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Cat’s family took in a lot of foster kids when she was growing up.  Most rotated out after a short stay, but Heath was different.  He spent a long time with them.  Long enough to develop a strong bond with Cat.  Long enough for them to fall in love.  Long enough to break her heart when he unexpectedly disappeared.

Now in college, Cat is happily dating fraternity president and future lawyer Ethan.  She’s best friends with his sister.  She adores his parents.  He’s the opposite of everything she had with Heath, and that’s the way she likes it.  But then Heath reappears, determined to be with her again.  Memories she’d tried so hard to forget come crashing back, and the life she’s so carefully constructed for herself comes crumbling down.

Ok, so here’s the thing.  This book didn’t start off terrible.  It was a solid three stars until Heath showed up.  (Unfortunately, he shows up fairly early in the book.)  Then it just spiraled into the darkness, getting worse and more inconceivable with every passing page.

I mean, just look at the basis of the plot:  Cat’s family takes in boatloads of foster kids for the government checks.  Her father was a lobster fisherman, forced to stop working after losing a hand in an accident.  Her mother is mentally ill, unable to care for herself or her own children.  Yet somehow this couple was approved to host dozens of foster child over the years.  I thought this was a process?  I thought there were perfectly qualified families just waiting for approval?  This should have been my first red flag.

I carried on, though, because evidently I like torturing myself.

“Ethan is so great,” Cat constantly reminds us. “He’s so perfect and kind and gentle and stable.  I love him so much.”  Cat, let me tell you something.  Ethan is not perfect.  He is gross and manipulative.  He is only kind to you when you fit his idea of a perfect girlfriend.

As soon as Heath shows up, Ethan throws temper tantrum after temper tantrum.  Upon being introduced to Heath, Ethan immediately asks Cat if she’s slept with him.  Because yes, that is a very appropriate question to ask about one’s foster brother.  He goes away for a “boy’s weekend,” making questionable decisions, but he’s not to blame.  Cat is.  For daring to have an ex.  I don’t think anything I could tell you about this book would be considered a spoiler, since everything is so predictable, but I’ll save you the headache and just stop with my criticism of Ethan here.

And, I’m sorry, but can we just talk about the absolutely toxic relationship between Cat and Heath?  Remember, he left her immediately after taking her virginity.  They were just teenagers, and he left.  Never to be heard from again, until he shows up out of nowhere four years later, demanding to be let back into her life.  Angry beyond belief that she dared to move on and fall in love with someone else.  Cat strings him along, asking him to fight for her even though she’s dating someone else.  She then has the audacity to be offended when she realizes that (a) Heath hasn’t been a celibate monk in the four years since he left, and (b) Ethan will move on after their inevitable breakup as well.  And what is with Cat’s violence toward Heath?  She’s always hitting him, slapping him, throwing things at him, and he doesn’t even care.  That’s not love.  Nothing in this book is.  Everything is just toxic.

This book, the characters, the drama, the relationships, all of it felt incredibly contrived and forced and over the top.  I had previously heard good things about Eric McCarthy, but I’m not going to be seeking out more of her books any time soon.  I’m glad that I got this one for free on Amazon.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆  

For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #39: a book that takes place on an island.

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