This was an odd choice, for me. I actually gave the book 4*, so it doesn’t fit into my usual criteria of 5* only books for Fangirl Friday, but…saying that, the story and characters have stayed with me. I’ve found myself thinking about the book from time to time, and I might give it a re-read next year, to see if I feel any different about it at another time. I enjoyed the characters, the relationship. I do still believe that had it been YA, without any sex scenes, and if the characters had been 16-18, it would have been a much better book, IMO. But, that’s just me. Have a read and let me know what YOU think.
True love stabs you in the front.
Nick Steele just wants a normal life, cliché or not. He had one once, back in Chicago. Before his father died and he took a year off from college to grieve. Now, he’s starting fresh at a prestigious—but tiny—Catholic university. Adjusting to small-town life will be a challenge, along with making friends and keeping his scholarship. All he wants to do is blend in, get his diploma, and go back home.
But Sebastian Prinsen—campus heartthrob and a notorious player—has other plans. He notices Nick right away and makes a bet with his two best friends: Who can kiss the new kid first? Nick seems immune to Sebastian’s charms, and yet genuine chemistry sparks between them. Even worse, real feelings do too. Sebastian falls more and more every time Nick blows him off, but if he comes clean about the bet, Nick will hate him forever.
The last thing Nick wants is to fall in love while he’s still grieving, but Sebastian feels like home to him. Nick wants that so badly he may ignore the warning signs and risk his fragile heart once more.
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
POV: 3rd person, multi-POV
Would I read it again?: Yes!
Genre: MM, Contemporary, Romance, College
Heat Level: ★★★☆☆
This is a strange one for me. There were definitely things I didn’t like about the book, but in overall terms, I actually really enjoyed the story. I’m going to be brief about the Why, because there’s a lot I can’t mention without spoiling the plot, so I’m going to keep to bullet point reasons for the Pros and Cons.
I’m starting with the cons, because I like to end on a good note, and my cons weren’t enough for me to lower my rating to a 3 star, though it was definitely swinging that way for a while.
I found aspects of the plot to be predicable – the miscommunications, Sebastian’s decision making, Theo and Dante’s entire relationship, and how the Nick/Sebastian relationship constantly ebbed and flowed from tentative to hostile. It was all a little too well scripted.
There was an inconsistency within the description and POV use. Some pointless details were overly descriptive, while scenes I wanted to know more about or explore were limited in description. Also, it took too long to understand why Theo and Dante included their POV, and oftentimes it wasn’t strictly necessary. It was also confusing to get to Chapter 3 and enter Sebastian’s POV, to read about Sebastian, Theo and Dante as if we know who they were, when we didn’t. Sebastian had literally never been named by a single character at this point, so I entered Chapter 3 feeling totally off balance and wondering/hoping that Sebastian was the “grey eyes” that Nick had been salivating over. A simple introduction on the previous page, when Sebastian and Nick met for the first time, would have saved that confusion and inconsistency.
Another inconsistency appeared in the “two weeks earlier” segment at 80%. Nick’s words about “strange scale” appeared *after* Theo’s clarification, when it had appeared *before* it when this scene first played out at 27%.
I found the “bet” aspect of the plot, and the behaviour of the main four characters to be far too juvenile at times, for their age. If this had been a YA novel, for teens, with teen characters, I would have believed every minute, but it wasn’t. Despite their behaviour, it had on-page drinking, sex, and 18+ material. If that had been removed and this marketed as a YA novel, I could have accepted the juvenile behaviour as totally normal for some 18 year olds in their last year of high school.
A stupid niggle that bothered me – unless they have some super smart phones I’ve never heard about, it would be impossible for Theo to say “I’m waiting for him to finish typing”. That’s not how texting works.
I felt a little cheated by the “two weeks earlier” trick. Like a murder mystery who reveals on the last page that the killer was someone who had never been mentioned or seen on-page before. I don’t see how including it at the appropriate time would have changed anything. Nick went in knowing he was likely to get his heart broken, and it was obvious Theo had a plan, and Nick knew from the first that Sebastian wasn’t being real or honest 90% of the time.
