I love a good girl/bad boy, opposites attract romance, so I was excited to dig into this one, but the blurb left out some very important information. As in, the hero makes a bet that he can get the heroine to cheat on her cheating boyfriend with him. That’s a lot of cheating, which is a MAJOR theme in the book – as are lies and unhealthy relationships. None of it paints the hero, the heroine, OR the hero’s friends (who are the stars of future books in the series) in a good light, and it just made me dislike every single character we encounter. I couldn’t root for this couple when it would mean rooting for cheating, and I definitely cringed over how fast this heroine starts swooning over a crass, cajoling guy – who really doesn’t care that she has a boyfriend. It was SO not what I was hoping for based on the blurb, and even Kennedy’s devourable writing style couldn’t keep me interested. And that’s a shame.
The story follows Cooper, a local who is fed up with all of the rich, entitled “clones” who frequent his small town. Their selfishness can make life toxic, and the differences between the townies and the clones has never been more obvious. So when a guy gets Cooper fired from his job, Cooper’s friends encourage him to get revenge by taking the man’s girlfriend and discarding her. Though Cooper initially assumes that Mackenzie is just like the other clones, he soon realizes that she’s actually pretty great. It’s not long before Cooper’s attempts to get Mackenzie into bed turn into something more, and Mackenzie finds herself falling for someone other than her boyfriend of four years.
Let’s talk about the good for a minute. Kennedy’s bingeable, banter-filled writing and the excellent audio narration kept me going in the first half. I was definitely intrigued by the premise, and the promise of a good guy underneath Cooper’s sex-obsessed exterior had me curious. I also liked the small town vibes, and the cast of characters held some hope for future books. Hope that was quickly dashed. The supporting cast ended up being AWFUL, and I really don’t see myself wanting to read any of their stories. The manhoe’s book is up next, a cliché second chance romance that extinguished any desire I have to continue the series, since he sleeps with everything that moves in this. And that’s part of the problem. So much of this felt cliché, tired, and overdone – we’ve moved past some of these tropes in recent years, but Kennedy has not. The cheating was a definite turnoff, but I probably could’ve overlooked it if other elements of the story had been more successful or there were characters to root for. There just weren’t. Ultimately, I’m left with a writing style I loved and a storyline that I hated, which makes this a very disappointing read.
The audio was excellent! It likely kept this from being a DNF for me, because both narrators did such a great job holding my interest. I’m always a big fan of Joe Arden, and Ava Erickson is quickly becoming one of my favorite female narrators. They both have easy voices to listen to, and their performances enhanced the story in a big way. It remains pretty light and easygoing, so the audio version works well for the office – and the romance is a slow enough burn that you won’t be overwhelmed by steam. There are a few open door scenes, but they’re brief and not until later on. The runtime of 10-11 hours was a little longer than I’d like for a workday listen, but if you speed up the narration a little, you’ll have no trouble finishing in a day. Overall, I wish the narrators had a better plot to work with, because it’s a well done audiobook that works great with the author’s style.
She does everything right. So what could go wrong?
Mackenzie “Mac” Cabot is a people pleaser. Her demanding parents. Her prep school friends. Her long-time boyfriend. It’s exhausting, really, always following the rules. All she wants to do is focus on growing her internet business, but first she must get a college degree at her parents’ insistence. That means moving to the beachside town of Avalon Bay, a community made up of locals and the wealthy students of Garnet College.
Twenty-year-old Mac has had plenty of practice suppressing her wilder impulses, but when she meets local bad boy Cooper Hartley, that ability is suddenly tested. Cooper is rough around the edges. Raw. Candid. A threat to her ordered existence. Their friendship soon becomes the realest thing in her life.
Despite his disdain for the trust-fund kids he sees coming and going from his town, Cooper soon realizes Mac isn’t just another rich clone and falls for her. Hard. But as Mac finally starts feeling accepted by Cooper and his friends, the secret he’s been keeping from her threatens the only place she’s ever felt at home.
About the Author:
A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, ELLE KENNEDY grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and is the author of more than forty romantic suspense and contemporary romance novels, including the international bestselling Off-Campus and Briar U series.
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