TITLE: As Long As You Love Me
SERIES: 2B Trilogy #2
AUTHOR: Ann Aguirre
PUBLICATION DATE: September 30, 2014
PUBLISHER: Harlequin HQN
PAGES: 352 pages
FORMAT: E-ARC / Book
SOURCE: Blog Tour via NetGalley / Ann Aguirre review giveaway
RATING: 4 bows
BUY LINKS: Amazon | Barnes And Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Vroman’s Bookstore | The Book Depository | Powell’s Books | iTunes
You can read the first chapter online here
Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. There are the justifications she gives to everyone else—missing her family, losing her college scholarship. And then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He can’t pinpoint exactly what’s missing until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her. But he’s the guy that women love and leave—not the one who makes them think of forever.
Though she’s terrified of opening up, Lauren’s ready to take that chance. Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
In the morning, I woke to the sound of someone pounding on the door. Rob jolted up beside me, and I scrambled into my pants, then followed him down the stairs. He was wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, so I stopped him. “Get dressed. I’ll stall whoever it is.”
Fearing it was his parents with more bad news, I opened the door with some trepidation. Instead my mom was waiting on the porch, wearing a sheepish look. “I need the car. Stuart stayed over last night, but he needs to get back to Edison, so…”
Though I wasn’t ordinarily the blushing type, heat washed my cheeks over the awkwardness of this moment. There was no telling what my mom suspected I’d been doing last night, and she was looking everywhere but at me. I rubbed a rueful hand against my cheek, but I didn’t clarify. I’d promised Rob I would keep his dad’s secret.
“Shit, sorry. What time is it?” I asked.
“Just past nine.”
Summoning some composure, I said, “Let me get the keys.”
“Rob can bring you home later?”
He appeared behind me in time to hear the question. “Definitely, it’s not a problem. I hope you weren’t worried?”
“No, she left a note.” Her half smile said she thought the evening had gone much different than it had, but clearing up her misconceptions wasn’t a big priority. “See you later, Lauren.”
I handed over the keys and waved at Stuart, who was parked in the drive. He lifted a hand, then blew a kiss to my mom, who hurried down the front steps to claim a real one before letting him back out. Then she took off with a wave for Rob and me. My breath showed in puffs of white, so I was shivering by the time I shut the door.
He wrapped his arms around me, anchoring me against his chest to warm me up. “That wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.”
“She likes you. I admit, it’s hard not to. So what’s on the agenda today?”
“I’m working on the house for a while, then I have dinner with my mom and dad.” His expression said he wasn’t looking forward to it.
“Am I allowed to tag along?” The offer burst out before I could stop it.
“Do you want to?”
I pinned on a look of faux good cheer. “I can’t think of anything I’d like more.”
Rob laughed. “Too far. But if you could stand coming, it would take some of the pressure off me. That way, they can’t talk about certain things.”
“Because they think I don’t know.”
“So let’s do it. Do you mind swinging by my mom’s so I can change before we head to Casa Conrad? What I wore over here is crumpled from being on your floor all night.”
“Are you trying to be distracting?” he demanded.
“That depends. Is it working?”
“Only always. I woke up last night wanting you, and I still do. Since you came back, I’ve been hard so much that I’m thinking about seeing a doctor.”
“No need. It’s normal for a guy your age to have certain…urges.”
“All the damn time?” he grumbled, but there was a playful light in his eyes.
“I’m willing to take you on,” I answered. “It’ll be exhausting, but I can train up.”
“It’s too early for you to be this cute.”
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.
Lauren tried hard to fit in with everyone else’s idea of a perfect life after high school. College far from home is #1 on everyone’s list. Except she learns pretty quickly that it’s not what she wants. Now, she has flunked out of college and is back home to get back to her roots. She is starting over, doing it her way this time. Her way, includes a normal job and taking college classes online, where she can do her work in peace and never has to show up for class. Her way also includes getting many a glimpse at her high school crush, Rob. Several years older and her best friend’s older brother, Rob should be completely off limits, but she can’t fight the attraction that grows stronger every day. Rob is that guy who does great in high school, hot football star, but who seems to fade away after graduation. Lauren sees so much more in him and it’s time she make him see it too. Can she finally make all her high school dreams come true or do some wishes have an expiration date?
Lauren that socially awkward girl who gets the makeover and suddenly becomes popular. The thing is, though, she never really stopped being the socially awkward girl. She has severe anxiety that she hides pretty well with the party-girl persona. Underneath she’s constantly freaking out and would much rather be at home with her computer playing video games or coding something. She is still a nerd and a dork and she’s growing prouder of that fact every day. I liked having a leading lady that was socially awkward because that’s something I can relate to.
Rob, however, is the best character here. He is completely confident about his looks but nothing else. He’s parents have always focused on Nadia’s brains, making him feel wholly inadequate. He isn’t on his sisters genius level and everyone makes comments that it’s a good thing he’s so handsome because there isn’t much else too him. Instead of sulk about this revelation, he accepts it and moves on. He’s the brawn, not the brains, and his life will follow that path. Working in construction, where he can use his hands and learn a simple trade is exactly what he needs. He has dreams of starting his own furniture making company, but doesn’t believe he has the competence to achieve it on his own. His lack of confidence in himself was also something I could relate to. I’m never confident of my ability to do anything (beyond read, read, and oh yeah! read!), so it was nice to see the male version of that for once. NA is filled with overly cocky guys who believe they can do anything. That make me relate to him and the fact that he is a total sweetheart made me swoon. He’s that sweet boy next door who will do anything he can to help you. I love him. He’s definitely in my top ten list of swoon-worthy males.
I loved that this skillfully avoids the cheating thing. It would have been so easy to allow Rob and Lauren to fool around before Rob and his girlfriend break up, justifying it because they are meant to be. Aguirre skillfully avoids that issue because neither character is the cheating kind and I’m eternally grateful for that. I hate the justified cheating angle and I’ve avoided more than one New Adult novel that gets rave reviews because of it.
There were only a few things I wasn’t crazy about. The first one is the light we put Nadia in. I adored Nadia in the first book and though I realize everyone is flawed, I don’t like how she was portrayed here. Lauren is a little irritated with her because she doesn’t put up a fuss when she goes from an introvert to an extrovert, luck it’s Nadia’s fault for not realizing Lauren is burying herself in this new persona. Everyone changes to some extent in high school and it’s not Nadia’s fault that Lauren didn’t share the extent of her anxiety problems. She’s not a damn mind-reader! I also never got the confrontation scene I was expecting between Lauren and Rob’s parents. I know Lauren loves them, but she was also highly irritated at the way they treated Rob. He’s smart and sweet and their lack of faith in him really set his self-esteem rolling downhill. I was expecting at least a polite chat over that, if not a full out smackdown and I never did get it.
Beyond those issues, this was an amazing novel. It isn’t quite as good as I Want It That Way, but it’s pretty close. Lauren’s tale is the complete opposite of Nadia’s and it was thrilling to get a completely new perspective. Rob is the stuff that our fantasies are made of hot and buff but still sweet and kind. I think if you enjoyed the first book or just want a great New Adult novel, then you’ll love this!
****Thank you to Harlequin HQN, Ann Aguirre, and Inkslinger PR for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****