5 star book review for Bad Romeo, book 1 in The Starcrossed Series by Leisa Rayven, on sale starting December 23, 2014.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Generally, I can be quite critical of the contemporary romance genre. While I find myself willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to historical and paranormal romance, I expect a lot from contemporary stories, especially in terms of plot and characterization. So when I find a book that meets my (slightly high) expectations, you know I have to share it. And let me tell you, Bad Romeo (book 1 of the Starcrossed Series) by Leisa Rayven completely exceeds them.
This story is incredibly compelling, and right away I feel sympathetic towards the main characters and invested in their journey. But what I love most about Bad Romeo is Leisa’s storytelling, in and of itself. Simply put, it’s spectacular. Leisa has the ability to place the reader right in her characters’ shoes and allow us to understand their thought processes and decisions. One moment I’m laughing out loud like a loon with tears pouring down my face, and then a couple chapters later, tears re-emerge because my heart is breaking. I also truly enjoy Leisa’s use of time. The story unfolds for the reader in an effective and evocative way as we move back and forth between the present and past. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Bad Romeo is 100% MUSTREAD, and I gladly give it 5 stars.
We begin with Cassandra Taylor on what should be one of the best days of her life. She’s on her way to the first rehearsal of a new Broadway play, in which she’ll be the lead. Cassie will be working with an amazing, Tony Award-winning director, and if all goes well this could be the big break she’s been waiting for. But Cassie isn’t necessarily feeling the joy–she’s sweating (i.e. glistening), nervous, and on the brink of experiencing some serious rage. This is all because she’s about to be reunited with Ethan Holt, the man who broke her heart three years ago and is also now her co-star.
Over the last three years, Cassie has tried to move on from the hurt Ethan caused her, at times using less than healthy coping mechanisms to do so. Being in his presence for the foreseeable future isn’t something she’s is looking forward to. But after their first meeting, Cassie’’s even more agitated–the sparks that drew her to Ethan in the first place are still there and they’re palpable. Even more disconcerting is Ethan himself. He seems different somehow, more candid, open-hearted, and desperate to win Cassie back. As Cassie takes us through her first experience of love with Ethan, will she find herself willing to take another risk with him?
Cassie Taylor is easily one of the best heroines I’ve read this year, particularly because of how relatable she is. Cassie is passionate, hilarious, witty, with a little bit of foot-in-mouth syndrome. When we first meet her, she’s emerging from a rough patch, but that’s understandable when recovering from heartbreak. However, the fact that she’s willing to take her dream job, even when it means coming face to face with the source of her agony, makes Cassie exceedingly brave, in my view. So she’s a little hesitant and wary, but full of snark and a refusing to take any of Ethan Holt’s mess.
And Ethan… *sigh* Ethan is INTENSE. He’s astonishingly gorgeous and talented, and when it comes to Cassie, totally unwilling to accept anything less than her completely true self. When we first meet Ethan he’s apologetic, but determined to get Cassie’s attention and work things out between them.
Interestingly enough, Cassie and Ethan’s characters, as I’ve described them, are pretty much a role reversal from when they first meet one another in college. From their first interaction six years ago, these two have an unmistakable chemistry that practically surges from their skin. This compatibility makes them perfect co-stars in their first college roles as Romeo and Juliet. While Cassie pushes Ethan to explore this attraction off the stage, he’s leery, mistrustful, and unwilling to let her in. Unfortunately, Ethan’s past hurts continue to weigh on him. He wants Cassie and it’s pretty clear that she wants him too, but he can’t convince himself to take the leap when (as he sees things) it’s all destined to end in ruin anyway.
Like I mention earlier, part of what I like most about this story is the way we move through time. While we’re in the past, we get to see how Cassie and Ethan’s relationship begins and quickly grows into something vivid and fierce, in spite of Ethan’s reservations:
E: “I’ve pushed you away time and time again. Yet you still want me to kiss you?”
C: “Yes. A lot.”
He grazes his hands over my ribs, and his voice is soft and breathless…
E: “Don’t you see how fucked up this is? How bad I’d be for you?
C: “I know, but do you want it? Do you want…me?”
E: “Fuck, yes.”
I stand on my toes and tug his head down. When his mouth is close enough, I gently press my lips against his. Oh. God…We kiss, and grind, and tangle together, desperate for more. There’s too much fabric and not enough air. His hard is pressing against my soft, and I never knew anything in the world could feel so damn good.
See what I mean?! So much passion between them, and it’s instinctual!
But this isn’t enough to keep Ethan’s hesitation at bay. While we’re not sure how things end in college, we know that they do. And by the time we catch up with Cassie and Ethan three years later, the tables have turned:
I get a twinge in my stomach as I realize how different he is from the impatient, sullen man he used to be. I wonder if he ever looks at me and notices how different I am. How jaded I’ve become. How fragile…
E: “If I were a betting man, I’d say you’re pissed because of how much you want me. Don’t you realize I know all the tricks? The dark looks, the anger, no touching. I did the same thing to you because I was scared of letting you in. But you didn’t let me keep you out. You pushed me, time and again. Maybe that’s what I should do not. Make you face your feelings for me.”
*SIGH* What will they do now?
As you can tell, Cassie and Ethan’s relationship is one of my favorite things about this story, but Bad Romeo as has some fantastic secondary characters. In particular, I adore Elissa (Ethan’s sister), Tristan (Cassie’s roommate and life coach), and Ruby (Elissa’s college roommate). These three add so much to the story as they help Cassie and Ethan (the reader, too) navigate their feelings.
In both the past and the present, these two must decide how much they’re willing to open up and let the other person inside. Through it all, there’s drama, angst, humor, and sexy, sexy romance. And that ending…the past AND the present…GAH! I definitely need Broken Juliet (book 2) ASAP!
I wholeheartedly recommend Bad Romeo to those who enjoy contemporary romance with some angst, but the promise of humor and swoons to smooth the way. Head over to Goodreads and add this to your TBR shelf. Then go pre-order your copy so you can have Bad Romeo as soon as it comes out on December 23. Trust me, you won’t want to wait! And in the mean time, Leisa has kindly made the first two chapters of the book available FOR FREE on Wattpad, so go give yourself a preview.
Congratulations Leisa on your first novel–I look forward to reading ALL of your words!