Sweet by Erin McCarthy
ORDER A COPY: Sweet: (Intermix) (True Believers)
Publishing Date: October 15, 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.
Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.
Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her.
Jessica Sweet has gone a little crazy since coming to college. Finally out from under the pressure of being the perfect daughter for her minister father and her overly judgmental mother, Jessica wants to spread her wings and try to figure out what she wants in life. Right now her duel majors are in religious studies for her father and interior design for her mother. They are prepping her to become the perfect preacher’s wife but Jessica want more for her life than fundraising for the church and always failing to measure up to her parent’s high standards.
The last thing Jessica wants is to go back home for the summer and spend the next few months pretending to be the righteous, virginal daughter so her parents can parade her around in front of their friends. So she told parents that she is building homes for the poor, but she will be sharing an apartment in Town and working at her waitress job for extra money. The only problem Jessica has is that she needs to be out of her dorm room at the end of the week and she can’t move into her apartment until the beginning of next month. She has no place to stay for an entire week, and a hotel just isn’t in her budget.
Riley Mann offers to let Jessica live in his house for the week since Tyler and his brothers are going to visit Rory’s father. He’s made the offer, but he doesn’t seem particularly excited to have her there. In fact, Riley is the only guy she knows that doesn’t seem interested in her at all. Not that she cares what Riley thinks…okay, maybe it hurts a little because for the first time in a long time, Jessica finds herself wanting to attract Riley’s attention for more than just moving out from in front of the TV.
Riley isn’t immune to Jessica’s charms. He has been so focused on getting custody of his younger brothers that he no longer has time for luxuries like women and fun.
When Riley gets a letter that Social Services is coming to do a home visit before his Court Appearance for custody of his younger brothers, he starts to fear that after all his planning, he might just lose them to a system that won’t care.
Jessica knows that it’s not their home life that will be an issue. It’s their home. Finally she might be able to use her design talent for a good cause. The house left to decay by their drug addicted mother, just needs a little…okay, a lot of TLC and a lot of paint. As a thank you to Riley for letting her stay with him, Jessica decides to put her plan into action to make the house a real home for the Social Worker to see.
Although I enjoyed Rory and Tyler’s story more, it was nice to see the character of Jessica become more than just a pretty face. We see that her parents although they are the religeous leaders of the church are materialistic and use the church’s funds to buy a large house, other luxuries and send their daughter to college. Jessica has never been able to please her mother, and her brother is always there to point out her flaws to her parents. Her mother wants her to use her beauty and her position as a minister’s daughter to become a prominent preacher’s wife. Once away from the house and her face and her body start attracting male attention, Jessica goes a little crazy.
Jessica at first tries to get a boy who she knows is attracted to her to allow him to stay with him in his room in exchange for sex. First she is turned down by him and then Riley doesn’t make any indication that he has any sexual interest in her at all, the blow to her ego is painful and Jessica is lost at how to deal with the situation.
I would have liked to see more of Jessica and her parents. We had glimpses into Jessica’s memories and we had a brief encounter with them, but it was more of a cursory “this is what you need to know” instead of getting us to really understand their dynamics and her brother is mentioned as being competitive for being the better child and we only see this in her brother threatening to point out her Facebook pictures to her parents to get her in trouble. So he is used more as a catalyst than an actual character.
Riley comes off as gruff and angry. He puts all his energy into working hard to provide for his brothers. He doesn’t even seem to remember how to enjoy himself. It is all about taking care of his brothers, but he doesn’t seem to know how to care for them. He provides them with food and a roof, but he neglects the condition of the house and the kitchen and things that younger kids would enjoy for fun. It seems that the years of acting as their father has changed Riley.
It was good story although I was a little turned off by Riley’s gruff treatment of Jessica. It was to a point that he wasn’t even aware of his actions. He critiques her for being a girl and just having a salad and she points out that men say they want a woman who really eats, but yet they want a woman who is thin, which they can’t be if they really eat. She points out that Riley told her once before over the winter that she had a huge ass but which he doesn’t even remember doing.
