Published by Delesty Books on July 6, 2016
Genres: Forbidden, New Adult, Novella
Mila Austin and her best friend, Lucas Gennery, made a pact: graduate college, return home, and start the rest of their lives … together.
One phone call changed everything.
Now, Mila is back in Radeno, Texas, lost and alone with an ache in her heart eased by the one person she shouldn't get close to—Lucas’s older brother, Ryan.
Grief bonds them, tethers them in a way Mila didn't see coming, and when it's time to let go, she's not sure if she can.
Because finally letting go of Lucas could mean losing Ryan as well.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but the first time is the hardest.
“Two people brought together in painful circumstances, finding solace in one another, realizing that maybe, just maybe, there was more than losing someone they loved between them.”
I’m going to start off by saying I’m usually not a fan of books where a character dies and the significant other starts a relationship with their sibling. I think in this case though it worked for me because the novella starts with the main characters having already heard about Lucas’s death – it didn’t start with a relationship between Lucas and Mila. Mila and Ryan then found common ground and understanding through their grief, which formed a strong bond between the two. This is completely understandable and an excellent place to start.
Ryan’s character really intrigued me. It was quite clear, even from the beginning, how misunderstood and judged he was. He was so lost and Lucas was the person who grounded him, idolized him even, when everyone else called him trouble. But when Lucas died, of course it’s going to get worse for Ryan. He found refuge in Mila, and her with him.
I really enjoyed the feelings of confusion, guilt and unease that the characters faced in order to move on with their relationship and develop feelings for each other. It felt genuine and as far as I can tell, they seemed to be portrayed well. The constant push and pull, wondering what would happen between these two and when, (or even IF they were going to be able to conquer everything and get together) was addicting. I picked this story up and didn’t want to put it down.
“Tell me to stop, Mila. Tell me that this is wrong, that you don’t want this. Tell me right now and I’ll stop. I’ll walk away.”
My mouth opened, but nothing came out. Ryan dipped his mouth lower until our lips were almost touching. He whispered, “I can’t fight this, Mila. I know I should, but I can’t.”
It seemed to me like Ryan was more emotional over Lucas’s death than Mila was. This could very well be the case, but his character expressed it more openly, where as Mila held everything inside and tended to become whiny and ‘woe is me’. Truthfully, I really can’t say anything bad about Ryan, I really liked him.
I really wish this was a full length novel. A lot of my problems about the story could have been worked out if this was the case, and all those holes in the story and relationship could be securely filled. I would’ve loved an entire book about these two, their dealings with grief and their guilt over the thought of a relationship before finally taking the plunge. I didn’t really care for the brothers, to be honest. They were nice add ons but it’s Ryan that interested me. Plus, I think there was even a bit too much information given away for the brother’s stories; you know most of their background already. I thought this novella was going to be the lead in to a series (which I guess is true, it still is) but I don’t really understand having it be a completely different couple that then won’t get to explore their own story.
“Tell me, Mila. Tell me you don’t feel it, and I’ll let you walk out of here.”
I felt it.
God, I felt it.
But I also felt the guilt churning in my stomach. The shame burning through me.
“Isn’t here, Mila. He isn’t here. He left us.” Warm lips pressed against my neck. “Before the funeral, you asked me not to leave. Now, I’m asking you to stay.” Ryan started a slow path to my ear, and my body started to respond, coming alive in his arms. “Stay, Mila. Stay with me.”
This is indeed a short novella, but it’s written to be packed with emotion. While I didn’t necessarily always believe the character’s emotions, towards the ending, the writing started to make up for it. There’s a few passages that I found not only extremely important, but beautiful as well.
I could keep Lucas alive in my heart, and I could love Ryan.
Lucas was my best friend, and I never wanted to forget him. But on the days when it all became too much, the dark days when I’d question the fairness of it all, they would be that much easier to bear with Ryan by my side.
Ryan could slowly piece my heart back together, but it didn’t mean replacing Lucas—or forgetting him. I would carry him with me, always. He was a part of my history.
But Ryan was my future.
At times the writing style was a little choppy and disjointed. Some sentences needed to be reworked and some ideas needed to be merged together. There were a few things I found to be a bit odd as well. There were countless times during this story where characters were being called by their full name; I’m talking first, middle and last. I get that (at least in my family) this can happen if someone is mad at or scolding you, but if this is the case, every single character was getting yelled at on every other page. The heroine – Mila – also spoke with a stutter. ***She doesn’t actually, but the way that her dialogue is written, it seems that way.*** I understand that she can be upset and sometimes, when emotional, you may not get everything out that you’re trying to say right away, but with Mila it seemed to be in almost every conversation.
“I – I don’t know”
“Yo – you can’t”
“I – I’m sorry”
“Ry – Ryan”
“Y – you’re leaving?”
This happens the entire time. I get that it’s an emotional time, but that doesn’t mean this has to happen on what seems like every page.
I have such an appreciation for authors that make a playlist to go along with their stories, so bravo to you LA Cotton. This list is absolutely stacked with awesomeness, so if you need to take a small break and set the scene, take a listen to some of these.
Don’t get me wrong, this book is definitely readable, but I think First Time is the Hardest could benefit from another run through with an editor. Yes I got an ARC copy, but I’d like to make sure those spelling, grammatical and structural errors are cleaned up before release.
Even though I wish it was longer, I did enjoy this story. It seems to have done its job considering now I’m intrigued for the rest of the brothers, hopefully starting with Chase’s story. Pretty please?
*An ARC was received from the author and IndieSage PR in exchange for an honest review*