on November 15, 2016
Genres: College, Forbidden, New Adult, Sports Romance
Soccer goalie Rachel Jameson is in her final year at Glendale College on academic and athletic scholarships. It’s quite the achievement for a young woman who grew up in a home filled with drunken abuse, who barely made it out of high school alive.
But she’s smart, dedicated, and has her eyes set on that cap and gown next spring. Nothing’s going to get in the way of a hard-fought battle for the freedom and independence she’s so desperately craved.
Until she meets Mack.
He stumbles into her world with a flirty smile and warm eyes – a man that pushes Rachel out of her comfort zone and into his arms. Their chemistry is swift and undeniable, and soon after meeting the two recognize the depth of their connection.
But an unfortunate circumstance forces the two to abandon their romance before it has truly begun. Rachel’s carefully planned life begins to shake like an unstable house of cards, and when she risks losing Mack completely, she has to decide what’s more important.
Just a quick tip: remember to stay away from juice cleanses. Even when you think it’ll be good for you, it won’t. I promise. I mean, no, I’ve never actually tried one, and no, I don’t live in SoCal so it’s not a regular thing where I’m from, but I haven’t heard great things. And after reading The Keeper, you’ll agree. 😉
I think there’s a chance that some people might classify this story as instalovey, but I’d honestly disagree. Think back to the time you were 21 years old (I’m only 23, so maybe that’s why I don’t think about it as instalovey) and remember how it felt to meet someone new who you just instantly clicked with. Someone who has your sense of humour, an infectious smile, and clearly wants to know you better. Think back to how you felt when going on a first date with this someone new. To that first kiss. Butterflies, that’s what you remember, right? Right. Butterflies, nervous smiles, clammy hands, it happens! I know 21 is suppose to be full on ‘adult like’, but come on, sometimes you just have to gush a little tiny bit like a teenager. I know I still do! Okay, back to instalove. So these reactions seemed completely normal and kind of expected to me. I LOVE reading about them in books because it makes the characters feel more genuine if they’re having genuine feelings that we as readers can relate to. And if the first date goes well, you have a strong connection and can just feel it, all the power to you! Who doesn’t want that and those feelings? And it doesn’t even have to be in a guy. Think of the first time you met you best friend. The first time you hung out together. Thinking back on myself, my BFF from college (and currently!) and I clicked in a second and we have the best time together, so I wholly believe it can be like that for couples to. Either way, call it what you wish, but I loved it. I was so extremely giddy when reading the opening chapters that I felt like I was experiencing everything right along side of RJ and that’s a pretty awesome response for an author to get out of me. I had all of the butterflies.
So yes, this story is about soccer (did you get that from the blurb? :P), and obviously there’s something that tears these two apart, but I promise it is so not what you expect. At the beginning I found it to have a bit of a Scoring Wilder-esque vibe, but that could be simply for the fact that I read that book for the first time last week. Anyways! The Keeper moves on and distinguishes itself in such a different manner, other than that brief moment at the beginning, I never had this thought again. They are completely different story’s about vastly different topics. It’s mostly just the sport and location that are the same.
I get distracted easily, so it’s pretty unheard of for me to actually sit down and read nonstop. I picked up this book late one afternoon, read, had dinner, read, messaged one of the other blog girls about it, read some more, and then it was done. WHAT?! This never happens to me! I became so immersed, my entire night disappeared. I did nothing, I ignored my family, I simply had to read RJ and Mack’s story. And with this being said, obviously I enjoyed the writing if I devoured the entire book that quickly. It flows well, the transitions are smooth and precise. I will warn readers that it is only told from the heroine’s POV but I honestly don’t think you’re missing out on anything. You learn exactly what’s going on and what Mack is thinking regardless of getting his POV or not, and with how complicated the storyline is already, I think it was a smart move to stick with the sole point of view.
This is a little weird, but a lot of times I felt like I was actually in RJ’s head. I kid you not. Some of her reactions, would have matched perfectly with mine in the same situation. There were a few times when other characters had some explaining to do and she took the questions and accusations right out of my mouth. A lot of the time, however I wanted a character to react, speak, feel, that’s what happened! It was so odd but so cool at the same time. I can’t get over how real it all felt to me. Any questions or concerns I had about a character’s motives or past were all answered. And I actually really appreciated this aspect along with the story line – the relationship between the main characters wasn’t forced just because that’s what other authors do or because it’s a romance. It’s organic. *Full disclosure, because I know some people get pissy with no sexy times. — The Keeper has no sex, but damn you can’t say there isn’t sexy times. Like… Friction… Or rolling around in the floor in an apartment doorway, for example. Yeah, I wouldn’t kick Mack out of my doorway either, just saying.*
This story put me through the freaking wringer I tell ya! My emotions were all over the place. Up, down, side to side, over, under, everything. I was in love, I was happy, I was overwhelmed, I was heartbroken. One thing I can really appreciate though is well thought out angst and no, I know not everyone agrees with me on this but I love when an author can pull such a raw emotion out of a reader from just words on a page and Jillian does just that! Angsty goodness, I’ll gobble up every word. And forbidden! Be still, my beating heart. Why do these authors do this to me? Because I freaking love every second of it. <3 What’s even better though is when an author can find the perfect balance of angst to sweet/funny/tender moments to break up all the heavy stuff. I think Jillian worked hard and achieved this balance.
