ARC review: The Way Back to Us by Jamie Howard

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Gavin MacCormick is the lead singer of a world-famous band, but before that, he was just a college kid doing his best to make a difficult relationship work. Dani Winters has lived a hard life, on the run and always changing her name to keep herself safe, but her relationship with Gavin was the best thing that happened to her – until she had to leave him without saying goodbye.

Years later, Gavin’s still not over the one who got away, and he doesn’t understand what happened that Dani couldn’t leave him anything more than a hastily scribbled note.  When Dani shows back up in town, the two of them try to make a go of it again, but Dani’s still not sharing any information about her past (or present) and Gavin’s trying his best to keep things casual.

Will Gavin and Dani work out the second time around or will all the secrets pile up and get in the way of a real relationship?

Let me start off by saying that I loved The Feeling of Forever, which is the previous book in Jamie Howard’s Love Unplugged series.  I read about 120 books ago, so I actually remember very little of the plot and characters, but I do remember really enjoying it.  That book featured Gavin’s bandmate Felix and his love interest Jules with Gavin as a sort of mysterious side character.  I really enjoy it when a series explores a whole group of friends, so I was excited when I got an email from the publisher offering me an ARC of this book.  The problem I had with it is that I like literally all of the couples better than Gavin and Dani.

And the problem doesn’t lie with Gavin.  I thought he was great.  He’d been trying to burn through his feelings for Dani by having meaningless one-night stands (and why wouldn’t he?) but once she reappeared, he was 110% dedicated to her.  I loved how Gavin was so involved with his family and how everybody could come to him if they had a problem.  He was just an all-around great character.

Dani, on the other hand, almost ruined the book for me.  I didn’t like her, I didn’t understand her motives, and I couldn’t get over her secrecy and lies.  I get that she lived this supposedly dangerous life, but if you’re going to bring someone into your life – especially someone as high-profile as the lead singer of a world-famous band – you need to tell them at least the bare minimum to keep them safe.  Gavin was flying blind and while he was okay with it, I wasn’t.  How is he supposed to defend himself from something he doesn’t understand?  How do you just blindly trust the girl who broke your heart all those years ago?  Clearly, Gavin is a better person than me.

I guess the biggest thing for me is that I didn’t realize that this would be romantic suspense.  With the cover and the description (and even the title!), I thought it would be a cute contemporary and it just wasn’t.  There’s a lot going on in my life right now and I definitely would not have sought out a book like this, with its secrets and lies and tragic pasts.  Part of the blame definitely lies with me for not doing my research.  In a different mood, I might have enjoyed this book more – which I factored into my rating.

That said, I’m so curious about the possibility of Ben and Rachel that I can’t even think straight.  Their book, when it finally comes, will be explosive and amazing and wonderful and I can’t wait.

Final rating: 2.5, rounded up to ★★★☆☆

I received a complimentary ARC of The Way Back to Us from the publisher (via Netgalley).