FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley).
Series: Shattered Past #1
Publisher: Loveswept on October 7, 2014
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (NA)
His life was never easy. Hers wasn’t supposed to be this hard. They come from different worlds, but fate lures them together in a way neither expected in Cecy Robson’s raw, steamy series debut—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn.
Evelyn Preston’s future once looked perfect—until her wealthy father was caught in an embezzlement scandal and took his own life. Alone and struggling to pay her college tuition and bills, Evelyn finds a job as a waitress at the ultra-hip nightclub Excess, where she used to have more in common with the privileged private-school clientele than her fellow staff members. But something attracts her to the sexy six-foot-four bouncer and underground MMA fighter Mateo Tres Santos. Although they’ve led different lives, their troubled pasts bonds them in both survival and love.
Mateo is ex-army who wound up in prison for assaulting the man who harmed his sister. Now he’s feeling the same protective impulse for this petite blond waitress. When Evelyn experiences a panic attack at the club, Mateo comes to her rescue. And when Mateo is wounded shielding her from a brawl, Evelyn returns the favor and comes to his aid.
As their attraction intensifies, Mateo is determined to find out what nightmares are lurking in Evelyn’s past—even if that means tackling his own to save her.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
When Evelyn’s world came crashing down, the former spoiled rich girl was lucky to be taken in by her parents’ former maid. Struggling to make ends meet and make something of herself, she’s stuck wearing skimpy outfits while waitressing at a bar and spending the rest of her time immersed in nursing school studies. Having a roommate and a plan is enough, but when a hot bouncer from work takes an interest in her, she finds herself immersed in altogether foreign feelings and a culture she’s not sure she fits into.
I was really excited to get my hands on this book, but it was very different than I expected. Not all bad, just different.
There were elements that were really great, and it certainly kept me interested — and guessing — right to the very end. Matteo came across as very real, very much like people I’ve known with similar life experiences, background, and culture. In other books I’ve read where the male lead is an ex-con, there’s this rather overdone bit about life in prison, and it often feels like the author has simply watched too many movies. But in Once Perfect, it seems more accurate, more like what I know from every day people who’ve lived it. And I loved how Matteo was incredibly sweet and protective but not perfect. It wasn’t just a matter of conjuring up a picture of him in my head; I could practically hear his voice and observe his mannerisms.
Evelyn, though, was a strange contradiction that I never could quite reconcile. She was supposed have been a spoiled little rich girl who’d lost everything and was trying to make ends meet on her own, and initially she came across as someone who didn’t know who to trust, who was unsure of her place in this different layer of society, who distanced herself from everyone to hide her wounds and protect herself from any more hurt. But once things got going, it was like she was a completely different person, too easily finding comfort within her new circle of friends and quickly falling into a relationship with Matteo, a guy she knew of, but didn’t actually know, someone who up until that first moment was distant and mysterious and just a bit frightening. It didn’t make sense to me how she, after her friends from her old life simply turned their backs on her, could so instantly trust him, even with the drama that served as their conversation starter.
There was also the issue of too many plots in one story. On the one hand, it made for a very different read, something that doesn’t fall into the typical romance novel category and kept me guessing. But it also felt a lot like the author had several different story ideas, and instead of choosing between them elected to tangle them all together into one book. It was enough that Evelyn had fallen from society’s grace and was having to reestablish herself in a very different world. That alone would have made a great story, especially with the complexity that was Matteo. Then there was her somewhat stalkerish ex-boyfriend, another of those that had turned her away when her life fell apart. On top of Matteo’s family and noble but criminal past, the subtle race and culture issue, and just the harsh new reality she was living, Donovan’s part wasn’t really necessary. What really got me, though was the possibly repressed memories, possibly just nightmares bit that came into play. What had up until that point been an interesting if heavily dramatic read was now a mystery as well, possibly a very dark one, and one that (if I’m being completely honest) would have stopped me from requesting the book in the first place. All of the turns in plot was simply overkill and detracted from what had started out as a story that held itself up well instead of relying so heavily on constant obstacles and drama.
Even with all that, though, I did enjoy Once Perfect. It was great to see a romance between two incredibly different people who probably would never have even spoken if not for Evelyn’s whole life falling apart. And until I read it, I didn’t realize how unusual it the cultural mix was in romance. Where I grew up, so much revolved around Mexican American culture that even Matteo’s Cuban roots were more familiar to me than the men I normally read about in these novels. It certainly didn’t hurt that he was so incredibly sweet and just as hot as anyone can imagine.
I noticed that Once Perfect has been getting some very mixed reviews, but now that I’ve read it, I think it’s because the synopsis reads like a more standard romance novel, while the story itself is very heavy on drama and has a bit of a darker edge. There’s absolutely an audience for it, but I’m guessing there are a lot of readers out there who, like me, thought they were about to read something very different from what they ended up with. It’s probably not the right book for those in the mood for a fluffier good girl plus bad boy romance, but it’s perfect for those who love new adult love stories with complex story lines just a shade darker than the norm.