The Ivy Chronicles #1
Contemporary New Adult
Available November 5th
Source: eARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Before she goes after the life she’s always wanted, she’s about to find the one she needs.
Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.
Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real…
Given the familiarity of the synopsis, we crack the spine of Foreplay with no illusions we’re going to get a completely original or mind-blowing story, though we can’t help but hope the execution of it – along with the characters themselves – set this novel apart and mark it as memorable. Thankfully, Ms. Jordan does give us a very entertaining romance between Reece and Pepper that goes beyond what the blurb suggests, creating a few more much-appreciated layers for our resident good girl and her bartending bad boy. Things between them unfold in predictable ways and follow a set pattern in terms of the romantic arc, but honestly, should Ms. Jordan have tossed us a curveball and given us the completely unexpected at the end, readers like myself who crave the happily ever after would have been monstrously disappointed. Instead we get to live vicariously through Reece and Pepper, warm and fuzzy and content when we leave them to move on to the next book.
Pepper is a young woman who at first glance we’ve seen before: quiet, studious and virginal, looking for a little sexual experience before she tries to move forward with the basket in which she’s placed all her romantic eggs: Hunter. One of the problems with this setup (at least for me personally) is the portrayal of virginity as something embarrassing and unwanted that needs to be quickly disposed of so the young woman, now blissfully free of virginity's shackles, can finally be appealing to the one person for whom she pines. Luckily, Ms. Jordan gives us something refreshing in Pepper as she’s not simply looking to do away with her virginity–in fact she’s downright terrified of things going that far with Reece–she just wants an experience or two in dealing with the opposite sex in the hopes those experiences will reduce some of the nerves when she stands before Hunter and reveals her feelings. Her closest friends are also not the type to encourage her to do anything she’s not ready for, instead they’re supportive at every turn and want her to be comfortable with herself more than anything else.
While Pepper is often cute and makes many a humbling attempt to remedy her wrongs when she takes a misstep with Reece, she can be supremely frustrating at times as well, wandering around with an epically large starfish named Denial suctioned to her face. She can’t see anything but Hunter around the tentacles Denial has stretched across her eyes, clinging so desperately to the idea of him that everything good in Reece goes not unnoticed, but even worse, ignored in favor of the dream she’s had since she was little. We’re told repeatedly why Pepper is so hung up on what Hunter represents, and though it’s understandable, we aren’t given a thorough enough examination of her past to make us actually share in her desperation for the perfect life/home/love. We only have one brief flashback well after the halfway point in the book that provides a terrifying glimpse into what life was like with her mother, but it’s too brief and almost too late for us to fully embrace it and understand why she runs away from Reece again and again.
Reece is just about as deliciously swoon-worthy as they come though, a fact that makes Pepper’s death grip on the Hunter fantasy all the more bothersome. He’s got his own not-insignificant baggage, but he faces it head-on and blinder-free unlike Pepper, never letting it get in the way of what he deserves for himself. That being said however, the chemistry between Reece and Pepper sizzles throughout, allowing for a very steamy read that’s also beautifully balanced by a tentative friendship full of firsts for both parties. The only flaw keeping this from a higher rating is Pepper’s unrelenting stubbornness, but Ms. Jordan has written an engaging romance to kick this series off and I am thoroughly looking forward to the next book.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.