4 1/2 stars
I received an digital ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Wow. I didn't think I would find a couple who I liked together as much as Landen and Torina from The Seer and the Sword, but I really like Paul and Rachel.
My favorite parts of this book were where the characters were going through external troubles and supported each other. The depiction of their relationship when they weren't having the external troubles was realistic (at least to my knowledge) in every way except for the fact that, once they were a couple, they didn't have one argument. They had a fight before they acknowledged their wish for more than just friendship, and they had moments of mild irritation with one another after they had kissed, but they didn't have any serious fights, which as much as I dislike seeing characters who I ship argue, I think that it could have been a way to show how they chose to love. In the book they were fighting with the temptation to show their love in physical ways before they were married, but because they never fought they also never had the opportunity to take a good look at their relationship and decide if it was worth the work it takes to remain in love. I got so nervous when they were going through temptations. I was nervous through a good portion of the book starting from the moment when they [spoiler] had their first kiss after having a little bit too much champagne and going until about the time Paul talked to Sean about his relationship with Rachel.[/spoiler]
My two favorite parts were the times right after Paul's dad died and when he saved Rachel's life. These two parts of the story showed Paul's vulnerability and his strong love for people, his dad, and Rachel. It seemed like Paul's personality was fleshed out a little bit more than Rachel's in the story. I can't remember if we had more time from Paul's point of view or if it just felt like that because he went through more trials than Rachel. Don't get me wrong, I still like Rachel a lot, but Paul was my favorite in this book. (hey, I just realized that Paul and Rachel have the same names as Paul and Rachel from The Midnight Dancers
I didn't like Sean at first. The first moment we're introduced to him he is blaming Paul for their missing a turn in the road and we really didn't get to know him after that until after he'd gotten married, and then I found that I really, really liked him. I just wished I hadn't gotten the wrong idea about his character before that. I was mildly confused as to why Paul wouldn't move in with Sean and Amanda after Sean moved out of the hotel since the whole reason why Paul had been living with the Muellers was so that Sean could be reimbursed for having to move to Pennsylvania to work, which the company would only do if Sean was living by himself in a hotel. I mean, I guess if the Muellers didn't mind Paul it was probably nice for Sean and Amanda to live by themselves, but Sean was Paul's legal guardian so it seemed odd.
Rachel's dad was pretty well characterized as the kind but strict, protective parent, but we didn't get to know her mother or brother, James, very well, and I sort of wish we could have gotten to know Paul's dad before he died. Though that probably wouldn't have fit into the book very well.
Parents and cautious teens should know that one of the main plot-points is that two teens in a serious relationship are making decisions about sex and marriage, and whether to save sex for marriage. [spoiler] While they save sex until marriage, they had several moments of strong temptation that could make younger teens uncomfortable.[/spoiler]
As a pop-musically challenged person I didn't know any of the songs that were mentioned in the books, and, although the lyrics did fit Paul's situation I didn't have the ability to hear in my head what they sounded like, and the Springsteen one was the only one with a performer listed with it so I could look it up. This didn't bother me terribly, but I found a couple of the lyrics to be moving and wanted to see if the music did them justice.
I don't usually like romance books. Christian romance books have a tendency to be too sickly sweet and overly simplified, and secular romance books are too stuffed full of sex. This book reached a very good balance, not being too sex-filled, but also being more candid than most Christian romances about the way relationships really work. I really enjoyed this book and it's characters. I think that it would be nice to visit Rachel and Paul again, maybe with them as side characters for another book. [spoiler] Though I would have liked to see Paul and Rachel's wedding, and Paul's reaction to Rachel's pregnancy,[/spoiler] I found the ending to be a satisfying conclusion to a very good book.