I’d like to announce Christina Lee’s place on my favorite authors shelf. Figuratively, of course. I don’t normally put people on shelves.
Onto Kai an Rachel.
A hot and consuming New Adult romance about a wayward musician and the one girl who keeps him grounded…
At college, Rachel has a reputation for being a sarcastic flirt with a thing for star athletes. No one at school knows that she’d had her heart ripped to shreds by her high school sweetheart, who’d driven them both off the side of the road on a borrowed motorcycle, and then abandoned her. No one knows the real Rachel Mattson—except one person…
Ever since he helped nurse his sister’s feisty best friend back to health, pierced bass player Kai Nakos has been head over heels in love. But the supposed bad boy can’t risk letting Rachel know the truth—especially now that the two of them are back in their hometown for the summer, together for the first time since the months following that fateful night. Never mind that Rachel’s ex is back, groveling for her forgiveness.
Shaken by her ex’s return, Rachel finds herself turning to the one guy she knows she can trust. Kai is willing to hide his feelings for her, just to have Rachel touch him again. After all, this is only a temporary fling. Until it becomes something more. But maybe it had been more all along.
Out of the 3 (Avery, Ella and Rachel) I always considered Rachel to be the Floozy. Avery definitely had her share of flirtations and beyond during her college years. Ella, while stuck with an idiot for a boyfriend out of some distorted (and thankfully fixed) concept that he’s a connection to her brother. And Rachel always was the one to tell them both they needed to live a little, have fun, experience college and pretty much advocated sleeping around. And yes, I’m aware I’m being extreme here.
In comes Christina Lee and weaves a beautiful and emotional background story for Rachel. I’m still boggled as to how Lee managed to change my mind about Rachel. A complete 180. And by the way, that’s not to say I didn’t like Rachel. I think a friend like hers exists in every tight knit group of girlfriends. Or in most, anyway.
In any case, Rachel’s “floozy like” persona is there for one purpose – she’s suppressing who she was pre and post her accident. She’s living life up. She’s breaking free of the mold she had created in her mind about herself.
It makes perfect sense that while on campus we’d never have seen the real Rachel, and for her to come out she has to be around her old friends, around her family. And ho boy, there’s an insane difference between the two Rachels.
While at home we meet Rachel’s best friend growing up and to the point where she went to college. We meet her best friend’s brother *cough* Kai *cough* and we meet Rachel’s ex. All of them, supported by Rachel’s family, move and help grow Rachel’s character from a hiding in plain sight woman and into one that owns herself, her character and her wants.
Rachel’s arc develops gradually, which I loved in this book. Her transformation is real and makes sense. I think I most appreciated about her the process of grieving the person she thought she was when with her ex, prior to her accident. I adored that she learned to appreciate her damaged self during her recovery period. It was like many tiny pieces of a 1000000 piece puzzle just aligned and created the real picture of Rachel. And the glue that made it all happen was Kai.
Kai is a bit of a complex himself. Growing up in the shadow of his perfect sister, he always seemed to be doing the wrong thing, always getting the disappointed looks from his father, always miscommunicating his wishes and aspirations. And always smoking pot.
Returning home after a scandal at work abroad, Kai is back to his old habits, but when he sees Rachel again, things start to shift. Being best friends with her seems to be a lot more challenging now than it has been before he left (and she left for school), yet she appears to be the only one that gets him. And for Rachel he’s making changes in his life, even though I had the feeling at least at the beginning of his process, that those changes weren’t consciously made.
Kai is gorgeous, talented beyond his father’s recognition, but it is masked by his past behavior. What Rachel unknowingly does for him, for the change he’s undergoing throughout the story, is making her vulnerability known, but only to him. Knowing she’s going to be facing two groups of friends that don’t know about the other and know her as two different individuals, Rachel’s only ally is Kai. By feeling the need to be her confidant and release, Kai is gradually changing his ways. In all fairness, he’s probably changing his ways cold turkey, but the story develops in such a way that shows it building slowly, and beautifully.
The culmination of Rachel’s story arc in my opinion was when Rachel reached the point where she’s comfortable being herself with everyone important to her; her family, old and new friends. The culmination of Kai’s, however, is when inspiration strikes and he makes a decision for him, and demands the support he deserves from his family.
Far be it from me to ignore the other couples, though, and I loved the glimpse into their relationships.
Rachel’s old bestie and Kai’s sister, Dakota, has a great role in this story, which I’m not getting into (the review is long enough as it is lol), but I loved how snippy she is at times and how she bluntly points out Rachel college group of friends has got their own lingo (which I picked up on and was mildly annoyed with) but later on got what Lee was doing. Also, I’m DYING to get her story with Shane, Kai’s best friend. It’s going to be hawt. That’s my bet.
I loved this story. I loved the characters and the world Christina Lee created for them. I loved the plot and the struggles, the incredible tension and the way everything came together towards the end of the story. And I loved the ending.
You thought I’d forget, didn’t you? I didn’t forget. I have the perfect #hashtag for Kai: #KAILICIOUS
This is where you can get some #Kailiciousness:
* As always, my eternal thanks to Intermix Publishing and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.