InterMix / October 15, 2013 / $3.99 digital
Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.
Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.
Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…
Erin McCarthy's Sweet is my favorite kind of a romance: a love/hate relationship where the hero and heroine spend the majority of the book alone together, just the two of them, whether by choice or by force. In this case, Jessica can’t imagine having to spend a week living under Riley’s roof while she waits for her summer sublet and the family of brothers he cares for is away. She’s a little spoiled and sheltered, and he’s plenty insufferable. But the banter they’ve exchanged since they first met indicates a spark. And what starts out as loathing actually becomes something very…sweet.
Riley was right—I was all those things. I could be annoying and bratty, yet I liked to think I was somewhat smart, and I knew I was strong, tenacious. That he saw me for who I was did weird things to my inside that had nothing to do with sex.
“I admire that you’re willing to pitch in and pull up nasty carpet to help me keep my brother.”
“It’s no big deal.” But it was a big deal. All of it. All of this.
His lips barely brushed mine in the most innocent kiss I’d shared since middle school. It made me shiver again.
“Now you can tell me what you like about me,” he prompted, while I stood there struck silent.
It was hard to think with his arms engulfing me like they were, his mouth so close to mine. I wanted to run my fingers through the stubble of his beard and bite his bottom lip. But I managed to focus long enough to say, “You are definitely an asshole, but what I like is that you are so responsible, you take care of your brother, you do what you have to do, and yet you still laugh. You have a sense of humor, and you don’t take yourself too seriously.”
“I guess we’re pretty fucking awesome, aren’t we?” he asked. I nodded.
Then, without any clear signal from each other, we both went for the kiss, and it was a hot collision of mouth and teeth. It was hot and wet and perfect. Wow. And then wow some more.
Initially Jessica and Riley begin spending time together because they have no other choice. Their isolation with only each other allows for that getting to know you stage that they each dismissed so readily before. Jessica sees first-hand how much responsibility Riley takes on as man of the house, caring for three younger brothers, one of whom has special needs and another who grapples with emotional issues. And she shows herself to be loyal and devoted, not at all what Riley expected, as she throws herself into doing what she can to make his home better.
The fact that first impressions prove wrong on both accounts, that Jessica is incredibly giving and hard-working and that Riley has strong values when it comes to women and relationships, sweetens the story even more. They naturally fall into an arrangement where they’re playing house, though it doesn’t much feel like playing. All along there’s a strong undercurrent of chemistry just waiting to be given in to.
When he reached out and touched my cheek, stroking the back of his hand on my skin, I jerked away. For some reason, I wanted to believe he was making fun of me. Yet I was almost certain he wasn’t. Which meant that instead of being able to retreat behind anger and indignation, I was going to have to face something that seemed scary as hell.
“I think what we can conclude here is that while I didn’t say them out loud, my thoughts were running more along the relationship line.”
“Oh,” I said, thought my brain had stopped functioning the minute the R word came out of his mouth.
“So what do you think? The princess and the prick… it could work. Or at least we could give it a shot.”
It’s a welcome surprise that Riley is the one who pursues a deeper connection, wanting to take a real chance. But Jessica is timid when it comes to something more. She knows sex, not love. So Riley demonstrates how she deserves to be treated, how every woman deserves to be treated, and it’s magical. There are real doubts here about the reality of a future together with so much responsibility at such a young age, about sexual attractiveness and how we perceive ourselves, the natural progression of learning someone else and building a life together. We see the evolution of a relationship, in the ups and downs and the everyday. And this is a New Adult book worth reading and loving and going back to again and again.
Learn more or order a copy of Sweet by Erin McCarthy, out now as an e-book:
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.