A classic new-adult story set on a college campus, where a beautiful, broken hero and a spunky heroine with trust issues can’t resist each other.
Kara Hawthorne and Cameron St. Laurent are college students in Manitoba, Canada, whose paths cross when Kara’s younger brother wrecks Cameron’s motorcycle. Cameron is a varsity athlete who hides his wealthy background as closely as he does terrible secrets from his broken childhood: “There is a darkness lurking inside me.…I knew most people couldn’t handle or accept the real me.” Kara has an absentee mother but comes from an otherwise close-knit working-class family. She’s never dated, preferring to stick to her goals, which require holding down multiple jobs while going to school full time. Cameron is gorgeous and sexually experienced, but he is intrigued by the guarded and “feisty” Kara, whose “jagged edges could cut like a chainsaw to wood.” When she offers to have the bike repaired for free at her father’s garage, he ups the ante by demanding she drive him around in the meantime. Ronin (Always Red, 2017, etc.) began writing serialized stories on a social media site, where a version of this novel was first published. A plot that might be right-sized in smaller chunks feels unnecessarily attenuated thanks to frequent emotional reversals and too many details of daily life. The book’s strength is its depiction of the likably complex Kara and Cameron, both working through issues from their childhoods while trying to navigate the adult world in which they now find themselves. Although the ending is optimistic enough to please readers, a sequel to this chaste story is planned.
Ronin creates believable characters and puts them in a well-drawn social world. The effect of the typical high angst and emotional upheavals of new-adult fiction is blunted by an unnecessarily drawn-out romance plot.