When the New Adult genre first took off I was adamant that it wasn’t for me. I mean, my kids are nearly that age and I don’t like to think of them and their friends while I’m reading a great romance. But bit by bit, book by book, I’ve been won over and Elyssa Patrick's Stay With Me is an excellent example of why.
Hailey Bloom is a child star turned rock star, one who has dropped out of the business, left all the glitz and glamour behind, to attend a small college in Vermont. The first person narration makes for a great vehicle to show how difficult that level of fame is to tolerate and how impossible it is to completely leave behind.
“Unfortunately, everyone knows me. Or rather, they think they do.
As soon as I walked into the party earlier tonight, people bombarded me. They wanted to take a picture and get my autograph, and some even tried to get me to sing.”
Hailey has to fight hard to have a normal life and to even understand what one is. It costs her her relationship her mother and most of her Hollywood friends as well. When the book opens, Hailey is struggling to fit in and filled with insecurities. She’s at the moment of early adulthood when anything and everything seems possible and the choices are nearly overwhelming. I think this is what I found compelling in Old Skool romances with their sheltered, virgin heroines. Hailey is the polar opposite. She is far from sheltered and is refreshingly comfortable with her sexual history.
But there is that unfinished quality to her as she gropes her way toward the adult she is going to be. It’s a time in life when every friendship, every university, every class, every decision is another chance to figure out one’s place in the world. Hailey is filled with insecurities and college is the strange, new world she is trying to understand. Even going for a cup of coffee or eating in the cafeteria is a minefield Hailey has to navigate in between new situations and the ever-present shadow of her fame.
“And I guess I should’ve realized that when I got here – that making friends or even getting to know people I could hang out with was going to be a lot harder than I expected.”
Even getting to know Caleb Fox, the cute boy Hailey meets at a party where she isn’t having a great time despite being the center of attention, is complicated. Since his little sisters are huge fans, Caleb recognizes Hailey right away but he also sees past the public persona and sees a girl hiding out on the deck from the too-loud party and shivering in the chilly Vermont evening. As much as Hailey likes him, she can’t bring herself to put her trust in someone she just met. It isn’t until they bump into each other, literally, that they share their first kiss.
In a subgenre that is known for its super steamy smexy bits, this first kiss comes a bit later in the book. It’s just a kiss, a simple kiss, that doesn’t lead to anything more. It’s a great, gentle first kiss that is still brimming with passion. It lasts for pages and is so sweet and really shows how smitten Caleb is with Hailey from the very first. And don’t worry: there is no shortage of scorching hot sex in this book.
Hailey and Caleb have a real, believable connection but she still has trust issues. A whole truckload of them. Hailey is used to being used by agents and managers, directors and costars, even boyfriends and her own family. Outside of Hollywood she isn’t as insulated from the effects of her stardom. Slowly Caleb’s genuine goodness wins her over (it didn’t take him nearly as long with me). Haley becomes a part of Caleb’s circle of roommates and friends. He even takes her home to see his family, the kind of family Hailey never had.
I loved watching Hailey grow up and learn to trust Caleb and her new friends and begin to have faith in herself. It’s a coming of age story in the best sense of the world and delicious, romantic proof that being loved can truly change you.
Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.