Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hate to Love You by Elise Alden

Despite my slutty reputation, I was technically a virgin at eighteen. But it turns out all those sex-ed teachers aren't just trying to scare you. The faint positive on a budget pregnancy test sent me spinning, moments before meeting my sister's snooty new fiancé.
Shaking hands with upper-crusty James was like downing a triple shot of vodka. Dizzy with desire, confused by my body's reaction, and shocked by the possessiveness flashing in his eyes, I deceived him that night and told the world at their wedding reception.

The truth?
I slept with my sister's fiancé. Hot and sweaty, all night long in a room so dark he couldn't tell I wasn't her.

The lie?
Said fiancé is the father of my child. The one I signed over my rights to just before he was born. That was seven years ago.
It's time to come clean.
Paisley Benton is having a really bad day. It’s her 18th birthday. She lives a troubled life. She’s the daughter of deeply religious parents – ones that married when her mother (a technical virgin) became pregnant with her older sister Caroline.  Paisley, fresh out of rehab, is now facing the same scare – being pregnant without actually having intercourse. Freaking out, she takes an inexpensive home pregnancy test and it’s positive.Later that day, Caroline brings her fiancé James home for a visit and Paisley meets him. Sparks. Connection. Attraction. 

“The air between us charged as the frenzied atoms zapped his thoughts straight into me, possessive and indisputable. <<Mine.>>” 

She’s annoyed at his status – rich, confident, and successful, but finds him mesmerizing “Arrogant prick”. He’s equally repulsed and attracted to her “Slutty little sister”. While he’s trying to make an impression on the parents, Paisley is doing her best to un-nerve him. Insults and jabs are traded back and forth, and Paisley is doing her best to cause trouble. During a brief moment alone, they agree to a truce. Friends. Then a friendly happy birthday wish sealed with a kiss ignites them both. Realizing the mistake he just made, James sets her aside, they both throw out more insults, and he gives her the ultimate insult: “Maybe one day you’ll find a man who doesn’t mind settling for what you offer…you wouldn’t meet my standards regardless of how long it’s been…”. 

She’s stunned and hurt, going to her room she ends up reaching for the bottle. Drunk, she wanders into her sister’s room trying on her sister’s clothes, and passes out naked in Caroline’s bed. James shows up in Caroline’s room drunk as well, and thinks that she’s changed her mind about staying over with a friend. James confesses to kissing Paisley, and Paisley goes along with the game pretending to be her sister. He admits his attraction to Paisley, and she (as Caroline) encourages him to tell her more. Thinking it’s Caroline, he seduces her and sleeps with Paisley saying it was the best night of his life. 

Three months later – Caroline and Paisley have a blow-out the night before the wedding. Seething and seeking revenge over her sister’s actions, Paisley gets drunk, makes a public toast, and tells her everyone she slept with James and he is the father of her child, and throws Caroline’s words from the night before back at her. 

Paisley leaves town, going to Spain to try to escape the drama and aftermath of her wedding fiasco. Seven years later, Paisley returns from Spain and tries to make amends with James, her son, and herself. 

Oh man, this book just about killed me. I was conflicted. I was angry. I was laughing. I wanted to shake her and smack her upside the head for continually behaving like a twit. Then I wanted to hold her and be her BFF and tell her everything was okay and it wasn’t her fault. Paisley was juvenile, brash, uncensored, and self-destructive.  Her family was crappy, her sister Caroline was evil, there’s an incident with her uncle that marked her and vilified her, and religious attitudes from her parents that stifled her. She was the one that was disappointing, a black sheep next to her sister the golden child. Alone and confused, she acts out to compensate for the lack of compassion and love from her family.  She operates under the mantra of “any kind of attention is attention.”   

In the end, Paisley grows, learns, and understands the meaning of redemption. She also learns the meaning of self-sacrifice. I found myself hoping she’d come out the winner in this game of life. Wishing someone would just give her a break and allow her to find happiness. I wasn’t disappointed. 

This is a difficult read – as the content is not something that should be acceptable. Cheating? Nuh-uh. No way. But in this setting, you see what pushed her to behave the way she does, and how others decisions have shaped her life. She’s a fighter, and you want to root for a character like hers to come out winning. Go in with an open mind, and you’ll find an enjoyably complex read from a new author.

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