Marked Men #1
Contemporary New Adult
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want—and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.
To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess—and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw—even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.
But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love . . . or each other.
Rule gives us a romantic setup that never fails to pull on our heartstrings from the very beginning, Shaw's unrequited love for her late best friend's brother making us ache from the moment she bursts into his room on the very first page and is forced to bear witness–as she has so many times before–to just how alone she is in her feelings. What's so beautiful about this particular pairing is the lack of angst in their relationship, rather than brooding and pining on one or both sides we get a more raw, visceral type of pain, one that extends deep beneath the skin to leave wounds that aren't always visible. There's no shortage of drama or tension, but instead of our fingers winding through our hair to tug in frustration we find an uncomfortable twist in our guts, our desire to see Shaw get the one and only thing she's ever truly wanted for herself matched only by her own, and we read on with breath held, hoping Rule doesn't destroy the heart he doesn't even know belongs to him.
Shaw is a young woman we react to immediately despite starting our time off with Rule's perspective, knowing from the synopsis she's loved him for years and, as a result, flinching on her behalf when she finds him yet again with a naked girl whose name he can't remember. She handles everything miraculously well, shoving her hurt so far down he can't possibly see it even if he opened his eyes laughably wide, and when her moment comes to have Rule just one time, she pounces on it with a clear head despite the alcohol lowering her inhibitions. She doesn't expect anything more from their encounter–doesn't harbor any delusions that he'll suddenly develop feelings for her–and we can only admire her for taking the risk but being honest enough with herself to keep the fallout from cutting so deeply she can't stanch the bleeding.
Rule plays a role we've seen before, oblivious as can be to how Shaw feels and only taking notice of her physically once he sees her dressed in a skimpy work uniform, but for all that he seems cliché, there's an addictive quality to him that extends beyond the fictional women drawn to him like moths to a flame and into reality to snare us as well. Luckily, he has a core group of friends who don't hesitate to mock him for his previous obtuseness and the shallowness of the situation that finally forces his eyes open, allowing us to find humor instead of irritation in the circumstances. His relationship with Shaw is in no way easy, but their struggles feel perfectly genuine and realistic, combining with some rather impressive family dysfunction to have us tied up in knots from which we have no desire to escape. He makes mistakes, pushes when he should pull, and falls back on old habits when his fight or flight reaction kicks in and sends him running, but through it all he never moves beyond forgiveness, and we can't help but root for the two of them with every fiber of our being.
Overall, Rule is a new adult romance at its best, full of sharp edges that find our soft spots and leave bruises, but with repeated contact those edges finally begin to soften, leaving us with a warmth and happiness worth all the discomfort along the way. The secondary characters are deeply intriguing, the kind that have us sprinting to the computer upon finishing to see when we can expect their stories to find their way into our hands, and sparking in us a renewed sense of anticipation even as we glory in the replete feeling we have thanks to Shaw and Rule.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jay last week, if you didn't get a chance to check that out, you can do so here!
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.