As I am sure your can image since Jessica and Tyler had hooked up a few times before he dates Rory, the “Oh, by the way, I slept with your brother a couple of times” conversation wasn’t pretty.
Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Without warning, Riley took the whiskey bottle and hurtled it at the back door, where it smashed, amber liquid trailing down the wood.
“Seven years,” he said passionately. “Seven fucking years I have been working for the goal of making sure that kid doesn’t end up in the system and now I’m going to fail and he’s going to pay the price for me not being man enough to save him.”
“Hey,” I said gently, shocked by the self-loathing, by the burden that he clearly had been carrying for way longer than a twenty-five-year-old should have to. “You haven’t failed. We have a few days. A couple of cans of paint, we’ll pull the carpet to get rid of the smell, no big deal. No one expects you to provide anything more than a clean and safe environment for Easton, and you’re doing that.”
He didn’t say anything.
“I think Easton is very lucky to have you. He may have drawn the shitty card when it came to your parents, but he has you and that’s going to save him, Riley. He’s going to be fine, and you can be proud of yourself for everything you’ve done and sacrificed.” I meant that. So many guys would have bolted, but Riley was in for the long haul.
“Tyler is better at the surrogate parent thing than me.” He took the last drag of his cigarette and stubbed it out. “I’m not good at the whole homework and shower and take-him-to-the-doctor thing. I seem to be missing the nurturing gene.”
“You and me both,” I told him. “I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a parent.” I had never admitted that to anyone. It made me feel like such a jerk. But I wasn’t sure I would be a good mother. I couldn’t imagine singing lullabies or cleaning snot.
“I don’t want kids.” He dug into my shopping bag and pulled out a pack of peanut butter cups. “Can I eat these?”
“I figure having kids is like the biggest gamble ever, and if you fuck it up, you’re not just messing your own life up but another human being’s. That’s too much responsibility.”
“That’s because you’ve been raising your brothers for years. Maybe you’ll change your mind some day.” I gave him a soft smile. “When you meet the right girl.” Isn’t that what they always said? You met The One and suddenly you were envisioning picket fences and the baby stroller? It was hard to picture that for myself since I had never once come even remotely close to being in love.
Riley was the first guy I’d actually been genuinely interested in in about forever and a day and yet, he just might be the first legitimate friendship with a guy I’d ever had. Where you had real conversations and shared genuine thoughts and emotions. I didn’t want to screw that up.
“Nah, I doubt it. But yeah, it’s been hard. But I don’t resent taking care of Easton, I didn’t mean that. I would do anything for that kid, and Jayden, too. They’re awesome kids, despite all of my mom’s shit, and I work hard to make sure they have food and a roof over their heads.” He flashed a quick grin, but his eyes were troubled. “For now, anyway. But they deserve better than I can give them, and that makes me angry.”
“Stop beating yourself up. Your dad is in jail. Your mother was a drug addict. It’s a miracle none of you are serial killers or junkies yourselves. I think if you can get Easton to eighteen and he is a decent guy, then you’ve done a damn good job. And if he ends up in an alley with a needle in his arm, it’s not your fault.”
Maybe that wasn’t exactly the right thing to say.
Riley stopped cramming chocolate into this mouth long enough to cock his head and say, “Now there’s an image. Thanks for that.”
I flushed. “Sorry. This is why I can’t be a mother. I give terrible advice.”
But Riley laughed. “No, your’re fine. I appreciate the effort. Most girls would have hidden in their rooms, or told me to suck it up, or tried to distract me with sex.”
Well, it wasn’t like that last one hadn’t entered my head. He was practically naked and we were both buzzed and I was oh, maybe falling completely head over ass for him. I ignored that. “I’ll help you with cleaning up the house. I’m happy to help. We have all weekend. This place will shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.”