I’d say The Keeper is nothing short of dramatic, so be prepared for quite the ride. But other than dramatic, you know what else? It’s SO. DAMN, GOOD! The Keeper is jam packed with an intense storyline, a tender love story and secrets that will break your heart. In one word, this book is ADDICTING.
I know I mentioned before how at times this book is heartbreaking but man, you have no idea. The past these two both had and the demons that they’re carrying, you’d never expect it from the beginning. I loved how they both not only had issues but struggled with them and knew they needed to be addressed. Nothing could help them if they weren’t open, so one of my favourite aspects was that both Mack and RJ were honest with each other, 100%. For the most part, anyways *insert devil smirk*. But really, even early on in their relationship (and all the way through) or when the truth was hard to hear, they were always honest about what they were to each other, their feelings, thoughts, emotions, all of it. And I think this was a subtle but very important part of the story.
It’s always a bit of a gamble when reviewing ARCs because you don’t know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it unfortunately doesn’t. But talk about diamond in the rough with Jillian Liota! I’ve read 160 some odd books so far this year, and approximately 35 of those have been 5 stars. Out of those 35, 5 Star reads, 15 of them have been ARCs and I’m glad to say that The Keeper is without a doubt one of those 15! I finished with a gigantic smile in my face.
The only thing that upset me about this book was the fact that when I finished reading it, I went to Amazon to buy a print copy for my shelf *cough* library *cough* and there is none! WHY AMAZON GOD’S? Is this too much to ask? Really? Jeez.
Please just read it. Read it now. I beg you.
The doorbell rings at 12:45. Having been ready and wandering aimlessly around our apartment for nearly an hour, I come flying down the stairs with such energy that I nearly slip on the tile near the entry.
“You expecting someone?” Charlie asks from the living room.
“Yeah, kind of,” I respond, before wiping my hands on my jeans, blowing out a breath and opening the door.
He stands there smiling in Chucks, jeans, and a faded Ramones t-shirt holding a… dead flower?
“Uhm… hi,” I say, unsure how to proceed.
“Hey. This is for you,” he says handing the shriveled up flower to me.
A choked laugh escapes me as I start to reach out to take it from him.
“I’m not sure what to say. You shouldn’t have?”
He laughs and chucks the dead flower into the bushes next to our door.
“It was a joke, RJ. You said you’re awkward at dates, so I thought I would start it off awkward to alleviate the stress.”
I raise my eyebrows.
“And a dead flower is…”
“Hey, if I can’t wow you with some glamorously expensive meal, I at least have to try and make you laugh. Don’t tell me I totally ruined everything already.” His facial expression is twisted into mock seriousness, and I can’t help the smile that blooms on my face. He leans forward, his forearm resting on the doorjamb, his face just inches from me. “There it is.”
“That smile,” he responds, his eyes focusing on my mouth. He’s so close to me that I swear we’re breathing in each other’s air.
I bite my lip to keep from giggling like a mental patient, and glance down at my bare feet before summoning the courage to look him directly in the face again.
“Wanna come in? I still have to put my shoes on.”
He nods and follows me into the living room, where Charlie is currently curled up in her pajamas watching reality TV, nursing the remains of her hangover.
She flicks her eyes to me for only a second when we walk into the room, but then double-takes when she realizes I’m not alone.
“Charlie this is Mack. Mack, my roommate, Charlie.”
“Nice to meet you,” Mack says, nodding at her.
Charlie gives Mack her megawatt smile.
“You too. So, where are you two going?” she asks, flipping onto her knees and facing us from over the back of the sofa.
“Not sure,” I reply as I tuck my feet into socks and slip on one of my Chucks. “Somewhere casual, right Mack?” I look up at him for confirmation as I lace my shoes.
He just nods.
After finishing with my shoes, I stand and say bye to Charlie. With Mack’s back turned towards us as he walks to the door, Charlie’s eyes grow wide and she gives me a quick thumbs up before mouthing Oh. My. God. I giggle and wave at her before walking out the front door.
When we get out to the curb, I see a truck with two bikes in the bed. Without a word, he drops the bed of the truck and begins to unload.
“We’re riding bikes?” I ask.
