I don’t want you.
You mean nothing to me.
I never loved you.
I turned my words into swords.
And I cut her down. Shoved the blade in and watched her fall.
I said I’d never hurt her and I did.
Years later I’m faced with all the little lies, the untruths, the false realities, the damage I inflicted when all I wanted was to indulge in my obsession.
Lavender Waters is the princess in the tower. Even her name is the thing fairy tales are made of.
I used to be the one who saved her.
Over and over again.
But I don’t want to save her anymore.
I just want to pretend the lies are still the truth.
The main characters of this angsty second-chance romance are Lavender Waters and Kodiak Bowman, Alex and Violet’s only daughter with Rook and Lainey’s oldest son. The supporting cast is Lavender’s older brother Maverick and her twin, River, (Robbie is away at grad school), her cousins, Liam, Lane, Lacey and Lovey Butterson, Miller and Sunny’s kids, her cousin BJ, Randy and Lily’s son, and Quinn Romero, Lance and Poppy’s oldest. When I first read this book, I enjoyed it but couldn’t really get into the characters because they’re really young and they act it.
I wanted to try it again now that I understand Lavender and Kody’s backgrounds and their relationship with Queenie, their longtime therapist. Having that detail of their childhoods made it much easier to connect with the personalities and appreciate the quirks that annoyed me somewhat the first time around. Even Kody’s name kind of got on my nerves the first time because Kodiak, really? But having since read his parents’ story, his name makes sense so it’s no longer a distraction. Everyone calls him Kody except Lavender but she says his name a lot, or so it seemed.
They’re all college students in Chicago and these families are all close. We learn the Bowman’s moved to Philadelphia when the kids were teens for a few years but otherwise it sounds like these kids all grew up together. I can only hope there will be more because I’d be all over this as a series. Lavender and Kody both have severe anxiety issues. As kids, they were extremely close and she became dependent on him to help manage her panic. Their parents and Queenie decided this wasn’t healthy and laid down some boundaries but all Kody heard is that he’s bad for Lavender. He loves her completely but wants to protect her from himself, believing he’s toxic for her.
This book is told through Lavender and Kody’s POV and switches between the past and the present. The flashbacks are done well and add a lot to the story. If all of that information had been narrative, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. This book is a bit dark and emotional, not at all a romantic comedy but does have some funny lines. They were inseparable as kids so throughout the course of their young lives, we watch them go from the best of friends to enemies then later enemies to lovers.
Lavender’s shyness could best be described as crippling. Her twin is her lifeline and often her voice because she’s very withdrawn in public and with strangers. Lavender has lived a protected life as the only girl and having three brothers so she’s determined to become more independent. Her family is loving and they mean well, but they’re smothering her. She’s no longer the shrinking wallflower she was as a child, so Kody’s surprised to come back to a different girl, one who stands up for herself and doesn’t want anyone speaking for her. Despite long having held a special place in her heart, Lavender has been angry at Kody for two years over the way he treated her.
After not seeing him for years, she was excited when Kody showed interest in her but he ran away. She followed but instead of welcoming her, he lashed out, telling her she was nothing to him and never would be. His words devastated her and she was humiliated so Lavender only wants to avoid him now, but he’s still best friends with Maverick. Kody’s ever present in her life and he alternates between pretending she doesn’t exist and lobbing cruel insults. It seems pretty clear that he wants to drive her away at first, but then he starts taunting her and it becomes apparent he’s torturing himself and Lavender’s just collateral damage.
They’re both sympathetic characters. The guilt and self-doubt he lives with make Kody sure he’ll never get to have the one thing he wants most in the world because he’s the worst thing for Lavender and she deserves better. Lavender struggles because as much as she hates him, she still misses her best friend and wants him back. He was awful to her and it’s important to note that she doesn’t just forgive him when he starts treating her better. Instead she gives him an opportunity to earn her forgiveness and deserve her. Kody acts like a fool and bullies her but they’re not dealing with their issues in a healthy way at all, individually or together. And while they have loving parents who only want to help, I didn’t really like the relationship Queenie played in separating them. It seems like her role as a therapist wasn’t a positive one because she was too close to the situation – and the patients – to be objective about their treatment.
These two kids have very different problems but their “therapy” lumps them together when it matters so it’s a given that it’s not the right course of action for at least one of them. If the adults involved are trying too hard to compromise, then it’s not the right way to handle it for either child. They have complex emotional issues so severe that they manifest physically so it seems like the treatment should be individualized and specific but it’s not. That makes it feel like the adults did more harm than good, especially when we see how Kody turned out to be so insufferable and mean. That makes him a more sympathetic character than if he were just being a jerk for the sake of it. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation but it allows Lavender to give him a chance to redeem himself without being weak and for Kody to deserve it because he’s not a truly a bad person. He was doing what he thought was best for her, even though it was killing him and it’s not entirely his fault if he was too emotionally immature to realize the error of his ways.
This is a bittersweet story in a lot of ways but it’s also hopeful and sweet. It also gave us just enough information about the supporting characters to whet my appetite so I really hope to see this become another spin-off series. Maverick was having girl problems, River’s trying to find himself since he’s always defined himself as his sister’s keeper. Quinn and the Buttersons were all great characters as well, but I’m particularly interested in BJ, who seems like a hot man with a big heart, just like his father.
This is a standalone so it’s not necessarily to have read the prior books but I highly recommend it. This was my first book by Hunting and I wasn’t wild about it, but after having read the earlier ones, it was much more enjoyable. If you don’t want to read everything first, at least read Pucked, A Lie For A Lie and A Secret For A Secret. Those three will give sufficient background to truly appreciate the nuances of this story.