Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…
Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.
But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a naïve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…
Blurb came from Goodreads.
MinnChica: The biggest worry for me going into this book would be that I would hate Robin and never be able to forgive her. I went through a similar situation in college, and I went into this story hoping that McCarthy would be able to redeem Robin, but also a little determined to hate her character overall. Let me just say this: Robin suffers. She made a horrible mistake one drunken night, and she is SUFFERING for it. She acknowledged what was wrong in her life (drinking) and decided to do something about it. She really did anything and everything she could think of to get herself to a place where she could look in the mirror and not hate herself. I was happy to see that she never really got there. It will take time for her to be okay, and I like that McCarthy didn’t sugarcoat that.
E: I think all of us who read the second book had some serious concerns about Robin’s actions and how McCarthy was going to manage to redeem her in our eyes. Line MinnChica I felt the amount of mental anguish and suffering that Robin experienced along with her drastic attempts to change her behavior redeemed her as a romance heroine. I loved how her growth and change wasn’t instant nor was everything magically fixed once she identified she had a problem. She was really caught in a difficult situation without an easy answer. As challenging as Robin’s journey was during the story I think the final decisions she made really solidified her as a character and left me feeling satisfied about the work she still has to achieve.
MinnChica: Despite my reservations about Robin, I was so excited to read more about Phoenix. I love the idea of the misunderstood hero, and after reading the teaser chapter in the last book, I knew that Phoenix would be right up my alley that way. I adored him. Despite the fact that he was in jail for an extended period of time, for a somewhat violent crime, Phoenix was a total softie, and I loved that about him. Sure, he could be hard and tough when he needed to be, but underneath it all he just wanted his mother to love him, family to call him own, and a strong woman to stand by his side. His luck had been running real low on all those points until he met Robin. Despite that, he was still pretty optimistic and hopeful that life would work out for him, and I loved him for it!
E: Phoenix was pretty complicated. He seemed set up for failure from the very beginning with his mother and his anger management challenges. I loved the teaser chapter that introduced him and couldn’t wait to find out his story. As the story developed and I got to know Phoenix, my heart broke for what he had gone through and what he was still facing. I loved how patient he was with Robin and yet he also drew a hard line about what he was not willing to accept in his life. He was also incredibly talented and protective but not devoid of the impulsiveness that comes from trying to live life to the fullest. I also enjoyed the symbolism of his name as the story reached its conclusions.
MinnChica: I also really enjoyed their romance. It wasn’t always easy and perfect, but for them as individuals it really worked. There was a scene where Robin gets Phoenix to give her a tattoo. There was something really sexy about the trust that Robin had in Phoenix, and the way that Phoenix was able to really bask in that. It was Robin’s way of showing through actions, not just words, how much she cared for him and trusted in him to keep her safe. It was a sweet and touching moment for me. I think it also really showcased just how much they cared for each other, since they were willing to share such an intimate moment and mark each other permanently into their skin.
E: The tattoo scene was really touching I agree. But I think what stuck to me the most was when Phoenix laid down the law to Robin. They had discussed earlier in the story how he was against any sort of drug and given his childhood it was very easy to understand why. However, Robin wasn’t considering anyone other than her wish to make the pain she was feeling vanish so she needed to understand what her actions had done to those who cared about her and how her default response to stress was extremely unhealthy. It wasn’t enough for her to stop drinking cold turkey as a knee-jerk reaction to an incident, she had to acknowledge she had more of a problem than what she did while drinking. She had a problem that caused her to turn to alcohol as her default. Phoenix’s willingness to say and do what he did along with Robin facing the further implications of her lifestyle up to that point really made this story for me. While it wasn’t a pleasant scene, I think it showed McCarthy’s skill in characterization and giving a complete story without hand-waving over the messy details.
MinnChica: Yes, I couldn’t agree more that the way McCarthy handled Robin’s drinking problem was so incredible. Phoenix’s reactions were perfect, her parents concern was so genuine, it was very well done. However, there were some things that were a little unrealistic for me in this book. The first was Phoenix’s mom. While I didn’t hate her as much as I’m sure others will, the problem I had with her is that given her track record with dealing with Phoenix, I had a hard time believing that she would come back into his life like everything was rainbows and unicorns. If she really was a drug addicted piece of shit mom, why made her nice all of a sudden? I felt like that change in his mom was a little too happy and didn’t like it. Also, I had mixed feelings about the way the book ended. I liked that Robin and Phoenix were able to go off and pursue their dreams, however it did feel a bit like they were being punished for Robin’s actions. Because her friends didn’t want to be around her anymore, they voted her off the island, and she had to go. It just didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth, but I’m anxious to see if it’s addressed at all in future books.
E: I really disliked Phoenix’s mother. Not just as a character because I did, but her entrance part way through the story really without any consequences. Her lack of contact with Phoenix while he was incarcerated, her actions during his childhood and her expectation that he would be happy to see her I could excuse because family is complicated. But what really threw me was the lack of a hard-line about her presence given what was at stake for Phoenix’s cousins and their custody arrangement. Phoenix had to find a job and a new place to live in case Child Welfare Services paid a visit but it was expected throughout the entire story that his mother would pay a visit. This was really the only inconsistency that bothered me during this story. Unlike MinnChica, I liked the idea of Phoenix and Robin moving to a fresh environment. I felt they needed the change to have a chance to succeed. I do hope the lingering anger and hurt is resolved in future installments because the girls were so close.
MinnChica: All in all I liked this book much more than I expected to. Like I said, I was really hesitant to read this one because of Robin’s major screw up, however I did end up liking it. I was glad to see that McCarthy let Robin really suffer for her mistakes, and didn’t give her an easy way out. I adored Phoenix and his almost beta-like hero ways. I’m anxious to see what happens next in this series!
I give Believe a B
E: I was completely caught up in this story. I felt for Phoenix, Robin, and the other characters as they struggled to deal with the aftermath of the summer. I thought the choices they had to make and the angst associated with those choices fit their experiences. No, they weren’t ones I would ever wish on anyone but they are a facet of today’s society. This is not a comfortable series for me to read but the way McCarthy brings up situations and lets them play out in all of their messiness including second and third order effects continues to suck me in. I have hope for Robin and Phoenix but I also know it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to succeed.
I also give Believe a B.