Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #2
Published by Spencer Hill Press Source: Netgalley
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One class assignment. One second chance at love. The school player is all in. Now he needs to win back the sweet commitment girl who's forever owned his heart.
Justin Carter has a secret. He's not the total player Fairfield Academy believes him to be. Not really. In fact, he used to be a one-woman guy...and his feelings for her never went away. Too bad he broke her heart three years ago and made sure to ruin any chance she'd ever forgive him.
Peyton Williams is a liar. She pretends to be whole, counting down the days until graduation and helping her parents at the family ranch. But the truth is, she's done everything she can to get over Justin, and salvation is just around the corner. With graduation one short month away, she'll soon break free from the painful memories and start her life fresh. Of course, she has to get through working with him on one last assignment first.
For Justin, nothing ever felt as right as being with Peyton, and now that fate's given him a shot at redemption, he's determined to make the most of it. And for Peyton...well, Justin Carter has always been her kryptonite.
So this book was really not for me, I’ve Rachel Harris before and enjoyed her books, so I decided to give this book a go even though it was more YA then I normally go for. Unfortunately, I was right, this book is way to YA for me, it takes place in high school and the characters understandably have a lower maturity level and I just think I’ve gotten to a point where it harder for me to identify with high school characters. There have been a couple of YA books that I have really enjoyed, but in this book I think part of the problem was really the characters and pacing.
The pacing of the book was really a big problem for me, I remember being 25-30% of the way done with the book and really nothing had happened. I mean at this point we do have some backstory, Peyton was sick before she started high school, she dated Justin and then he cheated on her (or so she believes), and now they don’t talk even though it’s been years later. There are some interactions at school and then they go to her families ranch and basically the reader is provided with a ton of information that honestly would have been better revealed over time and not just as an info dump.
My biggest problem was honestly that the characters just were not authentic to me. Granted it has been a while since I was a teenager, but I still remember it pretty well and I have several nieces and nephews who are teenagers and the kids in this book just don’t resemble reality to me. Justin was so super confident that it just stopped being believable. And while Peyton did have to overcome a lot of things in her life, she was so far over Justin on the maturity level that any relationship between the two just felt uneven and weird. But even if Peyton was more mature, she also had some decision making that made me question how mature she actually was, just her character felt uneven. Ultimately this was a YA romance that just wasn’t for me.
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Justin tipped up my chin with his finger and said, “You’re far from just anyone, Peyton. You’re impulsive and fearless. You’re stubborn and curious. You drive me insane with your millions of questions. And your heart… Sunshine, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”
I wanted to look away. Hearing compliments was hard for me, I never really believed them. But when it came to Justin? God, I wanted to believe them so badly.
He brushed his thumb across my jaw. “Instead of giving up in the hospital, like most people would’ve done, you walked away optimistic. Grateful, even. I’m in awe of you.” Justin looked deep into my eyes and said, “Peyton, you make me want to be a better guy. I want to deserve those sweet smiles of yours. I—”
I leaned forward and kissed him.
Words wouldn’t express what he did to me. My heart felt heavy, so overflowing with love for this wounded, insecure boy that I couldn’t contain it all. So I put it in my lips. In my mouth and in my tongue and in my small gasp of surprise when Justin yanked my body flush against his.
I gave myself over to emotion, threading my fingers through his thick, dark hair. Deepening the kiss and tangling my tongue with his. Dizzying desire whipped through my body, fogging my head with want, and settling in a warm pool of tingles in my belly. Goose bumps danced across my skin as the cool, crisp taste of mint exploded on my tongue.
Wow. The word set off a flame in my blood. It was a claiming, every bit as much as his lips as they ravaged my mouth, taking over control, possessing me. And I wanted to be his. Completely, in every way I possibly could.
Justin was wrong before. I wasn’t strong or incredible. I wasn’t anything special. But he made me feel as though I was. If I’d learned anything living post-GBS, it was that life was short, and when you found happiness, you grabbed on with both hands and never let go. I had no intention of loosening my grip.
“Uh…” Justin groaned as he tore his lips from mine. “We can’t.” He pushed my hips back, but kept his hands clenched around my waist and leaned forward to brush another kiss against my swollen mouth. His heavy-lidded gaze fell on his handiwork. “Your dad… your whole family… they’ll see us. We have to…”
That he was so breathless over me was a thrill of its own. I grinned up at him, taunting his inner battle by raking my teeth across my bottom lip, and he swallowed hard before inching closer to the edge of the bench. Closer to me.