Fall by Kristen Callihan [ARC REVIEW]
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Plane Jane Books
Publication Date: October 23rd, 2018
Source: Inksplinger PR
The first time I met Jax Blackwood things went a little sideways.
In my defense, I didn’t know he was Jax Blackwood—who expects a legendary rock star to be shopping for groceries? More importantly, a blizzard was coming and he was about to grab the last carton of mint-chocolate chip.
Still, I might have walked away, but then he smugly dared me to try and take the coveted ice cream. So I kissed him. And distracted that mint-chip right out of his hands.
Okay, it was a dirty move, but desperate times and all that. Besides, I never expected he’d be my new neighbor.
An annoying neighbor who takes great pleasure in reminding me that I owe him ice cream but would happily accept more kisses as payment. An irresistible neighbor who keeps me up while playing guitar naked–spectacularly naked–in his living room.
Clearly, avoidance is key. Except nothing about Jax is easy to ignore—not the way he makes me laugh, or that his particular brand of darkness matches mine, or how one look from him melts me faster than butter under a hot sun.
Neither of us believes in love or forever. Yet we’re quickly becoming each other’s addiction. But we could be more. We could be everything.
All we have to do is trust enough to fall.
AMAZON | APPLE BOOKS | B&N
TW: This book deals with depression, anxiety, and life after attempted suicide.
This was nothing like what I was expecting. Fall is the third installment in the VIP series and the first book of the series that I have read. Having read Callihan’s other series I was intrigued to read something out of the sports romance realm from her, and what I got in return is a story that struck a chord with me and has quickly become my favorite book from her thus far.
Fall is a moving and poignant friends to lovers slow burn that tells the story of John, a famous rock star with a very public past, and Stella, a girl who knows everyone and no one knows her. After a fateful and comedic showdown for the last mint ice cream during a blizzard, the two thought they would never see each other again. However, fate has other plans and after accepting a pet sitting job, Stella is shocked to find that her new neighbor is none other than John–the guy she stole the ice cream from. As proximity and mutual attraction brings them together, both John and Stella take a journey of rediscovering who they truly are and how it’s okay to let people in every once in a while.
Mental Health and Sex Ed:
As a person who struggles with depression, anxiety, and has attempted suicide previously, I was surprised and albeit very wary when I read that our Hero has dealt with these same issues and how they are very present throughout the novel. Typically in romance books (at least the ones that I have read) mental health topics are usually glossed over or not given the proper representation that they deserve–that they need. So in all honesty, when I read the authors note and found out that this book features mental health–I instantly wanted to not read it–solely because I couldn’t take another misrepresentation of something that has defined my past and my present in a big way. However, Callihan did state that she too has struggled with the same issues and wanted to show that not all who struggle with depression are all “gloom and doom”–but rather the opposite of that. As a person who agrees with these sentiments vehemently, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and read it–and I am so so glad I did.
John and Stella are characters that I related to in so many different ways. John, because I understood on such a deep level the ups and downs he faces as he tries to bring his life back into focus and how he fights on a daily basis to overcome the thoughts and fears in his head; and Stella in the fact that she has so many people who know her but yet don’t know her and the struggles she goes through with knowing that fact. These characters resonated with me in such a way that only a select few romance novels have ever done before.
I’m thinking too much, which is never a good thing. Emotion chokes me, clutching my throat and locking down tight. I’m going to be sick. My hand shakes. The next chord is weak, my voice slipping off-key.
These characters lives are gripping and challenge you to think about your own relationships and lives. Callihan took her time with this one–and it shows.
Callihan also gets some major brownie points for how she handles the topic of STDs. Giving her readers (and characters) a much valuable lesson on these sexually transmitted diseases and the stigma/stereotypes that surround them. Callihan tackles the subject with sensitivity and accuracy, giving the topic a much-needed reminder to the romance community the seriousness of them and how they change a persons life.
Relationships and Pace:
From the moment the story began I was instantly captivated by the banter between our main characters, John and Stella. Their witty retorts and quick come backs throughout the entire novel brought another level of intensity to the their chemistry as well as a much-needed comedic relief to much of the heaviness and seriousness revolving around the hardships that these characters face.
Oh my cock—god. My cock—godcockgod…” She flails her hands. “God. I meant God. God-cock. Argh!”
Her flustered blather ends in a gurgle and a new tide of rapid hand flapping. Even though her sudden appearance scared the shit out of me—until I realized it was Stella and not some stalker who’d gotten in—a laugh escapes me.
“My cock is godlike, so I can see the confusion.”
Her face flames bright red. “Dick.”
“It goes by that name too.” I wink at her.
The dialogue between the main characters as well as the supporting cast had me in stitches on more than one occasion and grinning like a fool in the rest. The chemistry between each character is fully thought out and developed, that it became like I wasn’t even reading a book but interacting with these people as if they were in front of me.
