Monday, November 18, 2013


Beside Your Heart by Mary Whitney
Hosted by: Bare Naked Words


"It's an emotional story that will take the reader back to those feelings that made the late teen years such a powerful time."
Late one night Nicki Johnson plays with emotional fire and Googles her high school love, only to find his name splashed across the British gossip columns. Back in his native England, Adam Kincaid is successful and dating a woman from an aristocratic family like his own. With a career in politics, Nicki’s no slouch, but she knows Adam is living a world away from her life.
Yet there was a time he was no farther than the next locker. Nicki will never forget their year together in high school—the year of her sister’s death, the year her mother checked out. Adam helped Nicki through suffocating grief, and she led him through a coming of age. Was it just high school, or was it something more?

Coming of age stories are among some of my favorites, maybe because it is something all of us have in common. We all were the angst filled teen who was misunderstood by our parents and peers. Beside Your Heart captured that feeling of being seventeen and have tragedy strike your family, yet still have to get up and go to school and deal with mean girls and the cute guy that sits next to you in class being hot and cold. 

Seeing as I teach high school-ers I get to see angsty teens, traumatizing life situations, mean girls, and lots of stolen glances between my students. I guess you could say my life at work is an angsty contemporary romance novel..haha. Because of this I'm always a little apprehensive about reading high school love drama. 

There is a prologue in the beginning that sort of set up the book. From knowing that information, some of the happiest times in the book were so enjoyable, yet had an undertone of apprehension for me because we already know a little bit about where things end up. Well, I guess the blurb tells us a bit about it too. I also am sooooo observant that I didn't realize until about 75% into it that there was another book! Shot to the heart, people. Ugh. I am a little bit devastated to be honest. I have soooo many questions about what will happen in the next installment and I just don't know what to do!!!! 

Since Courtney finished a little before me I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to be a little unsettled at the ending...I wasn't wrong. But I'll get to that in a minute. The story between the prologue and epilogue was the story of the push and pull between Nicki and Adam. Their chemistry was strong and I thought the build up to their love story was very realistically paced and true to many high school-ers love experiences. Well, okay, maybe they were a smidge more mature than many of my students...but I think some of my seniors have the capability to be this mature. (sometimes)
That being said, it was a very, very enjoyable story. Nicki and Adam don't have the greatest start to being friends so the authenticity of hormonal teenagers was great. Nicki has great friends and Tom is by far my favorite. He was a bit of a scene stealer, yet I wish that he would've been involved even more!!! I don't know that we've mentioned it yet, but if we haven't...Adam is British. Do you see my emphasis. The banter with him and Nicki and his using very English expressions were some of my favorite lines. I loved him as much as I hated him, and he will for sure make you remember those times with your immature boys in high school and how they aren't exactly thinking with the brain in their head.... :p 

I love that Adam is British; I'm a sucker for an accent so that was definitely a plus. Nicki's friends were really great too--fun and supportive and good about telling her what she didn't want to hear sometimes. I think one of my favorite things, though, was Nicki's willingness to be who she was and not feel self-conscious about her scars. She's been through so much and she's still so strong. 

If I had to suggest anything, it'd be to add more of their adult lives to the story. I was so curious after the prologue (and the epilogue) and I kept hoping that we'd get to it but alas, we'll have to wait until the next book to see how their adult lives will intersect. The writing in this book is really good and I know I'll pick up the second installment to see what they are up to next.

