Published by Swerve on November 1st 2016
Genres: College, Contemporary, Romance
Buy on Amazon
Bianca Easton is the perfect senator’s daughter.
Law school? Check.
Camera-ready smile? Check.
A dull and boring existence? Double check.
But that was before. Before she lost her best and only friend in a tragic accident. Before she found that friend's unfinished bucket list. Definitely before she turned her life upside-down by deciding to stay in New York for six months to finish it.
It's while she's checking off her first item on the list--buy coffee for a stranger--that she meets Ian Mathis. Between the tattoo sleeve curling up his right arm, his guitar-roughened fingertips, and the secrets shadowing his past, he's a complication Bianca doesn't need but desperately wants.
With every item they cross off the list together, Bianca uncovers a piece of herself that she's buried under what's expected, all the while breaking her own rules by falling hard for Ian. But when her six months run out, Bianca has to decide if she's willing to risk her empty but picture-perfect life for a chance at real, messy love.
I’m going to be quite honest. I have no expectations when I receive an ARC, especially from an author that I’ve never read before. When I received this one, I checked out the blurb and was intrigued. It sounded like a nice contemporary romance, good deal. Wow, I got way more than I bargained for.
The first 15% was AMAZING. I instantly fell in love with Bianca and Ian. My heart hurt so badly for Bianca with the loss of her friend and the lack of emotional support from her parents. What better way to try to heal your heart but to finish her friend’s bucket list with a hot and sexy stranger?
After that things started to seem really familiar to me. There were some very distinct themes going on that I felt reflected another book that I’ve read, one of my all time favorite books to be exact. I was put off and wasn’t sure if I was going to keep going. But I pushed myself knowing that if I was going to provide an honest review, I owed the author to at least finish it.
Wow, I’m so glad that I did! What both Bianca and Ian went through was heart wrenching. When we first meet Ian, we are under the allusion that Bianca is the one with all the struggles. Nope, not even close. In flashbacks to Ian’s past we learn who Ian was before. This may make people feel a little uncomfortable because Ian was very much in love with his high school girlfriend. But it was a beautiful tale, one I’m glad that I got to experience.
Bianca starts to realize that Ian is two very different people. With her he is reclusive, sad even. But around his brother and friends he’s a happy go lucky kind of guy. Even though Bianca and Ian have agreed to keep things casual, we start to see both of them break their own rules.
There were times that I wanted to rate this book a 3, and there were times I wanted to rate this book a 5. I decided that this book was powerful enough to stand on its own, and not to be compared to the book that I mentioned before. It was beautifully written and I’m very excited to see more from this series as I loved all the characters that we met along the way.
**ARC provided in exchange for an honest review**
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“I didn’t mean to wake you.”
He ruffled a hand through his hair. “Did we . . . have plans?
No,” I said, hugging the Chinese food to my chest and suddenly feeling like a huge idiot for showing up here unannounced. “No, I just thought I’d . . . surprise you.”
With one hand on the door, he leaned toward me and sniffed. “Chinese food?”
“Yeah.” I passed him the bag and shoved my empty hands in my pockets. “I should’ve called, I’m sorry. I can just . . .” I hitched a thumb over my shoulder.
“What?” Ian stepped back and pushed the door open farther. “No, come in. Sorry, I’m still half-asleep. Don’t mind me.”
Tossing a glance at him over my shoulder as I walked by, I headed for the kitchen. “I like your glasses.”
“My what? Oh.” His hand darted up to touch them, and he smiled at me sheepishly. “Forgot I had them on. I feel like such a dork in them so I never wear them out.”
“Really?” I made a concerted effort to try and calm my pulse, which was thrumming out an unsteady rhythm. “I dunno. I think they’re kinda sexy.” My eyes shifted from the floor to his face, then back again.
“Yeah?” A smile peeked out from between his lips, and his hand drifted up to rub against the back of his neck. The lean muscles across his chest and stomach rippled with the motion. I definitely wasn’t going to ask him to put a shirt on this time.
I nodded, glancing around his kitchen at the cherry cabinets. “Where do you keep your plates?”
“Plates?” He gestured off to the left. “Over there.”
I had to reach for them, and my still-sensitive skin protested the stretching. I winced, and switched hands, reaching with my right rather than my left.
“Not really.” I pushed two plates across the kitchen island toward him. “Just managed to cross off another item on my list.”
His forehead crinkled, and then his eyes sharpened. “You got a tattoo? Without me?”
“I texted you, but you were busy.”
“Right.” The small frown was momentary and gone almost as soon as it appeared. “So, let’s see it.”
Grasping the edge of my shirt, I pulled it up, leaning back against the counter behind me. The tattoo was just visible beneath the edge of my very unsexy sports bra, but my skin was still too tender for anything with lace and underwire.
His thumb skimmed over my ribcage. “I carry your heart,” he read, his finger pausing on the very far edge where a tiny, purple and blue lily was inked, looking like it was plucked straight out of a watercolor painting.
“It’s part of this poem Renée used to have hanging on the wall. When she was little, that’s what she wanted to do—poetry. Except she was never any good at it. Horrible, really. Her mom pulled out her old school stuff once and showed me—” Ian’s thumb landed on my lips, and it wasn’t till I looked up with him that I realized my eyes were swimming in tears.
I took in a shuddering breath, trying to tamp down my feelings. “That line doesn’t just remind me of her, it’s the truth. Renée’s always with me.”
Ian nodded, his fingers skimming over my cheek to tuck a stray strand of hair behind my ear. “You miss her.”
His eyes squeezed shut. “Every day.”
I cleared my throat. “So, what do you think?”
His hands circled my waist. “Pretty risky spot to pick for your first. Had to hurt like hell.”
“It did.” A nervous laugh slipped out, my heart pounding so hard it was a wonder he couldn’t feel it. Then again, maybe he could.
I invaded his space, setting my fingers on the image of the raven that covered his right ribcage. “I can’t even imagine sitting for something like this. Talk about pain.” The bird was captured in mid-flight, wings stretched high so that the tips of its feathers nearly reached his armpit, while the claws curled just above the start of his V muscle that swooped up like a waiting branch.
“I’ve dealt with worse.”
It was the flat way he said it, like all the emotion had been leeched out of him and there just wasn’t an ounce left to put into those words. We weren’t talking about tattoos anymore. My hand flattened against his side, and his skin burned hot against my always cold fingertips.
“Ian.” I don’t know whether it was a statement or a question, or if it was a question, what in the world I was asking, but it seemed to do the trick. His eyes shifted up to mine, brimming with a pain that was so evident, I wanted to do nothing more than erase it.
I rocked up onto my tiptoes, sealing my lips over his, and letting my hand drift up the expanse of his chest to curl around the back of his neck. He didn’t fight me when I pulled him down to me, and his tongue took no time finding its way into my mouth to taste me. I tasted him right back—a hint of spearmint, like he’d brushed his teeth right before slipping into bed.