I also felt cheated by the fact that this wasn’t nearly what it implied it would be, in the blurb. Maybe I read it wrong, but I was expecting Nick to actually be immune to Sebastian’s charms. To honestly and truthfully be resistant to him, and to not fall for his tricks. But Nick was basically drooling the moment they cheesily locked eyes across the campus. I was expecting a push/pull, for Sebastian to have to work for Nick’s attention, but it felt far too easy right from the start.
Right, onto the good. There were definitely good things about the book. I know the “Cons” seem like a lot, but overall, I liked the story that was told.
As main characters; Nick, Sebastian, even Theo and Dante; were well fleshed out, well explored, and more real than first presented. They had hidden depths that were constantly being peeled back as the story progressed. I liked that Theo and Dante agreed how stupid the bet was right from the start. That Sebastian had an ulterior motive for it, that Theo saw the self-destruct in Sebastian. And even how Theo and Dante were trying to show Sebastian that he could be real and feel real things for a change.
Even the secondary characters were interesting and used well to push the plot, at times. Deen was a great characters, and a good friend for Nick. I liked how they interacted and how they supported each other. I also liked the exploration of Theo and Dante’s relationship.
I appreciated that the MC’s weren’t your typical, selfish, vain stereotypical rich kids, and that they all had a back story, a pile of baggage they were dragging with them, and that they were more than they first appeared, even to Nick.
I even appreciate that the author admitted the similarity of the plot throughout the story, to famous movies. They referenced movies like Mean Girls, John Tucker, and Cruel Intentions, with an open admission of how close they all were, without shying away from it. I appreciated that, even if it got a little frustrating at times to see how closely it linked.
And, in general, I liked that the plot was simplistic in a way that didn’t take a lot of effort. To some, that could sound insulting, but it’s not. I just mean that this is a contemporary romance plot, in a boarding school/college setting and it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. There’s teen/college drama, there’s angst, there’s teen-esque stupidity, and there’s a whole lot of bad decisions and misunderstandings. That’s kind of how college is meant to be, and I appreciate that it stuck to that. While these were rich kids, with lots of money and resources, it wasn’t some 90210 Hollywood Hills thing, with their money flaunted in every tiny way. It was more subtle than that, more realistic, and at times relatable.
So, while it may look like there were more Cons than Pros to this story, I had to sit and think about how it all came together, when I sat down to write this review. To decide that, there are a few important questions I needed to ask myself:
Did I ever think about stopping and not finishing?
No. Not once. At first, I was morbidly curious to see how it would all pan out, and if Nick was capable of resisting. By the time I stopped being “morbidly” curious, I was just downright sucked in.
Did I laugh-out-loud, cry, or feel anxious for the characters at any point?
Yes, I did. I cried at the fights, the break-up scenes, and the confessions. I held my breath, waiting to see what might happen. I could feel the chemisty and when it built only to explode in hotness. I laughed at the jokes and rolled my eyes when they did stupid things.
Was the story believable?
Yes, in a strange way, it was. Because kids are kids until they grow up and mature, so regardless of their age, these guys were just being stupid teenagers. They made bad decisions, rash decisions, and they hurt and felt pain and sulked when it didn’t turn out as they hoped. Yet, they talked like adults, eventually, and they maturely accepted responsibility when they were confronted with their own stupidity.
Eventually, I came to appreciate the story much more than the execution. I’ve had a bit of a hit-or-miss relationship with Quinn Anderson books; one I absolutely loved and one that I really didn’t get at all. This one is somewhere in the middle, for me. It wasn’t a 5* “I’m in love with this” book, but I did get it, I did feel it at points, and I did enjoy it. It’s a book I’d read again, and it has characters that had growth and originality, and who were able to get under my skin. A little like Sebastian crept under Nick’s. Gradually, slowly, sneakily.
“We’re having our second conversation about a boy we’ve never met, whom we’re supposed to kiss before our best friend can, all to win a battered plastic trophy with a decapitated doll glued to it. ‘Odd’ doesn’t live in the same state as this.”
“When I first looked at you, I saw Chicago. I saw home.”