Series: Study Abroad #1
Published by Peterson Paperbacks, LLC on January 22, 2016
Genres: College, Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
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VIVIAN BINGLEY HAS BIG PLANS FOR HER SEMESTER ABROAD IN SPAIN…
Along with her BFF, Maddie, Vivian hopes to indulge her inner Art History nerd by visiting the best museums in the world. She also wants to tackle more practical concerns—like a less than stellar GPA in her major, Economics—with the help of a Spanish tutor.
BUT FALLING FOR HER STUDLY SPANISH TUTOR ISN'T ONE OF THEM.
Madrileño Rafa Montoya is the stuff study abroad dreams are made of: super studly and super smart. He also happens to be super into Vivian. With his wicked dancing skills and his passion for the arts, he tempts her to throw caution to the wind and live out her wildest dreams.
Only problem? Maddie wants Rafa, too, and Vivian promised herself she’d never settle for second best again…not after a hookup-gone-awry last semester left her heartbroken. Is it best for Vivian to protect her heart at all costs? Or is letting Rafa in worth the risk?
This book is a New Adult contemporary romance, suitable for mature audiences.
If you can manage to read the first few chapters of Spanish Lessons and not feel completely immersed, you have no business reading this kind of book. Vivian was fresh, sassy and lacked confidence while Rafa was charming, passionate and sweeter than honey. This story reminds me why I love to read – it was new and exciting, the plot was well done while treading through a difficult romance trope. And the best part? Along with the excitement of new possibilities and a new city, there was depth. The main character’s struggle between want and longing was palpable, and they had to deal with this all while trying to make the decisions best for their lives.
Within those first few chapters, I knew I was going to love this story. From the descriptions we got of Vivian and her life, to the meeting of Rafa and their first night together, I loved every single second of it! The drinks, the dancing, the gorgeous Madrilenos acting as a tour guide and mentor, how couldn’t you love that? Jessica reminds you exactly how much fun it is to flirt and to meet new people, have new experiences, go on adventures that you never thought you’d take. The entire first night between Vivian and Rafa, I looked like the cat who got the canary. I had the biggest smile plastered across my face, heart swelling with joy and was genuinely excited to see into their world.
“And please, Vivian, call me Rafa.”
Rafa. It’s like a Spanish pirate name. A sexy Spanish pirate name.
I like pirates.
Something to not overlook here is also the relationships with the secondary characters. I am one hundred percent, all for girl power. I think every girl, teen, and woman should have at least one other they can talk to, be close with; especially through those new adult years. I loved the group dynamic between Vivian, Maddie, Katie, Laura and Rachel. They covered some important topics throughout, from trusting to honesty, confidence and breaking stereotypes.
Rafa. Oh sweet Rafa… He was absolutely perfect and everything you could expect this hero to be. He was beyond sweet, incredibly swoon worthy, sexy and romantic, trusting, patient, reassuring, just to list a few. He did a great deal for our heroine, from helping to build her confidence to getting her to calm down in an overwhelming situation. He could use his humour, his sweetness or even his understanding and know exactly what Vivian needed.
“Don’t think so much. And one night, when you have too much sangria, your Spanish will come.”
“I didn’t know sangria had such magical powers.”
Rafa shrugs. He takes a pull from his glass. “If it can make me dance like Justin Timberlake, then it can make you speak perfect Spanish.”
“What did you cry about?”
“At lunch today, I accidentally dipped my scarf in gazpacho and got it all over myself.”
“You cried about gazpacho?”
“If you haven’t noticed, I cry about a lot of stupid shit.”
“It is not stupid. Gazpacho stains!”
The writing of Rafa’s dialogue was on point. I don’t speak Spanish so that I cannot comment on, but the translations and he way he spoke English? That I can attest to. Canada is a bilingual country, and while I live in an English speaking area, I do occasionally travel to Quebec or speak with acquaintances from there. English is a tricky language to learn, and while Rafa has an excellent handle on it, there were moments where his English isn’t perfect. Whether the phrasing was backwards or missing a word here or there, it’s exactly how someone in this situation would speak. That, and I was picturing him in my head, speaking English with his accent, I was sitting here laughing. He is too damn cute. Even small details, like the fact that he did not use some of the trickier contractions in the beginning as his speech was a little more reserved and halted can really make a difference in authenticity.
