BOOK REVIEW ~ YOU MAKE ME BY ERIN MCCARTHY
February 7, 2019
Growing up on the coast of Maine with a revolving door of foster siblings, Caitlyn Michaud spent one intense and passionate year falling in love with her foster brother, Heath. Then he left without a word. The betrayal devastated Caitlyn and made her vow to forget the compelling bad boy. But forgetting his sensual touch and their deep all-consuming friendship is easier said than done.
Isn’t the guy she needs…
Determined to move on, in college Caitlyn has risen above her small town impoverished roots and has joined a sorority, reinvented her appearance, and landed the right boyfriend. Pre-law major and frat president, Ethan, is thoughtful and always laughing, and he makes her feel happy, calm. He also gives her the social acceptance she craves.
But the perfect world she tried so hard to attain is ripped apart when Heath appears one night out of nowhere. Caitlyn remembers all the reasons why she loves him, even if they don’t make sense to anyone but her. Out of the military, Heath is as brooding and intense as ever, and he is determined not only to win her back, but to exact revenge on everyone who kept him from her…
And when one love allows her to breathe, but the other feels as essential to her life as air, how does she choose between them?
There are certain words in blurbs that set off alarms for me, and by alarms I mean the kind that make me stalk the author/publisher/PA etc…to get more info on. In the blurb for You Make Me, the words “foster brother” did it for me. I was extremely interested in seeing how this would play out and I’m really happy to say that I think this is Erin McCarthy’s best work to date: she’s written a stormy, passionate but believable second chance romance with a healthy dose of angst and relatable, level-headed characters.
The book starts off with a short but fantastic prologue! Then fast forward four years where Cat is now a well-known, all-around golden girl in college with an equally amazing and popular guy Ethan as her boyfriend. On the night of her junior year Homecoming dance where everything planned goes along accordingly, out of the blue, Heath appears and stuns Cat. Having left her when she was sixteen and never contacting her in the past four years, Cat is shocked, relieved, and angry to see him so naturally I could understand her conflicted feelings: on one hand she’s desperate to reach out to him and on the other, she’s with Ethan, a guy she knows is good for her.
“How could I explain that Heath was the past and Ethan was the future? That one I had chosen and one had chosen me? That Ethan represented everything I had always craved, but Heath was everything I needed?”
And as cliché as it sounds, there will always be a certain allure for “the one that got away,” which is why I totally sympathize, understand, and connect with Cat’s character.
Though this portion of the book was angsty and somewhat frustrating, it was realistic and completely character-driven. I loved how the author made smooth transitions from where Cat was at the beginning to how she thought and perceived everything to the end. Usually when there’s a love triangle (or any hint of one), there’s supposed to be a “decision” where one is chosen and the other is dropped, and I hate that. To me, it always feels like the chosen is second best. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel any of that in this book; all encounters are done quite tastefully and I was totally invested in the story.
I think the strongest and most compelling aspect of the book was the author’s writing. I’ve read her other work (True Believers series) and I’ll be honest, this book is different: both the writing and the approach I mean but it’s a good-different and the writing here simply appeals to me. It’s mostly in present time, but there are a few flashback scenes sprinkled throughout the story. Again, not something I usually like, but in this book it was executed quite nicely and the scenes were informative as well. And most of all, I liked how the author took a common NA premise and turned it into a somewhat unique and different read than others: a love triangle that’s seemingly not a love triangle, characters that are impossible to hate because there is no “bad guy,” and a fluent, transitional writing style.
As much as I loved the book, there were a few things that got on my nerves. One being I wanted more of Heath and Cat’s history. A couple of flashback scenes are not enough for me, and though I wholeheartedly approved of their relationship, it would’ve been better if there were more background info on them so I could be better convinced of their early bond and love. The last 25% was a bit weak on both the emotional and plot aspects. I get that with every new relationship, especially one built on a foundation of deception and heartbreak, comes with many insecurities so I was glad to see the characters address them. However, there is this one argument near the end of the book I just did not get the point of. Like, it could’ve been completely omitted and there wouldn’t have been a difference (for me at least). A little toomuch drama there and the ending was rushed, but overall, what was on my mind long after reading was that this book is one of the better NA stories I’ve read this year and though I probably won’t re-read it anytime soon, I won’t be forgetting about it anytime either.
ARC kindly provided by author in exchange for an honest review. Please note that all quotes are from an advanced copy and may be subject to change in the final edition.
**This next section contains minor spoilers and is for those that want to know if there isany cheating, a love triangle, or if there is an HEA. Please only read this section if you’re interested in those; otherwise my review ends above.**To answer some questions that were asked: Is there a love triangle? Is there cheating? Is there an HEA? Even before I cracked open the book, I wondered if there was a triangle but my curiosity with the “foster brother” part and Heath being ex-military won me over.
Love triangle: I think most will say yes, there is a love triangle. For me, however, it wasn’t. It’s true that both Heath and Ethan love Cat, but it was always clear to me who Cat was going to end up with. This was probably the most angsty part of the book, and it’s not extremely frustrating. The characters do not bounce back and forth amongst one another.
Cheating: I didn’t think there was any kind of cheating (physical or emotional). There are no gray areas when it comes to defining Cat’s relationship with the two guys. She’s either with one of them, or she’s not.
HEA: Yes. There’s a happy ending for Cat and Heath.