I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.If You Stay by Courtney Cole
Series: Beautifully Broken #1
Published by Forever, Hachette Audio on 2013-04-16
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Erotica, Fiction, Romance
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24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.
He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match.
But he’s got his reasons.
His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.
As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade.
So he slipped far, far from it.
Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?
And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.
When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.
But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it.
He knows that. And he’s working on it.
But is that enough to make her stay?
If You Stay starts off with an intense scene, setting the tone for Pax Tate’s character and state of mind as he’s doing drugs and in an intimate situation with a woman that’s there mostly for the drugs. When Pax overdoses on a cocktail of illicit substances in his car, Mila Hill happens upon the scene while she’s on the beach taking photographs for her business. While she calls 911 and waits for the ambulance, she can’t help but wonder how someone could end up like this: alone, so messed up that they were dying and not seeming to care. It’s these questions that lead Mila to find Pax in the hospital as he recovers, and this leads to Pax’s fascination with such a seemingly good girl with haunted eyes.
Pax lost his mother when he was seven years old, and he’s felt empty ever since. His relationship with his father is distant and strained and his maternal grandfather barely acknowledges his existence, so he lives off the money he earns from his mother’s shares in his grandfather’s company, keeping to himself in the small city on Lake Michigan. He’s turned to drugs, alcohol, and easy women to fill the ache inside of him for years, to make him forget his past. But Mila and her concern for his well-being–even though he’s a stranger to her–has awoken new feelings inside of him that can’t be tamed. He wants to get to know her, and more importantly, he wants to be the kind of man that deserves a woman like Mila.
Mila has seen her share of tragedy when her parents died in a car accident a few years earlier. Now her sister is left to run the family restaurant with Mila’s help, but Mila also has her own art and photography business. She’s pretty content with her life, but after finding the nearly lifeless Pax on the beach, she can’t seem to shake the feeling that he needs her help. Sure, he’s very attractive, but he’s cocky, too self-assured, and a major jerk. But Mila is sure that there’s something inside of him worth getting to know.
This book was really a story of Pax cleaning up his act and remembering what really happened when his mother died. When he quit using drugs without much fanfare or consequence, I did look twice at this book. I’m not so sure that anyone could do the amount of cocaine and pills that Pax was doing on a daily basis for so long without going through withdrawal of some kind after cutting out cold turkey. The author does a great job of writing the asshole, the unlikeable hero, and he certainly grew on me throughout the book.
Mila was a little bit of a flat character for me. While she wasn’t overly whiny or super needy, the insta-love seemed to come on pretty quick between Mila and Pax. Mila and her family dynamic was explored decently deep, so you do get a nice look at her history–especially with her parents. She’s a bit too forgiving, too quick to accept Pax the way he is, and in some ways that came off as weak.
I give If You Stay a 3.5 out of five. The dialogue and descriptions of the setting are excellent, and these really drew me into the story. Pax and Mila’s push and pull took a while to get into, but once the story got going and Pax remembered how his mother died, everything really kicked into high gear. The subject matter dealt with in this book isn’t very light, including drug and alcohol abuse, death, risky sexual situations. While this isn’t the darkest drug abuse book that I’ve read, this was an entertaining contemporary romance that focused on one man’s path towards redemption with a strong, supportive woman by his side every step of the way.
I listened to the audiobook provided by Hachette Audio
Get your own Audiobook at Audible: If You Stay.
Since this book was told in alternating points of view of Mila and Pax, two narrators read this book. Nicholas Tecosky did an awesome job as Pax, with great emotion, range, and tenor in his performance. Loretta Rawlins read Mila’s part, and there were times that I honestly thought the voice was a computer voice reading these sections. It took a little getting used to, but the male narrator sections were excellent!