Courtney: 4 Stars
Shelley: 3 1/2 Stars

 ***The sequel, Disclosure of the Heart, released November 5**

We said our goodbyes, and Adam guided me to his black Honda. My stomach did flip-flops. This had been a very bad idea. Lisa was right. This was not good for me.
Adam opened my door, and I grasped for a way out. “You don’t even know where I live. It could be really out of your way in BFE.”
“BFE? Where is that?”
“It’s just a more polite way of saying Bum Fuck Egypt.”
“Of saying what?” He laughed.
“Oh, uh, Bum Fuck Egypt. It’s kind of an American saying for the middle of nowhere.”
Closing his eyes for a moment, he shook his head and grinned. “Bum. Fuck. Egypt. So you fuck someone in the bum in Egypt and that means the middle of nowhere?”
“In the bum?”
“Bum. It’s another word for arse.”
“I never really thought of it as being someone’s ass before.” I giggled. “You might be right, though. I thought it was more like you were a bum and fuck was short for fucking, as in ‘fucking Egypt.’ Does that make sense?”
“The whole thing doesn’t make sense, but it’s funny.” He leaned against the car door with the same look in his eye as when we’d talked about sexual frustration in class that other day. “You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard an American girl say fuck.”
I was in an eye-lock with him, biting my tongue. I bet Meredith liked to have sex all the time, but she’d never say fuck. “It’s not very ladylike,” I said.
“But you’re not bothered.”
“Well, I try not to say it.”
“Of course, but you don’t seem to bother much about what people think of you.”
I looked down, wondering if that was true, and the scar on my arm caught my eye. It was a perfect example. With all that I’d gone through, I didn’t fucking care. I shrugged. “Unless they’re my friends or family, it doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t.” He rested his chin on the door as he studied my face. I felt like I was being appraised again. With him being British and all, I wondered if he thought I should be more proper. Maybe that’s why he liked Meredith. A moment passed, and his voice brightened again. “You just said you lived by the school. So do I. Your home can’t be that far away.”

Excerpt # 2
“No British literature. Isn’t this supposed to be an English class?” Adam asked.
“Uh.” My ancestors would’ve been proud of the jolt of American patriotism that hit me.  “There was a revolution two hundred years ago. We write our own books now.”
He leaned back in his seat with a smile. “I think I heard about that.”
“We still share the same language.”
“Sometimes I’m not too sure.”
“I bet not.” I could imagine what he thought of a Texas accent.
 He picked up the list of books again. “What about Catcher in the Rye?”
“I read it a long time ago when I was, like, eleven. I laughed a little as I remembered how I’d first come to read it.
“Is there something funny about that?
“Yeah. My father had suggested I read it then. The book is the classic coming-of-age story. Clearly, he wasn’t really thinking about whether or not it was appropriate for an eleven-year-old.”
“Really? Why?”
“Well, for one thing, the main character is a guy who swears a lot.”
“I suppose I swear a lot.” He cracked a sly smile. “At least compared to you Yankees.”
“Yankees? You’re in the South.” I laughed.
“What else is inappropriate about the book? Now I’m interested. It can’t only be a few swear words.”
“No, it’s not just that. It’s…” I hesitated for a moment as I realized I was about to bring up the topic of sex with Adam Kincaid. What the hell, I thought. I should be matter-of-fact about it. He had a girlfriend and would never want anything with me. I could hide I thought he was hot, so I shrugged. “Holden, the main character…he’s a little sexually frustrated.”
His eyes twinkled, and it felt as if my words hung in the air. I wanted to squirm in my seat. ‘Sexually frustrated’—like me checking out Adam Kincaid.
His proper upbringing showed again as he sidestepped the issue, yet he smirked. “That sounds like an adventurous book to be on an American high school syllabus.”
“Like I said—it’s considered an American classic.” I laughed. “I guess some things are sacred.”
“But of course.” The gleam appeared in his eye again, and he turned toward me in his seat. “Teenage sexual frustration is sort of a rite of passage, if you will.”
There went the good-English-boy manners out the window. His tone, the look in his eye, his body language—was he flirting with or taunting me? I decided the former was impossible, and if the latter, I wasn’t going to back down. With two parents who were lawyers, debate was a family routine.
“A rite of passage? More like a biological fact, isn’t it?” I asked, casually clicking my pen. I raised a brow. “Especially for guys.”
“You’re right about that,” he said with a grin.

Even before she graduated from law school, Mary Whitney knew she wasn’t cut out to be a real lawyer. Drawn to politics, she’s spent her career as an organizer, lobbyist, and nonprofit executive. Nothing piques her interest more than a good political scandal or romance, and when she stumbled upon writing, she put the two together. A born Midwesterner, naturalized Texan, and transient resident of Washington, D.C., Mary now lives in Northern California with her two daughters and real lawyer husband.
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