Monday, June 7, 2021

Chloe Liese - Only When It's Us


Ever since she sat next to me in class and gave me death eyes, Willa Sutter’s been on my shit list. Why she hates me, I don't know. What I do know is that Willa is the kind of chaos I don’t need in my tidy life. She’s the next generation of women’s soccer. Wild hair, wilder eyes. Bee-stung lips that should be illegal. And a temper that makes the devil seem friendly. She’s a thorn in my side, a menacing, cantankerous, pain-in-the-ass who’s turned our Business Mathematics course into a goddamn gladiator arena. I'll leave this war zone unscathed, coming out on top…And if I have my way with that crazy-haired, ball-busting hellion, that will be in more than one sense of the word.  


Rather than give me the lecture notes I missed like every other instructor I’ve had, my asshole professor tells me to get them from the silent, surly flannel-wearing mountain man sitting next to me in class. Well, I tried. And what did I get from Ryder Bergman? Ignored. What a complete lumbersexual neanderthal. Mangy beard and mangier hair. Frayed ball cap that hides his eyes. And a stubborn refusal to acknowledge my existence.I’ve battled men before, but with Ryder, it's war. I’ll get those notes and crack that Sasquatch nut if it’s the last thing I do, then I’ll have him at my mercy. Victory will have never tasted so sweet.

Comment: I got aware of this author last year. I thought the blurbs for her books seemed interesting, especially this Bergman brothers series. After talking to a friend, we decided to read them together too and now I've read this one, which she had read already, so we can read the others in the following months.

In this book we meet Willa and Ryder, two college students who share one class with a very demanding teacher. Willa has a sports' scholarship and the schedules mean she often arrives a little late to the class so when the noisy teacher sets her up with Ryder for lost notes and Ryder seems to ignore her, she is furious. Thus starts a mix of misunderstandings for Ryder is partially deaf and simply didn't hear her.
Ryder likes Willa's dedication to a sport he used to play before his illness robed him of a perfect hearing. Now he has set up his goals in different directions but between family and his surroundings he can't fully escape those memories and Willa is a strong reminder. But as they are forced to do a class project, they start to realize they have plenty in common...will they ever be in the same rhythm in all things, though?

It's true this story ended up being a sweet one. By the colorful cover and the initial chapters, I thought this would be another college story with opposites attract, fun but not the kind of thing one would rave about a few months later. In fact, I was surprised by how much more serious it turned out to be and how touching some themes were after all.

At its basic, this is cute romance between two people who have little things in common - sports and college - but whose personalities and life experiences make them apart in how they approach their goals. I liked how they weren't made to be full opposites but it was also a bit convenient they had to share the love for soccer and that it would endear them to the other one more easily. I don't consider this a bad set up simply because I found their personalities engaging and I liked spending time in their heads; we have both their POVs as the plot moves along.

Willa is, I'd say, the most complex one. She never met her father, she has a mother who used to be military so she never really set her roots in a specific place so she uses soccer as her main interest, betting much of her emotions on something she can control. Her mother is sick when the story begins and that works as a worrying element too, besides her lack of time for studies. I think the author did a good job portraying her, she probably embodies many female students out there who aren't only focused on looks or having a great time as it seems from so many college novels.

Ryder is a young man who was dealt a bad deal. He got sick and now can't play the sport he liked in the level he wanted of course. He isn't unable to paly but at a professional or competition level, it's not possible to have the same proficiency. Still, his has a loving family, his parents help and even if he created some distance from some of his siblings, he feels he coped well with his losses. He was a reliable character and I was rooting for him to find peace with his decisions and love with Willa.

Their romance feels like constant bickering until a certain point on. It was fun and cute but then, hen they finally started to acknowledge to themselves what they felt, it started to be more annoying because it felt the author was delaying them really talk because of outside reasons when they didn't have to interfere. Then something really serious happens and things take a more complicated turn...I felt Willa and Ryder as a couple could be difficult to work at that moment but it was great to see the author didn't create silly obstacles for them, only their relationship felt like was being delayed. When they finally talk and such, it felt to me that the momentum was gone, so I was glad for them but I didn't feel that strong emotional connection as fluid as before.

I liked the writing style, I liked the tone of the story, it was only a few details in the big scheme of things I think weren't as well done, namely the relationship evolution pace or the way Willa in particular "designed" things in her head. Although how can one say how each individual would deal with this or that. It's always easier to speculate. A good element was also the inclusiveness of a character with a disability, which seems to be a trademark with the series, looking at the blurbs.

Anyway, this was a solid novel, I'm now eager to read the next one not only to check out the story itself but also to see these two again.
Grade: 8/10

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