge my own. I can’t see his eyes, of course I can’t. But somehow I can. Somehow I can see him looking at me, challenging me, pushing me. It’s funny, how I once wanted to shrink under that stare. Funny how the first time he looked at me, really looked at me, I literally fell at his feet— sick, shamed, overwhelmed. But right now he’s looking at me and all I want to do is get bigger, get out of my cramped huddle against this pole and stand, rise to my full height, stretch out my arms, and reach that damned ball.
Last one, I promise
It’s so abrupt, so commanding, and I smile a little, a few tears that I’d held in springing out of the corners of my eyes. It’s that knife-edge feeling I get with Aiden, all the time, mixed-up emotions he brings right to the surface in me. Anger and lust. Frustration and sympathy. Fear and freedom. Lonely… and still, somehow, in love.
I loved everything about this story. The hurt, the sadness, the loss, the love, the intensity of the sex. There is a scene where they are camping and he pushes the beds together and the love making lasts for pages and pages and it was so beautiful and emotional. I highly recommend this book. Kate is a relatively new author, but after only two books she is an auto-buy author for me.