Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.
Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.
Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…
*Blurb from Goodreads*
1. Thoughts on the Hero
MinnChica: Oh Riley, I have been waiting patiently for you, and you were absolutely NOT what I expected. I was thinking Riley was going to be this totally alpha, take-no-prisoners in bed kind of guy, and yet he surprised me by how sensitive and sweet he was. I thought for sure he and Jessica would spend a lot of this book getting naked and doing wicked things to each other, and yet it was Riley who was constantly holding back. He was the one who wanted to wait, to get to know Jessica better, to form a deeper connection emotionally before physically. And you know what, I loved him for it. That outlook on his relationship just endeared him to me that much more, and I was so glad to see them wait to make love. I think it made their relationship even more sturdy, deeper.
Lou: Riley was quite a surprise in terms of heroes in romance. He could be disgusting at times in his comments and behaviour but he was also caring and very sweet towards Jessica. They were so alike in behaviour that they were made for each other. But I had issues with Riley, and thought he was an ass at times with his jealousy towards the other guys Jessica had slept with in the past. He was quick to anger but he was also very quick to apologise afterwards and was sincere. But I only warmed up to Riley towards the second half of Sweet because his sweet nature came out in force.
E: Well unlike the other ladies who are participating in this review, Sweet was my introduction to McCarthy’s New Adult (NA) books so I didn’t have any previous expectations for Riley. I have to admit that I had some seriously mixed feelings about him. Initially he seemed like the annoying older brother who really wished his brothers’ friends would grow up and become more responsible but at the same time wasn’t mean enough to leave them hanging. Then once Jessica was around him all the time it was like a switch flipped and he became quite the ass. It didn’t seem to matter what Jessica said or did he found something wrong with it. Gradually over time and as he realized that she really did care about other people and want to help he let other aspects of his personality show. One thing I didn’t like about him throughout the entire story was his temper and how it seemed to manifest whenever he was forced to acknowledge that Jessica did have a sexual life before he entered the picture. However, he had some great redeeming qualities which I will address later in this review.
2. Thoughts on the Heroine
MinnChica: I was excited to learn more about Jessica, especially given the way I was a little unsure about her in the first book. I loved her. Given her backstory with her overbearing religious parents, I could totally see why she reacted the way she did once she got a little freedom. I loved that she was trying so hard to be a bad girl, when she was really just a good girl at heart. I loved the way she had to deal with the insecurities of a relationship with Riley that wasn’t physical, especially since it made her so uncomfortable, made her really take a good hard look at the woman she was becoming. It added such a strong dimension to her character. I absolutely love Jessica after reading this book.
Lou: Like Riley, it took me a while to warm up to Jessica. She whined. A lot. And she could also be very stupid when it came to guys. Between her and Riley acting like idiots in the first half, I nearly DNF but I trusted my bookpusher gals when they told me to keep on pushing ahead. I’m glad I did because I really liked Jessica in the second half when she took a good look at her behaviour and realised she was harming herself in pushing any emotions aside. She took quite the journey with ups and downs, but she did grow as a character. Jessica could be abrupt, rude but she was so loyal to her friends.
E: Like Lou I struggled with Jessica as well. Thankfully I knew that MinnChica had already finished and she didn’t hint at any serious issues so I continued to read. She initially struck me as shallow and uncaring but when I learned about her parents and saw what she tried to help Riley and his brothers accomplish she showed more depth. I started to like her as a character but she reverted a few times and her behavior made me want to reach through my kindle and give her a good shake. Thankfully after about the midway point it seemed like she started to realize that her rebellion was really only hurting herself. She had to decide what she was going to do with her life and with the surprising new opportunity she had. I was certainly rooting for her relationship with Riley to work out as the book progressed because they were both making a positive impact on each other.
3. Favorite Scene
MinnChica: Oh man…. picking just one is so hard! I think for me it would have to be when Riley and Jessica paint the kitchen together. It was one of the first moments when they dropped all pretenses and were just friends. They joked and laughed, they worked, they shared some of themselves, and they ended up having fun in the process. It was one of the moments when the hero and heroine realize just how good of friends they are, with or without the sex. I loved it.
Lou: I think my favourite scene was when Jessica was shitfaced drunk, and she realised that by being the complete opposite to what her parents had tried to mould her to be, she was harming herself in the long run. I loved how she embraced her sexuality and stood against the double standards between men and women when it came to sex. I also loved how she tried to make a better home for the Mann brothers.
