Before she agreed to tutor Tucker price, college junior Scarlett was introvert, struggling with her social anxiety and determined to not end up living in a trailer park like her mother and her younger sister. A mathematics major, she goes to her classes, to her job in the tutoring lab, and then hides in the apartment she shares with her friend, Caroline.
After junior Tucker Price, Southern University’s star soccer player enters the equation, her carefully plotted life is thrown off its axis. Tucker’s failing his required College Algebra class. With his eligibility is at risk, the university chancellor dangles an expensive piece of computer software for the math department if Scarlett agrees to privately tutor him.Tucker’s bad boy, womanizer reputation makes Scarlett wary of any contact, let alone spending several hours a week in close proximity.
But from her first encounter, she realizes Tucker isn’t the person everyone else sees. He carries a mountain of secrets which she suspects hold the reason to his self-destructive behavior. But the deeper she delves into the cause of his pain, the deeper she gets sucked into his chaos. Will Scarlett find the happiness she’s looking for, or will she be caught in Tucker’s aftermath?
“How long have I existed in this nether world? Living in it but not part of it? Standing on the sidelines as a bystander? I’m like an alien, exiled to a foreign land in which I never fit, no matter how hard I try. For twenty years I’ve lived alone, keeping me safely tucked inside, but it’s an illusion. A lie. I thought I could protect myself from the horror of my home life growing up, but all I’ve done is isolate and ostracize myself from the world. I’d always hoped someone would hold the key to open the door to my prison. Someone I felt safe letting in. Now I’ve found him. And he doesn’t want me.”
Every coin has two sides, every stick has two ends, and every person has two faces. This is the story of two people who live their lives presenting a brave façade to the world around them, keeping their true vulnerable face hidden deep inside them where no one can hurt them. It’s a story of finding the one person in the world who makes you want to lower your defences for them, finally let your guard down and let them see the real you. And hopefully find yourself in the process.
“Could someone really see past the walls I put up and see me?”
Scarlett grew up in a trailer park, raised by a mother who only saw her as a burden and a way to get welfare. Never having experienced unconditional love or any love for that matter from the one person that should have taught her the meaning of love, Scarlett has not only moved away from the only home she’s ever known and the only family she has in the world, but also left her past behind forever. Desperate to become the very opposite of what her mother always expected her to become, she now lives her life surrounded by rules, structure, set plans for her future. Striving to achieve independence in her life and to never need anyone to feel complete, Scarlett steers away from romantic relationships, seeing them not only as a distraction she cannot afford, but also as something that could potentially break her fragile heart. Afflicted by anxiety attacks compliments of her traumatic childhood, she struggles in social contexts and in a world without order, she finds solace in the only constant in her life, the only thing she could always rely on to give her the control that her life lacked – math.
“With math, as long as you have all the necessary factors, you can find the answer. Life, on the other hand, is so much messier… Math is the one constant in my life, the one thing I can count on to always be the same.”
Tucker Price is in appearance Scarlett’s very opposite. He is the famous soccer player the entire school idolises; he is cocky, arrogant, irresponsible and popular with the opposite sex. He appears to have the world at his feet, a bright future, guaranteed success. But one chance glance exchanged between them and their lives suddenly but irreversibly collide. They recognise a deep but suppressed sadness in each other’s eyes and an unexpected connection immediately sparks between them.
“I’m surrounded by people every day, yet I always feel alone, no matter how hard I try to connect. It’s as though a veil has been thrown over my heart, and no one has ever been able to tear it down. Until this boy. This unattainable, untouchable, unreliable boy.”
What starts as a math tutoring arrangement benefiting both of them in different ways, slowly grows into a friendship that becomes something they both start relying on and drawing comfort from. Scarlett is comfortable around Tucker, he calms her, appears attuned and responsive to her emotional needs, he sees all her quirks and does not judge her for them. For the first time in her young life, Scarlett is able to just be herself and slowly let her guard down. He makes her want to live life, not just watch it pass by, and he makes her feel things she has never felt for another boy before.
“The door to me, the me deep inside, has cracked open, and I’m emerging into the daylight for the first time in years.”
While they both initially try to ignore and fight their mutual attraction, theirs is inevitably a superbly heart-warming and utterly addictive tale of first love, self-acceptance, learning to love another person selflessly and bravely, and feeling deserving of being loved. It is also a story that puts emphasis on making your own choices in life and then living with those choices. I experienced so many different emotions while listening to Scarlett’s sad but oh-so-very brave inner voice. She is a heroine to admire and learn from, a beautiful example of how much a human heart can endure and still not shatter and remain optimistic. Her quiet hope to feel loved someday by someone, but not feeling worthy of making a man want to stick by her, ultimately never expecting her own happy ending, are heartbreaking. Nothing gets to me like the false perception of unrequited love, it pulls my heart strings every single time, and by the end of this book I was as emotionally drained as I was ecstatically happy. And then I went back and re-read some of those scenes because I was not ready to let go of Scarlett and Tucker just yet, knowing all too well that another ten books would have not satisfied my craving for more of their story.
I cannot recommend this delightful book enough – it was my undoing from the very first page. I am now eagerly awaiting the second book in the series, Redesigned, which will be Scarlett’s best friend Caroline’s story.
“I look up into his face and his gaze lowers to my mouth. His arm tightens around my back, and he closes his eyes, pressing his forehead against mine. For several seconds, our breaths mingle and we’re breathing each other in. I’m amazed at how right this feels. Like I’ve been searching my entire life for this peace I feel in his embrace.”
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Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She’s a gypsy who can’t live in one place too long or stay in one genre. She writes contemporary romance, urban fantasies without vampires and werewolves, young adult science fiction, and romantic comedy mysteries set in the south. Denise has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading, or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.
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