This book came from the library, and I will never give you less than an honest review, no matter its source. I do provide informational and purchase links to make it more convenient for you to access the book. I also receive a percentage of the sale if you use one of my links to buy it. And that's not enough money to be less than truthful *grin*.
Series: True Believers #2
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include High Stakes, My Immortal, An Enchanted Season, Bad Boys of Summer, When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys, The Night Before Christmas, Out of the Light, and into the Shadows, Bad Boys in Black Tie, Burn.
Second in the True Believers romance series for New Adults and revolving around a group of friends in college. The couple focus in Sweet is on Jessica Sweet and Riley Mann.
It’s all about knowing who you are and staying true to that. Of not allowing people’s judgments of you to affect who you are, how you see yourself. It doesn’t help that Riley has a hard time not treating her like her parents do.
They’re both such brats, and they’re perfect for each other: both think relationships are too much work and not worth it. Riley had a comment that cracked me up: “…my hand doesn’t expect me to text it twenty times the next day.” They’re both honest about how they see the other. That they see the bad AND the good. And that the good is not simply that the other one is hot!
They have their negatives with Riley suffering from foot-in-mouth disease, blurting out exactly what he’s thinking. But Jessica doesn’t back down. She doesn’t go into guilt mode…yeahhh! Instead she veers between mature and so immature. Getting drunk the day of the party? Not smart. She’s also misguided on her worth. Freaking out because Riley won’t take her to bed and get naked. And his moves, his holding back!, teach her so much more about herself.
It’s interesting that everyone sees Jess as so hard-core. Tyler even asks her to not break Riley’s heart — he is the more romantic of the two. He’s a guy and he initiates the following: “Hey, if you married me your name would be Jessica Sweet Mann. That’s literally the best name I’ve ever heard.” Any “normal” guy? If a woman said that to him? He’d be out the door so fast. Instead, Jess is the one gettin’ worried.
It’s partly because of Riley’s actions and reactions that this was sweet. A mostly enjoyable story that frustrated me with my confusion at the start when Jessica couldn’t stand Riley which quickly segued into “okay, yeah, I’m attracted to him” maybe, sort of, but “he’s so disgusting”. I wish McCarthy had started off immediately with Jessica’s conflict about her attraction to Riley. Or am I being too obtuse? I’m okay with her thinking he’s hot but a jerk. I’m not okay with McCarthy ambushing us with Jessica’s thinking “okay, he’s hot” when she’s been working to establish him as a jerk.
As for the family side, I can relate. Her parents are overly moral with a high stench of holier-than-thou attitude. As for that brother… How Christian is he?? Not. It’s enough that it’s tipped Jessica over the edge. She’s perfectly comfortable hopping in and out of beds, and I can’t disagree with her reasoning. Especially when she blows up at Riley for his comments. Again. And again.
First there’s the family influence and her rebelling against her parents and that double standard society sets. Why is it okay for guys to sleep around without an emotional commitment, but it’s not okay for girls? You’d think guys would love that since they always complain about the girl chasing after them later. Then again, Jessica’s own hypocrisy raises its head, and I do think Jessica has been deluding herself. She believes she doesn’t use her sex to repay favors or to say thanks, and yet, that’s exactly what she planned to do for that one-week bridge between apartments and in a way, it’s what she’s doing to go to college. Part of her sexual attitude shows when she’s freaking because she’s not swerving male heads into doing her bidding.
Her upper middle-class upbringing shows itself. And it shows how little she has learned about consideration for others. She’s getting a free ride for a week and her first action is to complain about how the house smells and complain about how Riley is raising his brothers. WTF? Who does she think she is? I do have to hand it to her, though. She is trying. That first trip on the bus? Too funny in her first real taste of how the have-nots live. Her decision that saying “thanks for having me” is to redo the Manns’ kitchen is another example of her judging the Manns. Sure it’s desperate for a redo, and I know I’d have the same reaction Jessica does. However, it’s not my house! How dare she make a judgment like this! Annnnddd, yes it was a really good idea. Too bad McCarthy didn’t bring in the drama and tension of Ethan’s fate earlier.
Ya gotta wonder about her family. It’s kind of weird that Jessica makes her dad sound like the number one jerk in the family, and then at the end, it sounds like her mother and brother are worse. It doesn’t really matter, since both parents are major control freaks who’ve simply turned their daughter away from their church. Jesus, even Jess’ ringtones reflect her mom’s and brother’s personalities. Then you look at the Mann boys’ living conditions. What a struggle their life is and how TRUE they are to and for each other. I’ll take friendship with them any day of the week.
Okay, that comment about “quilts old crocheted afghans” makes me think of that stupid toilet paper commercial where they were quilting TP with knitting needles. “Bedcoverings” or “bedspreads” are the words I think McCarthy was groping for here. Not “quilts”.
Jessica makes good points about how the world views the “fat chick”, how the comments and images make a girl worry and obsess over her size. Jessica understands this and yet she continues to go along with it. I suspect Riley is going to be good for her. Break her out of her mother’s conditioning. A person — girl or boy, man or woman — has to be true to themselves. If you’re not, you will be so miserable. All you have to do is look at Jessica and how miserable she is.
“Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them.”
It’s an odd courtship by two people who don’t want to have a relationship, who snark and snipe every chance they get with each other. A guy who wants to hold off on the sex and “dating” a woman who wants to jump in bed last night. And she learns something she hadn’t expected. It’s all about control for Jessica. She’s sick and tired of being controlled, and she refuses to give in to it anymore. It’s also about emotions. She sees her mother controlled by her father through emotions, and she doesn’t want to fall into that trap.
Desperate to not go home to her sanctimonious parents, Jessica lies so she can stay in town for the summer. She just needs that one-week bridge. Somewhere to live until her summer sublease is ready.
It’s Riley who comes up with the invite. One she can’t turn down as much as she can’t stand him, after all, it’s only for a week.
Jessica Sweet is a minister’s daughter, expected to toe the line and appear as sweet as her name. She’s pursuing a major in religious studies and interior design, as Jessica puts it, “majoring in future preacher’s wife”. Her roommates Kylie (who’s been her best friend since childhood) and Rory are happy with their boyfriends Nathan and Tyler Mann (see True, 1). Bill is Nathan’s roommate and in love with Jessica.
The twenty-five-year-old Riley Mann works construction and is Tyler’s older brother, and while gorgeous, Jessica can’t stand him. Jayden is their sweet eighteen-year-old brother with Down Syndrome while Easton is
Robin, a graphic design-art major, is another friend. Mandy is the bartender at the restaurant where Jessica works. Maggie is one of her new summer roommates. Aaron is a guy from her Dead Sea Scrolls class. Zeke is the bartender at Riley’s preferred bar. David is the neighbor about to steal Jess’ vacuum.
Paxton is Jessica’s jerky brother. Donna is her “Material Girl” mother. The Reverend Sweet is not so sweet.
The Cover and Title
The cover is dark with Riley in a black wifebeater and Jessica in a black bra and jeans and smoke rising between them — nice touch that — as they kiss a handbreadth apart.
The title is both Jessica and not, for she may be a Sweet, but she’s not sweet.