I did, however, find the relationship/ sub plot of Stella and her father not entirely fleshed out as I wished it would have been. The scenarios that revolved around her father and the situations that arise from it didn’t feel organic, or rather, didn’t flow naturally as the story progressed. It almost felt like a second thought and was thrown in to add more drama and keep the pace moving, rather than keeping the story moving.
With that said, I felt that the pace was steady and consistent throughout the novel and kept me engaged the entire time. Not once did I feel like the story dragged–which typically happens in a slow burn if not done well–and I never felt like thinks were happening too fast to keep up with.
This book is a gripping romance that will have you breathless and wanting more. I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves romance. I promise you, you will not regret this.
(continue reading for an excerpt from the novel!)
ARC provided by Inksplinger PR in exchange for my honest review. Quotations taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon final publication. Promotional graphics and teasers provided by Inksplinger PR.
The air between us shifts. I’m filled with a strange giddiness, wanting to laugh for the fun of it, but I’m also too warm, my limbs oddly heavy as if simple movements might be too much for me.
His tone turns soft and cajoling, teasing the truth out of me. “Are you going to tell me what you do?” When I say nothing, the corners of his eyes crinkle. “I see. You’re going to torture me a bit.”
The warm, fuzzy feeling grows as I shrug. “Torture feels apropos in this scenario.”
He hums again, taking another step toward me. “What makes you think I won’t like being tortured by you?”
The heat of his body and the scent of his skin makes my head light and my pulse pound. How did it get to this point where the highlight of my day is flirting with Jax Blackwood? Despite the thrill, I know I’m in over my head. I haven’t gone out on a date in months because I form attachments, I get emotional, and then I hurt when they inevitably leave. And this man will leave. He is as bright and fleeting as a camera flash. I’ll be left with the image of him seared into my memory and nothing more.
I tell myself all of this, the voice in my head as stern as possible. But it doesn’t make me back away. It doesn’t stop my body from somehow straining toward his without even moving. Because it might be stupid of me, but I want to feel something that isn’t planned. Something, for however briefly, that’s real.
He’s too attuned to me not to notice. John’s lids lower as his attention slides down my body before easing back up to my face. Slowly, he rests his forearm on the wall beside my head. “Tell me, Stella,” he murmurs.
“No,” I whisper back, flirting, even though I shouldn’t.
His biceps bunch as he leans in, a smile dancing on his lips. “Tell.”
My breasts graze his chest, and I feel it in my toes.
“You’re crowding me.” I hate how breathy I sound.
“Can’t help it.” His voice is a rumble, the heat of his breath playing over my skin. He ducks his head, drawing close until our lips nearly brush, and when he speaks again, his tone is almost conversational, except for the husky quality that touches deep within my core. “You smell like strawberries. Fucking delicious.”
My lids flutter, and I swallow hard. “Ordinarily, I’d call you out on that cliché but since I’ve been eating strawberries, you aren’t exactly wrong.”
His chuckle is slow and easy, as he eases back and his gaze slowly travels over my face. “Were they sweet, Stella Button?”
He’s looking at my mouth like he might try to find out. My lips tremble in response, and John tracks the movement, his breathing getting deeper, faster. “You have two freckles on your lips. One on the top lip and one on the bottom corner.”
Those damn freckles. They were the bane of my adolescence. I hid them with lipstick and silently cursed whenever someone mentioned them.
Freckles don’t have any feelings, but I swear it’s as if he’s touching them.
“You’re just noticing this?” I try to make it sound like a joke, but it comes out weak and thready.
His own lips quirk. “Oh, I noticed. It’s distracting as hell. They’re like two little dots of butter toffee. Makes me want to lick them, get a taste.”
Oh, God. Lick them, please. I can almost feel it. I want to feel it.
No. Bad Stella. Behave.
John’s lips part a fraction like he just might take that taste.
“Back off,” I whisper. And yet somehow my traitorous hands find their way to his sides, running over the waistband of his jeans, holding him there.
John makes a sound deep in his throat and tilts his hips, pressing them against mine. A distinctly thick bulge nudges my belly. Both of us lose a breath, and then he’s closer, his cheek touching my temple. “You’ll have to let me go first.”
My thumbs slide under the edge of his shirt and find smooth, taut skin. A tremor goes through his body. I try to think, search for what the hell we’ve been talking about.
His lips brush the crest of my cheek as he murmurs against my skin. “Tell me what you do, Stella. You know you want to.”
My smile feels illicit. Somehow the action is directly tied to all my happy parts, making them draw hot and tight. “I don’t think I do.”
Another hum. “Liar. You’re dying to.”
-ABOUT THE AUTHOR-
Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal, best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.