Falling Hard by Lexi Ryan won the RITA for Best Contemporary Romance: Long. During her acceptance speech, something she said set off my "Ooooh, I love angst" alarm and literally, while siting in the audience, I hopped on my phone and downloaded this book from the library.
And now I'm DNF'ing it at 35%. I just can't. And I'm going to tell you why "I just can't." So consider that your warning for Spoilers Ahoy!
I used to really love first person. I was, after all, a mystery/suspense reader long before I "found" romance and that particular genre is laden with first person. But, hand to God romance genre, STOP TRYING TO KILL MY LOVE OF FIRST PERSON! Ahem. Yep. This is dueling first person point-of-view, alternating between hero and heroine. And just for added kicks, WE ALSO GET FLASHBACKS!!!! On top of that? This is New Adult. Look, I've been reading romance a long time (pretty constantly for 20+ years) and I like to think that just past 40 isn't all THAT old. But god damn this book made me feel old. Oh, and the characters pissed me off. But more on that in a moment.
Emma Rothschild is a former child actress with a dark past. I gave up before I found out what her Big Secret is, but I'm guessing it's some sort of sexual abuse/assault. Anyway, her mother is, like, the worst, she's not acting anymore, and she's heading to Vegas with her BFF for a girl's weekend/bachelorette party (her BFF is getting married). Anyway, her BFF hooks her up with a hot wardrobe and wig so nobody will recognize her. Because even though she's out of acting, Emma is still a TMZ darling.
Keegan was a college football star, and just got picked up by an NFL team as a free agent (in other words: he's a making-league-minimum kind of player). He also owns a bar back in his college town (or hometown or whatever - this is part of a series - blah, blah, blah it's all a rich tableau). Anyway, he got a girl knocked up and now he's a Daddy. He loves his daughter but couldn't make a relationship with her mother work because she fell for some hotshot quarterback (because of course she did). Keegan seems nice, so I decide I hate her guts. Anyway, he goes to Vegas for what's supposed to be a bachelor party for his buddy, but the buddy's woman (and friends!) tag along so it's turned into a couple's weekend thing. That's when he spots Emma at a nightclub and cannot believe his eyes. They had a "thing" 5 years ago before she dumped him like a hot potato - with no explanation. And he's never gotten over her.
OK, so the set-up here has some promise, despite being book four in a series and laden with past couples. Emma's got secrets, Keegan's got secrets and a complicated life, and we've got the ol' Reunited Lovers trope. The writing style wasn't doing much for me, other than making me feel frackin' old, but whatever. I mean, this did win a RITA, so roll with it Wendy.
Then we get to the first sex scene. The morning after, our couple wakes up with their same secretive baggage with a side of added regrets. However, they don't have much time to dwell on it since THE HEROINE'S FIANCE SHOWS UP AND KNOCKS ON THE HOTEL ROOM DOOR!
THAT'S RIGHT KIDS - OUR HEROINE IS ENGAGED TO ANOTHER DUDE!
No set-up. No foreshadowing. This little nugget is dropped like a fart in an elevator.
And just when you decide you want to yank her hair out by the roots for hurting Mr. Nice Guy hero? Guess what? The author drops the bombshell that Keegan was raised by a Con Man Daddy. When Keegan "met" Emma 5 years ago? Yeah, Keegan (all on his own) orchestrated the "meet cute" in order to meet Emma so HE COULD CON HER!!!!
Then, presumably, he falls in twu wuv and she breaks his fee-fees and five years later we get him boinking her in Vegas not knowing she's engaged.
BURN IT ALL DOWN!!!!!!
And that's where I tapped out. Between the dueling first-person (WITH FLASHBACKS!!!), coupled with two characters who wouldn't know honest it if bit them in the butt I'm beyond caring. Done. Done done donity done done.
Final Grade = DNF