Penguin / May 7, 2013 / $3.99 digital
When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.
Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…
Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…
New adult, the newest trend in romance, may just be Erin McCarthy's true calling. In this hybrid between the innocent awakening of young adult and the sexy discovery of adult romance, there's Rory, a science-minded, sweet but aloof college sophomore more comfortable with books than parties and who's preferred to keep herself emotionally distant since her mother died when she was a kid. There's another reason why Rory feels a little set apart from the other college co-eds: she's a virgin. And with all of the exploration that comes with college, Rory wants to experience sex too. But she wants it to mean something.
And there's Tyler, the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks who's consistently in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rory and Tyler have mutual friends, namely Rory's dorm mates, but it isn't until Tyler helps Rory out of a potentially devastating situation that they really notice each other. She intrigues him, honest to the point of awkward, but she's unlike any of the girls he's dated. And he's more than she thought he was, deep and unexpectedly thoughtful and even romantic in his love of classic literature.
“So you want, like, romance?”
Was that what we called it? “I guess.”
Tyler came back into the room, pushing his cell phone into his front pocket. “You ready?”
“Yeah.” I found my crossbody bag on the floor and put it over my head.
“Tyler, Rory wants romance,” Jessica told him. “What do you think of that?”
My face burned with embarrassment. I didn't want to be the subject of discussion. I didn't want Tyler to stare at me the way he was, dark eyes scrutinizing mine. He was the typical bad-boy type – which was why Jessica liked him – and I was the kind of girl he would never notice. And he hadn't ever noticed me, not really. I was the quiet friend of Jessica and Kylie whose presence he tolerated. But now his eyes were sweeping over me, assessing, and I couldn't read his expression.
“I think she should have whatever she wants.”
They begin an almost unlikely friendship, two people who in any other circumstances may not even cross each other's paths much less kindle something more, but as Rory connects really perhaps for the first time and Tyler realizes there's much to be gained by the slow and steady approach, attraction leads to romance. They study together, begin to confide in each other, and each introduces the other to a new world, one of privilege, one of poverty. Tyler invites her in, in a way he never has with anyone else. Because he's also man of the house, protective over two younger brothers, one of whom is special needs, adding more layers and dimension to him, all of which he shares with Rory. Tyler still doesn't think he's good enough, but it doesn't stop him from giving in, and she gives him everything. It's true first love, in all its glory.
“Got it. I won't tell anyone you're slumming.”
There was a vulnerability there that shocked me, despite his hard tone.
I'd hurt his feelings. I could see it clearly.
Stunned, I reached for his hand, but he was still holding his cigarette. It amazed me that anyone was capable of hurting him, least of all me. He stopped at his car and popped the trunk. He tossed the beer in the back and went around the driver's side without looking at me.When I slid into the passenger seat, I said, “Tyler,” without any idea what I was going to say next.
But then when he looked over at me, eyes dark, hands gripping the steering wheel tightly, jaw clenched, I found the words. “That's not what I meant. If anything I'm worried that people will think I'm a joke for thinking you would be interested in me.”Brutal honesty. If he laughed or said he wasn't interested at all, then I would save myself some time and possibly my virginity. I saw no point in playing games. God knows I'd always sucked at sports, and this was the same thing. I had no clue what I was doing, but I could only be me.
He made a sound of exasperation, tossing his cigarette out the cracked open window then cupping my cheek with his callused palm. “This is no joke.”
Underneath it all are still those same insecurities that plague any new love. These are star-crossed lovers for sure, but the real joy is reliving those moments of youth, where young adults grow up fast and every emotion, every feeling is heightened. McCarthy also sets the stage for the story to continue with a solid group of core characters. And for Rory and Tyler, the hope is realized that love can happen in the most unexpected places.
Tyler was still staring at the screen of his phone, held in front of him. “You know why we get along, Rory?”
“Why?” This could be very, very interesting. Or it could be nothing. I sat, tense, waiting to hear his thoughts.
“Because we both see beyond what other people see about us. We both know that sometimes the best things are below the surface. When I look at you, I see this amazingly smart, funny, generous, and beautiful girl. Did you know that?”
“No,” I whispered, my heart swelling.
“It's true.” The flash on his camera phone went off. And I knew that I had fallen completely and totally in love with him.
New adult is an exciting new foray, and if Rory, Tyler, and their gang are any indication of where it's going, this forbidden peek into a time where love is new and often unexplored, where the combination of young adult and a deeper level of sexuality finds a balance, there can only be good things ahead.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Erin McCarthy's True (out May 7):
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.