Vivian seems like the kind of girl you just want to be your friend. She’s loyal to a fault, fun, sassy and witty. At first, I was off put by her reasoning to not pursue Rafa and see what happens, I didn’t understand how at twenty years old you were only wanting to look for forever love. But then I actually stopped to think about it, and to try and put in perspective where she was coming from. She would only be in Spain for five months, clearly enough time to fall for a guy like Rafa but then what? Fall for him, just to leave again? Rafa is the type of guy who would infiltrate your entire life, your thoughts and dreams; it would not be a simple task to let that go. At this point, I couldn’t imagine the struggle she must have been feeling. Between want and longing, but trying to protect herself from inevitable heartbreak in just a short time, it would have been exhausting and frustrating. When they were together, their chemistry was off the charts, and the sexual tension was thick enough to choke on. I can understand the decisions she made throughout the book. I was frustrated at times and didn’t want her to make those decisions, but I could understand them. It would be incredibly tough to try and make those choices, but she did believe she was doing what was best.
“And then he’s leaning down, pecking each of my cheeks. The scent of his aftershave hits me, hard, and my heart clenches. I want. Even though I can’t have, I want.
It could be my imagination, but I think he pauses for the tiniest half-second, his cheek brushing mine. A bolt of desire moves through my body. I don’t want to feel this way about Rafa. I can’t feel this way about him.”
Just a few other this to point out that I really enjoyed. The imagery: through a large portion, I felt like I could actually picture what these characters were doing, what they were seeing. This is pretty amazing considering the story takes place across the world! In a country I’ve never seen, in a culture I’ve never experienced. There was depth to every piece of description and with a little bit of imagination, you could have been standing along with Rafa and Vivian. The comparisons: it was between the use of smilies, metaphors and juxtaposition that helped Jessica create such exquisite imagery throughout Spanish Lessons. They were well done and precise, while giving you the exact information you needed to know. The cover: at first I didn’t really understand why the cover art was done with the finish it has. But art is a major part of this novel, and with the characters love and passion for this subject, I was quite satisfied with the cover after finishing. One of my favourite, most under used twists in the plot? It was straight forward! Everyone said what they were thinking, there was no big misunderstanding, no miscommunication between the characters that led to a fall out. If someone had something to say, they said it. For that fact alone, I applaud.
“In one, two strides Rafa is across the bathroom. He plasters his body against my body and takes my face in his hands and presses his hips into mine, a hot, hard, deliberate grind. A cry escapes my lips at all this sudden, searing contact; the onslaught of all this Rafa is overwhelming. The smoldering heat inside me sparks into huge, heady flames.
He angles his head, his breath warm on my mouth, and my eyes flutter shut. He’s killing me. He’s been killing me ever since I laid eyes on him my first night out in Madrid.”
Sign me up for some of that, please and thank you.
After all of this, I could only come up with one thing that bothered me, and it was relatively minor. I’m twenty two years old, so barely older than the heroine. I have not, nor can I imagine myself ever saying the phrases “I dig it.” Or “it’s bumpin’.”. They felt out of place for my tastes anyways, but what do I know? Maybe people actually say it. It was entertaining though, and did create some laughter. Thankfully they weren’t overused.
This story is a new light into the New Adult genre. When I first heard it compared to Stephanie Perkins and Cora Carmack, I cringed; that is a real tall order to live up to. At this point, I apologize for any doubt that I may have had. Jessica’s voice was the perfect blend between the two aforementioned authors that I adore. Sweet and funny, charming and sultry. I really did love this book. The characters, the voice, the setting. It was all balanced in harmony and draped with imagery to the point that I could see what they were seeing, feel what they were feeling. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.
On a side note, if I go missing for a bit, I’ll be in Spain. I’ve warned the other ladies here at TBB Sisterhood, so I think it’s a done deal now. I’m already blasting Hasta Que Salga El Sol by DJ Chino to get ready. Adios!
*ARC generously provided by the author for an honest review.