Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book review: Beside Your Heart by Mary Whitney

I received an arc for this book since I signed up to host the tour for the following book, Disclosure Of The Heart, but I’m pleased to write a review for the first book even though it wasn’t required.

The blurb was quite intriguing but I got a little confused halfway through the book, when I realized that it was turning out to be a coming of age story rather than an adult contemporary, although it did start when the heroine, Nicki, is in her early twenties. Nevertheless, I was hooked from the second chapter – that’s when the story goes back to their teens – and didn’t mind at all that 99% of the book was between two teenagers even though I was expecting to read an adult or at least a new adult romance.

Beside Your Heart is a sweet, first love story between Nicole (Nicki) Johnson, a 17-year-old girl who’s recently survived a tragic car accident in which she’s been literally left scarred for life, both physically and emotionally (her 13-year-old sister died in the accident), and Adam Kincaid, an English teenager who’s spending a year in Texas with his family and is therefore attending the same school as Nicole.

The book opens with Nicki being at work late one night and while she’s scrolling down the list of voters for the presidential campaign of her boss, she finds a name that reminds her of her first love, the boy she used to date in high school and whom she hasn’t seen or talked to in over six years. Unable to resist the temptation, although she knows it’ll only hurt her, she decides to google his name and lots of information, as well as pictures of him with another woman, come up. After a phone call with her friend Lisa, who’s just come back from a trip to Europe, where she ended up meeting Adam too, we’re taken back in time, back to their junior year in high school, when Nicki started crushing badly on the cute English boy with rusty hair and expressive brown eyes – and aw, that cute accent that makes her heart flutter every time he speaks to her. Problem is, he’s got a girlfriend – a cheerleader nonetheless, and Nicki’s got a big baggage of emotional pain, not to mention the scars that cover her body, so she knows she doesn’t stand a chance against her. She can only suffer in silence and dream about him, while trying to treat him like a normal school friend. Until Adam starts getting a little too close and, when he dumps his girlfriend, she starts hoping she could have a chance at happiness. As they start dating, Nicki knows her life will never be the same; she’s not only found a loving boyfriend, but a true friend with whom she can open up and say things about her recent tragedy she hasn’t been able to share with anyone else. Their bond grows stronger and friendship evolves into true love – but time is against them. Adam is bound to leave as soon as school ends and, even though he says he loves her and wants to make things work, Nicki decides it’s best to break it off and get on with their lives separately. She knows she’ll never get over him but she’s trying to protect herself and her fragile heart by pretending nothing ever happened.

Will she be able to? Well, you won’t get to know it in this book because, the moment Adam leaves Texas (that was one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the book) we’re back to the present day, sixteen years later in 2009 and the chapter is in Adam’s POV. An adult and famous reporter for the BBC, he asked to be moved to Washington D.C. as the official BBC correspondent at the White House. Why? Because Nicole Johnson is now a deputy press secretary for the newly elected president of the United States. Am I giving away the ending? Nope, because this is how it ends.

Major cliffhanger? Yes, definitely. But it’ll make you want to read the next book, unlike other books I’ve recently read in which the cliffhanger made me want to throw my Kindle.

This has been an extremely enjoyable read. Although I was expecting an adult romance, I was pleasantly surprised by the story. It was highly emotional, at times heartbreaking and, even though I couldn’t put it down, at times I had to force myself to switch off my Kindle because I was so emotionally involved it almost hurt. All through the book the emotions, especially the pain Nicki feels because of her sister’s death, are so strong and every now and then I had to swallow the lump in my throat. Luckily, there were also happy moments, funny remarks and banter between Adam and Nicki, as well as sweet, romantic moments that warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face.

Nicki is a lovely character. Even though at times she drove me crazy (especially when she tried to push Adam away) I tried to remember what it’s like to be seventeen and I understood why she acted like that, especially considering the terrible loss she’d experienced. She’s a fragile, broken girl but when Adam walks into her life, he helps her to get out of the shell and she finds strength in him.

Adam is the perfect English gentleman. He’s super cute and I really loved him. The last few chapters were heartbreaking and the last scene, right before he leaves, brought me close to tears. I loved reading the last chapter in his point of view because it gave me an insight into his feelings for Nicki, even though they were pretty clear throughout the book, from the way he acted with her.

You probably know I want books to have a happy ending, so I was a little hurt that they parted ways and never looked back, but I knew there would be another book so I was pretty confident (actually, hopeful) that I’d be getting my happy ending eventually.

The side characters, Lisa and Rachel (Nicki’s best friends) and Sylvia (Adam’s little sister) were great; I loved their interactions, especially the banter between Adam and Sylvia. She’s a cute, funny character and I wish she’d played a bigger part in the story.

The writing flows smoothly and the dialogues feel real – I loved the use of the British slang; I could almost hear Adam speak in his impeccable, a little posh, British accent. After reading so many books by American authors recently, it was nice to read a few very British “bloody” here and there. :-)

I really enjoyed reading this book and I would recommend it to readers who love highly emotional first love romance, even though there’s no happy ending – yet (well, at least I hope there is one in the next book, or I’ll be heartbroken!)

Have you read Beside Your Heart already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it. 

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