Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stay by Hilary Wynne

Note:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
My Experience: C+
Synopsis:  Set against the steamy and sultry world of South Beach, Florida, a modern romance unfolds in Stay. Alexa is beautiful, independent and hard to resist for serially unattached Julian. Neither one is looking for a relationship, but their palpable chemistry and instant emotional connection is too strong to ignore. For the first time in years, Julian is interested in more than just sex. He wants a relationship with intoxicating Alexa, but it's not that simple. Not only are Julian and Alexa struggling with the intensity of this new relationship, but they also have to contend with Luke, Alexa's best friend, whose own love for her leaves him willing to do anything to convince her that Julian is not the man for her. Luke's determination and Alexa's secret past threaten to tear Julian and Alexa apart as she struggles to open her heart to love. Julian and Alexa embark upon a roller-coaster ride of emotional and physical passion that both pulls them apart and holds them together. Despite their affinity for each other, Alexa fears that Julian will leave when he learns about her past and Julian is unsure he can love a woman who in so many ways remains a mystery, a woman who keeps threatening to run, a woman who can't decide if she is going to STAY.

Written in the first person, this modern romance is like reading a blog with the comments turned off.  At the end of the novel I felt as conflicted and overwhelmed as Alexa and, surprisingly, as glad to be serially unattached as Julian.  It’s rare to read a romance and not sigh just a bit for what you don’t have at the end of the story.  Stay is the only exception to that experience in my ferocious reading history.

The first seventeen chapters interested and amused me; made me roll my eyes and piqued my curiosity, oh and the sex was not only hot it was well written.  This is extremely difficult to do in the first person.  By chapter nineteen, I was struggling to hang on to empathy for *any* of the characters.  By chapter twenty-three, I was frustrated; by twenty-seven I jumped to the end of the book to get to the Big Sekrit.  There are forty chapters and I couldn’t take it anymore!

It is chapter thirty-seven before you get to that by the way and it’s viciously shoveled out there in a heated moment.  Like Alexa, you want to run because you realize, you’ve been manipulated as thoroughly as she has been.  The characters barely get to react, never mind cope, before the book is over.  Rather than being pieces of a puzzle put together so the bigger picture allows perspective to bring closure, your left with ragged, torn images and sorrow and anger and a bucket of doubt that even a baby step forward is genuinely being made. Just like that annoying real life you might be trying to escape for the space of a good book.

I went back to chapter twenty-seven and read to the end, hoping it wouldn’t feel the same.  Frankly, I closed the book despising Alexa’s so-called friends, wanting to slap her parents and siblings, ready to file charges against the best buddy and a formal complaint with the American Psychological what-evah against the shrink!  I also wanted to ask our hero if Alexa was a 5 instead of an 8 on that 10 point scale of perfection, and was mediocre in banter and bed, would he bother?  Most of all I wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and Alexa and promise her it would be perfectly OK to tell her friends and the hottie new boyfriend to bug off and allow time for herself to actually deal and heal before rejoining the so-called “real world, the one where I socialize and date and enjoy my life.”

But then, there wouldn’t be a romance would there?

And yet … I read every word, some of them repeatedly.  I rooted for Alexa to keep trying and to have at least as much enthusiasm for her own life as she did her fashionable clothes and shoe collection.  I wanted Julian to win her trust, despite the fact he’s described in terms so similar to her best buddy I had to go back in several places and re-read to be sure whether it was Julian or Luke Alexa was talking about.  They were even the same height!

See, I was paying attention and in my humble opinion, that’s the mark of a good writer.  I read this book in spite of the lush locale, plot and twenty-something stereotypical angst because the author kept me interested.  She fed my frustration, eye rolling and impatience like I was a monkey and she cornered the market on peanuts.  The intimate scenes and emotional electricity were used in the story exactly as they are in life, to keep the characters connected even when everything else is going to hell in a hand basket. Ms. Wynne makes you want to believe with chemistry that good the rest of it just has to work out.  It will be epic, any minute now, we’re sure of that.

But be warned, this book leaves you hanging, clinging to hope but just not sure.  Personally, I don’t like being toyed with in that way.  I want my story complete, not ending with a cliff hanger and promises of the rest of the story in Book 2.   I think many folks will like Stay precisely because of that.

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