E: I liked both of the scenes mentioned above but I think my favorite scene was one that I didn’t enjoy reading but it marked a real turning point in this book. It is the scene when Riley and Jessica get into a large argument regarding her past sexual life. To me this scene openly exposed the double standard about men and women regarding their sexual experience. Jessica’s reaction to Riley’s comments made it clear that what he said and thought was unacceptable. That in turn made Riley pause and think about his words and their underlying meaning, then he groveled. While this scene was very uncomfortable to read, it rang true and really signified the point when Riley started seeing beyond his fears for his family and Jessica started seeing that maybe there was more to life than drinking and sex.
4. Dislike about book
MinnChica: I’m kinda scared of the next book in the series, because of one of the things that happened with Jessica’s friend Robin. I have a feeling that the next book is going to be a “trigger” book for me, and one that isn’t going to sit well. Being that this book foreshadowed it a bit, I wasn’t a huge fan of those parts.
Lou: I really disliked a scene in the book where Jessica asks Riley is he pierced down below like Tyler. That chapter and how Jessica and Riley behaved towards each other is what made me nearly DNF. They came across as incredibly immature and I thought Jessica was dumb to think that Riley would be happy to learn that she had slept with his brother in the past. Riley’s reaction towards Jessica was so out of order that I wanted to hit him over the head.
I do hope that the next book does move on from the drinking and partying scene because I felt that this book concentrated a lot on those aspects and not enough on the emotional side of things with Riley and Jessica. I also felt the romance between Riley and Jessica developed pretty quickly and towards the beginning it didn’t feel genuine. I’m also worried about the next book because what Robin did goes against the girlfriend code.
I did think there was some privilege on show in this book that made me uncomfortable. The Mann brothers live in an area that is stricken down with poverty. Yet each character, other than Tyler and Riley, are made out to be poorly dressed, sloven, and pretty much lowlives. There was one scene on the bus where two young men were menacing and made a nuisance of themselves to Jessica. I got uncomfortable because the rest of the people in the neighbourhood weren’t shined upon in a positive light. I would have love to have seen characters from the neighbourhood to not be a potential threat. I know not everyone gets a chance to live in a nice neighbourhood but this seemed a little overkill for me. I don’t know if the author was aware of this while she was writing this book but it lowered the grade for me.
E: Like MinnChica I am worried about the next book. I also think it will contain some triggery items. Also like Lou it seemed as if the individuals outside of Jessica’s girlfriends and the Mann brothers were designed to be unlikeable. They seemed rather two dimensional and while that served as a foil it also detracted from the book because they were not fleshed out. It was really hard to believe that out of the entire community only a handful of people were decent.
5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade
MinnChica: One thing that I think is really important to note is that this book had a vastly different tone than the first in the series. They were both really well done, but they also felt like totally different stories, that should be in different series, that happen to follow the same characters. When I put the book down I was almost shocked at just how different it was from True. But I found that it didn’t really color my like or dislike of the book at all.
All in all I thought Sweet was a wonderful second book to the True Believers series. I love the characters that McCarthy has created, and can’t wait to find out more about the mysterious Phoenix, our next True-cousin hero. I thought Jessica and Riley had a perfect romance, and hope we get to see more of them in books to come.
I give Sweet a B+
Lou: I agree with MinnChica. This book had a completely different tone and style to True. I didn’t like Sweet as much as True because I think Jessica and Riley’s romance sprang into existence so quickly without any build-up tension. But I really enjoyed the second part where Jessica learns a lot about herself, and the romance with Riley was very sweet. There were funny moments, and I’m so glad we saw the Mann family again and how Jessica learned to find herself a place in this very brotherly family. I also really disliked the privilege on show when it comes to poor people.
I give Sweet a C
E: This was an interesting read. I absolutely loved how Riley decided that he wanted to be not one of many but the one that Jessica remembered and stayed with. His extreme patience when it came to their sexual relationship was very touching and sweet. I also liked how they both grew up and relaxed into who they were. I thought Riley really proved who he was when he went with Jessica to her parents house instead of letting her go by herself and face whatever they had to say. I did have some issues as I mentioned earlier with the first half of the book and the main characters but once I got past that point it became enjoyable. I am think the relationship in the next book will be a good one but I think the issues they will have to face will be extremely painful for me to read.
I give Sweet a C+/B-