“Well, if I remember correctly, your exact words were ‘I’m like a kid. I like it simple.’ So, we’re going old-school, pre-drivers license days.” He pushes a Schwinn towards me, complete with basket and bell.
“Wow, Mack. Pulling out all the stops,” I throw my leg over the bike and get comfortable on the seat. “What would you have done if I was wearing a dress and heels?”
He looks at me with a smirk.
“After your glamazon comment last night, I figured you in jeans was a safe bet.”
“I have to be honest. I’ve never been on a bike date before. Two points for creativity.” I ring the bell twice for emphasis.
“Two points? That’s it?” He opens the passenger door to the truck and pulls out a blue helmet. “I deserve at least five.”
“You’ve gotta do a lot more than throw me on a bike to get big points with me.”
His face shows the hint of a smile as he walks towards me and plops the helmet on my head, then clips the straps under my chin. He takes a step back and just looks at me, causing my face to flush.
He steps back towards his bike, straddles the seat, and calls a ‘let’s go’ as we take off down the road.
It has been a really long time since I’ve ridden a bike. At least since before I started driving, if not longer. I forgot how fun it is. We pedal next to each other down the road, and at this slower pace, I’m able to soak in details about the day that would normally race past me.
Like what an absolutely gorgeous day it is, and how the sun is high but not too hot. Or the leaves on the ground, when the abscission of leaves doesn’t happen on most trees in my neighborhood. Or something less beautiful, like the fact the people down the road decided it would be okay to leave their stained mattress at the curb. Bleh.
It’s a short ride, maybe twenty minutes total, and we don’t really talk. We just alternate between racing and riding at a leisurely pace. When we finally pull into the Atwater Village Fun Center, I ring my bell over and over as I race past Mack towards the bike racks.
“I beat you,” I say with feigned innocence as I lock my bike into the rack and pull off my helmet.
Mack just smiles.
“Congratulations. Now, have you been here before?”
I shake my head.
“Good. Because today we are going to have awesome kid fun.”
“Mini-golf?” I ask.
“And bumper boats.”
“You know if we ride the go-karts, I’m going to completely kick your ass.”
He just looks at me and smiles.
“I don’t doubt that in the slightest.”
After locking our bikes to the rack, Mack grabs my hand and loosely links his fingers in mine. It’s easy. Natural. Like we’ve always done this. He squeezes my hand lightly and gives me a sweet smile before leading me inside.
He doesn’t let go, not even when one of the employees asks us to hold onto golf clubs to help measure which ones we should use. He doesn’t let go until we get outside and pick up a scorecard and golf pencil.
“Alright, so what are the stakes of this game?” I ask, crossing my arms as we look over the first hole.
“Ahhhhh, so you’re a betting girl, huh?”
“Absolutely. I am very competitive.”
“Oh that has become glaringly obvious,” he replies, chuckling to himself. He puts his hand to his chin and looks me over, then makes a humming sound. “The winner plans the next date. Whatever they want.”
“You’re assuming there will be another date,” I retort.
“Are you assuming there won’t be?”
“I never said that. I just think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself.” I swing my golf club over my shoulders and rest my arms on each end. “What if this date is a miserable experience for you and then you’re stuck planning some lame trip to Applebee’s for next weekend. I mean, for all you know, I’m a totally insane, crazy person who sifts through Justin Bieber’s trash looking for hair clippings.”
“Do you sort through his trash looking for hair clippings?”
“Are you a Belieber with Bieber Fever?”
The giggle that falls from me is relentless and I nearly drop the golf club.
“How do you even know those words?”
“My sister has a daughter, which is where she places the blame for her ludicrous knowledge of his song lyrics, even though I know it’s really her with the cardboard cutout.” I laugh again. “And suggesting this bet doesn’t mean I’m thinking there might be another date.” He steps in close to me and lightly rests the palm of his hand on the back of my neck, his thumb tracing the edge of my jaw. “I’m guaranteeing there will be another date.” His eyes flicker to my lips, then back up to my eyes.
I’m not sure how to respond. The laughter from just a moment before has been sucked out of the space around us and replaced with a weird tension that makes the hairs on my body stand to attention. I feel jittery and unsure what to do with my hands.
When he rests his forehead against mine and I can feel his breath on my face, I want him to kiss me. I don’t really know him and I know it would be way too fast for a girl like me, but at the same time, I can’t explain the way I feel right now.
The closest descriptor I can think of is that it feels like I’ve been shaken up inside, like the nuts and bolts that normally hold me together have fallen loose and I might collapse at any moment and melt into the ground.
After another beat, Mack steps back, releasing his hold on me, and it takes every effort I have to not show in my facial expression everything he just made me feel.
I let out a controlled breath even though I feel like gasping for air.
“Sounds like a good bet to me.”