Mine for Now
It always amazes me how differently I can feel about books by the same author. Over the past week, I read the final (delightful) entry in a long running series by a favorite co-author duo, and eagerly picked up Erika Kelly’s, Mine for Now, hopeful it would be similarly great. I loved You Really Got Me and liked the books in the Rock Star Romance series, but unfortunately, this book was such a disappointment, I’m not sure I’ll be back for the next one. Nothing about the writing style or the flow of the book seemed familiar, and I struggled with the decision as to whether to award it a C- versus a D+. The plot grows tiresome quickly, the characters are clichéd and poorly developed, and the book just doesn’t flow. It’s a shame, but this is far from Ms. Kelly’s best work; I can only hope it’s an anomaly, and she will return to form with her next book.
I had problems with Mine for Now right from the start. The way the book opens is disorienting – we’re in a college dorm (or house? – I wasn’t sure) at the fictional Wilmington College, and we’re seeing it through the PoV of freshman scholarship student Dylan McCaffrey. Dylan’s PoV suggests we should already know a bit about freshman year at Wilmington College (the top university in the country) and what it’s like living in the Scholar House (dorm?). There’s little to no backstory. Ms. Kelly simply picks up the narrative as if we’re familiar with Dylan and his experience. It’s his second day at school and he’s on his way to meet his mom and uncle for dinner. He’s just raced upstairs only to discover the girl across the hall from him pounding on her door and yelling for her roommate to open the door. When he pops back out from his room, she’s still there and he offers to help.
She looked up at him – the first time he’d actually seen her face – and he felt a jolt in his chest. The intensity in her hazel eyes made everything inside him go quiet.
After a brief (flirtatious) conversation, she explains that her roommate is in the middle of yet another hook-up, and that she had to sleep on the couch the previous night for the same reason. After introducing himself, Dylan offers to help her get in the room and promptly proceeds to disassemble the door knob.
She pushed up behind him, her body brushing against his.
He stilled, aware of her heat and the scent of something sweet, clean. When her hair brushed over his arm, chill bumps burst out and spread along his skin.
When they finally get in, her roommate Caroline is in bed with a fellow student and pissed off that Nicole didn’t respect the scarf (which by the way is Nicole’s) on the door indicating she had company. The guy flees, an angry debate ensues, and the argument only ends after Caroline turns her attention to Dylan. In her rich girl, clichéd world (aka the world of Mine for Now), it’s apparently normal to swap one guy for another when things don’t work out. Dylan’s just stepped aside so the guy can exit when Caroline whips out a bottle of vodka (college freshmen do this?), waves it at Dylan and asks him to hang out instead. But Dylan isn’t interested in Caroline. He’s already fallen hard for Nicole (did I mention this is chapter one and they’ve only just met?). In his PoV, we discover he wasn’t paying attention to the argument because he was too busy cataloging how he feels about Nicole and the sparkle in her eyes ‘that showed intelligence and a sense of humor. But what hit him the most was her warmth. It got inside him.’ Anyway. Dylan’s had enough and invites Nicole to sleep in the room he shares with his roommate James.
Eventually we learn a bit about Dylan’s backstory. He’s left Gun Powder, Colorado, to attend college at Wilmington and get a fresh start. His mom Lorraine is a recovering alcoholic/addict, and Dylan has essentially supported her since he was old enough to have a job. Her family has cut her (and him) off after her multiple failed attempts to get clean – but they’re back in Dylan’s life to support his transition to college. His new life takes an abrupt wrong turn when his mother turns up at the house late that same night, wasted, and embarrasses him in front of his fellow residents. He plans to move out – but his close friends James and Nicole, guessing his intent, find an alternate (and super awesome – of course!) house for them to spend freshmen year in, and convince him to move in with them instead. Oh, and when he tells them it would be better if he lived in town because he plans to work there during most of his free time (he needs to send money home to his mom), the friends decide to start a dessert delivery business to supplement his income.
It isn’t long before Dylan and Nicole can no longer resist their attraction to one another and start spending nights together in Nicole’s room. But instead of enjoying his time with Nicole, Dylan struggles to maintain an emotional barrier between them while also trying to manage his mother’s life with the help of old friends in Colorado. It’s obvious to the reader (and Nicole) that his mother has no intention of changing her life – but not, apparently, to Dylan. His PoV goes back and forth between his feelings for Nicole – and how unworthy he is of her love – and his frustration with his mother and worry that eventually he’ll have to give up his scholarship (and Nicole) to return to Colorado. Through Nicole’s PoV, we see how exhausting this back and forth is, for both of them. They break up, make-up, and then the cycle repeats itself. She’s had experience with addiction (her mother was an alcoholic) and struggled to overcome the damage it did to her own life. When his mother comes between them (again) after an idyllic Christmas holiday together, Nicole decides she’s had enough.
Everything about this story is so clichéd and overwrought – the instant friends, the dessert company, Dylan’s constant rejection of his friends’ help, the insta-love between Dylan and Nicole, his mother… I just stopped caring after a while. Dylan and Nicole get together, break up, get together, break up… He’s sorry for hurting Nicole, he has to hurt Nicole, he’s sorry for hurting her… His mom is clean, his mom is addicted, she’s clean… OH MY GOD. It felt endless. The sex scenes are similarly overdone – almost from the moment they decide they like each other they start having AMAZING sex (these are college students Ms. Kelly – give me a break!), and amazing sex follows every minor and major break up. Dylan is so consumed by his dysfunctional relationship with his mother and so completely unwilling to accept anyone’s help or compassion, it’s amazing he has any friends at all, let alone time to study and earn a full academic scholarship to the top college in the US. Ms. Kelly even provides him with the perfect girlfriend – her mother was an alcoholic too! She’s gets it! She wants to help! Ugh. I found myself begging him to put us all out of our misery and just commit to someone. By the end of it, I didn’t even care if it was his mom or Nicole.
I don’t want to dismiss how damaging alcohol and drug addiction is, or its effect on the addict and the people in their lives – and Dylan is a sympathetic character. But this is a romance novel, and his constant yo-yoing over his relationship with both his mother and with Nicole, combined with overdrawn and exaggerated secondary characters (they’re either amazing or terrible people), sabotages this story. I can only hope Ms. Kelly returns to form in her next book, because Mine for Now is almost enough to put me off her books for good.