WORTH THE WAIT
Ella Tipton is a survivor. In the wake of an attack that left her nearly dead, she’s spent each day putting her life back together. Once vibrant and outgoing, she’s needed to reclaim the best parts of who she was while retaining the hard won lessons. There hasn’t been room for any romantic entanglements, even if she were ready. Still, it didn’t mean she had to stop sneaking looks at Mister Tall, Dark and Tattooed himself.
Security professional Andrew Copeland isn’t quite sure when his jones for the lovely and decidedly skittish Ella developed. He’s known her for years, has watched her triumph over the pain she’d been dealt. Cope is no stranger to women, but he knows the nervous flush he gets every time he talks to her is different than any attraction he’s had in the past. Determined to get Ella to let him in, Andy does the one thing he can think of to get close: he offers her hands-on training in self-defense.
While Ella’s sure he’s just being nice, the prospect of being able to touch him and gain the tools to push away the last vestiges of her fear is more than she can resist. Soon enough, Cope shows Ella his feelings are far more than friendly and re-ignites something deep inside her. Before long desire and love turn them both inside out.
We first met Ella and Cope in Laid Bare, Erin’s book. Now she’s been through a traumatic time and is just really starting to put her life back together. As he watches her blossom, Cope finds himself more and more attracted, and more and more intrigued by her.
I adored how Ella saw deep into Cope. Saw him as Andrew, not as Cope. Cope was the façade that he put in place – the happy-go-lucky guy without a care in the world. Ella saw the poet, the artist, the dreamer. The romantic. The tender, sensitive man hiding behind the devil-may-care man-slut. And she loved him for all those things. And for his delightful Copeness as well.
In turn, Cope accepted Ella for who she was, and stood by her as she worked through her issues with trust and self-image. He seems to have never-ending patience in regard to Ella’s trust (or lack of it). It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him, but it was more that she didn’t trust her own judgment. She was afraid of giving herself wholly to someone again, to put herself in a vulnerable situation. To make her feel more self-confident, Cope gives her self-defense lessons. This helps to break down the barriers for them both. We see how Cope has always felt inadequate in his family, and how Ella is afraid she’s let hers down. And Cope loves the confident take-no-prisoners woman she’s becoming mixed in with that shyness that is also Ella.
Their courtship was wonderful. They sent letters to each other filled with little wonders and tiny gifts, went on dates, talked about everything, and slowly I could see them becoming a solid couple. They were open and honest with each other. They just got each other, deep down inside. As I noted in Coming Undone, there is no huge external conflict here, so if that's what floats your boat, know that going in. The closest thing might be the tension between Ben, Cope, and their father. But moreso, this is a novel about internal conflict and growth. Cope and Ella each coming to terms with who they are, who they were, and who they will be together. I found myself relating to them as a couple, recognizing silly things that I do in my own marriage. Things like objectifying my husband to his face (and vice-versa), doing silly, romantic things, and also sometimes being unreasonably moody. All these things rang true for me here as well. The one thing that did bother me slightly, however, was the frequent references to Ella’s cartoony voice. I found myself thinking that it would bug the shit out of me to constantly hear a voice like that. But to Cope, it’s part of what makes Ella who she is.
As Ella becomes more independent and more self-confident, her relationship with her parents improves as well. As Cope rediscovers Andrew within himself and learns to love who he is, he and Ben drop the buddy-buddy surfacy relationship they've maintained and become truly close, loving brothers again (not that they weren't before, this just brought them even closer). Ones who appreciate each other’s individual strengths and differences. This book really explored the relationship between the two brothers, and showed their love for one another. Their protectiveness of each other.
Cope and Ben have had a very difficult time with their father, stemming from Ben's relationship with Erin and Todd. I liked that their mother, while likely confused and disapproving inside, has come to accept the marriage and the impending birth of her grandchild. She fosters a relationship with Erin, and that endears her to me. Their father, on the other hand, is much more firmly entrenched in his view of what is proper and not. He is truly awful to Ben, Todd, and Erin. And when Cope confronts him on the premise of trying to keep their family together, it almost devolves into a physical altercation. This has a profound effect on Cope.
One thing I really like about this series is that not everyone in their families has just accepted Ben, Todd, and Erin’s relationship. In the real world, people have their prejudices. Not everyone is accepting. Heck, just turn on the evening news. It’s no secret. Dane carefully addresses these issues while not making any true villains. The reader may vilify Ben’s father simply because we want him to accept the marriage (and quit being a douche). And frankly, yeah, he is quite the dick about it. But truly, like most of the time in real life, there’s not a villain here. Just people outside their comfort zone who don’t quite know how to handle the situation in which they find themselves, and yes, maybe a little intolerant, too (or a lot intolerant).
Which brings me to my last point. Yes, I know. Finally.
Lauren Dane has written yet another wonderful family drama. To many, family means mother, father, children, siblings, etc. To some, being pro-family might mean not having an alternative marriage or lifestyle. It might mean no sex before marriage. It might mean that you shouldn't choose to be gay. (And yes, that last one was said with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.) But in this series, family is more than a traditional nuclear family, although Ben and Cope are brothers, and Erin, Adrian, and Brody are siblings, and Ella has a great (by the end) relationship with her parents. Together, all these friends and their spouses (spice?) and their siblings make up one big happy extended family. To suggest otherwise is just ridiculous. These people love and care for one another. They are there through thick and thin. They put each other’s needs before their own. They gossip about each other and act silly. They share all their major life events. They listen to each other being unreasonable and still love them anyway. That’s family. It sings loud and clear from the pages. This sense of family pervades every book that Dane writes, whether it be about shapeshifters, witches, small-town America, futuristic sci-fi, or (never) boring suburban life. It's one of the reasons I gravitate to her as an author.
I love a book where I really feel like I know and like the characters by the end. That satisfies all the little bits inside me longing for love, acceptance, respect, and passion. This is one such book. While this is quite obviously part of a series, it does stand on its own. But why wouldn't you want to read the other amazing books in this series first? Read Inside Out when it comes out on November 2 and enjoy watching a good old-fashioned love story blossom and grow. Oh, and yeah. It's way superdy hot, too. Happy, satisfied sigh.
Never Enough (Sept 2011)