Reviews: Believe: Erin McCarthy

BELIEVE (True Believers #3)
Erin McCarthy
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Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend's boyfriend. Now she's faced with being THAT girl, and couldn't be more disgusted with herself. She can't even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that's good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin's house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he's drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn't care that he's done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it's a naïve dream to believe that his record won't catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…

I was going to have to find a new place to live, and disappear from our group of friends. If only it had been that simple. If only I had walked away right then and there. Then I never would have met Phoenix and my life would never have changed in ways I still don't understand.

Robin's partying ways caused her to make a big mistake and betray a friend. Now she is wracked with guilt, afraid of losing her friends and room mates, and trying to clean up her act. 

Phoenix is fresh out of six months in jail and crashing at his cousins' house. He is basically starting over with little support and a troubled past. 

They meet at his cousin's house since Tyler and Riley are dating her friends Rory and Jessica. Robin's friends are worried about  her sudden change in behavior and appearance. But she is keeping her secret and trying not to hurt anyone else. Her group does not really know what to think about Phoenix's appearance in their lives. But something draws Robin and Phoenix together. 

They are both lost, lonely, and floundering. They find they share some common interests and begin to enjoy spending time together even though their friends and family do not encourage it. Their fledgling friendship and relationship is built with lingering secrets, but they cannot resist the pull for each other and how they make the other feel. 

"I'm no good for you. And you're probably no good for me. But we're going to do this anyway, aren't we?"

But secrets and the past have a way of sneaking into the present. And eventually everything will be exposed.

This book is about forgiveness and moving past guilt. It is about believing in yourself and in other people. And about taking a chance on trusting someone even when it is something that is hard to believe in based on past experience. 

I loved Phoenix. He was misunderstood and his outward tough appearance hid the vulnerable, caring, protective guy underneath. He had a temper and control issues, but he accepted it as a fault. It usually presented itself when someone he cared about was hurt, but it got him into trouble at times. He had never really felt loved  and he craved it. 

...the guy who was supposed to be such bad news was actually kind of charming. He reminded me of the Beast in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Rough around the edges, a little bit grumpy, but well meaning. Sweet.

Robin was so guilt ridden and fearful. She wanted her own happy ending, but did not think she deserved it due to her bad choices. She was a good person who did something out of character under the influence with lasting repercussions. She was trying to make better choices. And she was open and saw past Phoenix' bad rep to his heart. 

They were two lost souls that fit together. Their relationship was sweet, tender, and romantic. They did not need expensive dates, but could make simple activities special. Phoenix had not been exposed to much love and caring, so it melted my heart to see how he responded to kindnesses and basic care that we take for granted. It was heartbreaking, heartwarming, and hopeful. They were surprisingly good together even though there were some situations that caused drama, fear, and insecurities. They were a work in progress dealing with their present, overcoming their pasts, and trying to look forward to what they wanted in their future. I loved getting both Robin and Phoenix' points of view since they both had such inner monologues, feelings of unworthiness, and fear bouncing around in their heads. 

I enjoyed spending more time with others from this series: Tyler, Rory, Riley, Jessica, Jayden, Easton, and Kylie. I wanted to wring Nathan's neck during the entire story for all of the drama he caused. I felt bad for Robin's betrayed friend, Kylie and am glad that she will be the focus of the next book Shatter.

Thanks to Erin McCarthy, Penguin Group USA | Berkley | NAL, and Netgalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are from Arc copy and are subject to change in final draft. 

The third book in the True Believers series, Believe is actually the first I've read. I love series like this because even if I haven't been a fan from the beginning, it's easy to pick up anywhere in the series and catch up as I can. Believe was a lot of fun to read. It was not overly angst filled, but the main characters did have their issues to work out individually and as a couple. 

I started out wondering if I would like it, because Robin is dealing with the aftermath of sleeping with her best friend's boyfriend. Cheating is one of my touchy subjects. It's not a deal-breaker for me, but it does make me uncomfortable and at times it can be a big hang-up that keeps me from truly connecting with a character. Maybe because Robin did feel guilt and that guilt drove a lot of the initial plot points, I ended up feeling a great deal of sympathy for her, while also waiting for the blow-up that was sure to happen, but the cheating did not present a roadblock for me to enjoy the story. 

Phoenix was such a complex character compared to Robin. Her issues were pretty straight forward and related to her guilt. On the other hand, his issues stemmed from a deeper place of hurt. The child of an addict, feeling freedom after 5 months of prison time, Phoenix has not only the stigma of being an ex-con, but also has to get his feet back under him after his time away. 

The pacing moved well, and not having read the previous novels in the series didn't hold me back. Because this was the first book from the series that I've read, I already know the couples that pair up in the first two, but that will not stop me from picking up and reading those two while I wait for the next book. Part of me thinks that certain throw away comments by some of the other characters piqued my interest more than they would have if I had the background, but that just means I need to go pick Sweet and True up!

Thanks to Erin McCarthy, Penguin Group USA | Berkley | NAL, and Netgalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are from Arc copy and are subject to change in final draft. 

Other books in this series:

TRUE (True Believers #1)
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When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.

Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…
Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…

SWEET (True Believers #2)
Erin McCarthy

Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally make her free of her parents’ constant judgments and insistence she play chastity club role model for their church events, but if anything, the freedom has made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house. 

Sarcastic, cocky, and full of opinions, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working as a roofer all day. Not the right guy for her even if Jessica was looking for a relationship, which she is definitely not. But Jessica knows that Riley hides the burden of having to raise his younger brothers behind that grin and as she helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall hard for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.

Jessica has never had a problem getting naked with a guy, but when it comes to showing Riley how she truly feels inside, her fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…

Erin McCarthy Website/Facebook/Twitter

USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author Erin McCarthy sold her first book in 2002 and has since written almost fifty novels and novellas in teen fiction, new adult, and adult romance. Erin has a special weakness for New Orleans, tattoos, high-heeled boots, beaches and martinis. She lives in Ohio with her family, two grumpy cats and a socially awkward dog.


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