Release Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: New Adult Contemporary
Shortened Goodreads Summary: Lexington "Lexi" Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year's NFL draft. His brothers and mother desperately need it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, and the sick are left to fend for themselves, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track. But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman, a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.
I discovered this series quite by accident but I am so glad that I did. Each book stands alone, but the same characters appear in all four books. I loved the first two books, Sweet Home and Sweet Rome, and while I did love them, this third installment was the first one in the series that really pulled my heart and tore it apart.
Both of the main characters, Austin and Lexi have secrets that eat at them. Austin's is all external conflict. He comes from a family that was pulled into gang life for no other reason than to protect and help their mother, due to an illness. He has a much younger brother, and an older brother that got them into the gang. Austin has gone on with his life though, is working toward the NFL goal because he knows that once there, he can take care of his family. No one knows what he has to deal with though. Matters escalate however, and he finds himself faced with having to return to his old ways to meet the immediate need of his family.
Then there's Lexi, whose story is all internal. She was the part of the story that tore me up. I'll go ahead and reveal something that the author reveals before the book even starts...this is about a girl with anorexia. I've always known anorexia was bad and could kill you, and I've always wanted to understand what went on inside a person's mind who had this disorder. The author shared this with us through Lexi, putting herself into this story, having lived through this disorder herself. I was at first humbled by how much the author laid bare of herself by telling this story, and heartbroken to see inside the head of someone with this illness. The way Lexi thinks of herself, how her mind works when it comes to her body image was so, so sad, so raw and unreal. I was sickened for her. I've never read anything so real, and after reading it, I got it. I understood at last. It was heartbreaking.
Through all of this, these two find each other. They are each so careful with the other. Their romance was so slow building, gentle, sweet, and sexy all at once. It had a depth to it due to their separate circumstances, that I haven't read in a while.
The writing was beautiful, heart-wrenching and enthralling. It broke my heart and lifted me up too. If you haven't read this book, you have to give it a try. I will continue to think of it for a long time. It will definitely be added to my favorites list. Simply beautiful.