Desert Isle Keeper
I loved Undecided and it’s easily the best NA novel I’ve read this year. Based on the cover art, you might assume (like I did) it’s going to be the standard NA romance with a messy love triangle. You would be wrong. Instead – and ironically – Ms. Keyes has produced a love story about the perils of judging a book by its cover. Nowhere is this more true than in the mistaken assumptions its three main characters make about each other the first time they ‘officially’ meet. If you are undecided about the NA genre, this book will move you squarely into the ‘fan’ column. Because this is a funny, romantic, and magical (you’ll have to read it to know what I mean) novel – that’s satisfying in every way.
Nora Kincaid wants to be invisible. Not the superhero kind of invisible, just the kind that nobody notices. Trying to make up for the mess she made of her freshman year at Burnham College, she drops the friends who partied with her, commits herself to her school work (she’s lost half of a full scholarship) and looks for a living situation that will support her radical lifestyle change. That means no more heavy drinking. No crazy parties. No getting arrested. No random hook-ups. No more getting noticed for bad behavior. She’s determined to live up to her high school nickname “Nora Bora.”
Nora’s roommate/apartment search goes awry right from the start. She agrees to move in with Kellan McVey, the current campus stud. They met freshman year, but Kellan doesn’t remember her and Nora has no plans to remind him. When she arrives at “Matthew’s” to see the room for rent, she’s dressed conservatively and nearly unrecognizably. After Kellan explains why he used his middle name to post the room for rent online, he convinces her to become his roommate. She agrees only after he assures her that he’s looking to make changes in his life too, and that the apartment will be a quiet, party and hook-up free zone. Sensing she’s not quite convinced, he also offers to let her live rent-free the first half of the year to prove his good intentions. Against her better judgement, Nora agrees to be his roommate and moves in over Labor Day weekend.
Kellan’s best friend, Crosbie Lucas, has a reputation for recklessness, being the life and soul of every party and as a ladies’ man. He’s at the apartment when Nora comes to meet Kellan, but like him, doesn’t remember her, and Nora is similarly determined not to remind him of that first meeting. Good intentions firmly in place, Nora is cool towards Crosbie and makes no further attempts to get to know him.
Based on her appearance when she arrives for the roommate interview with “Matthew,” Crosbie assumes Nora is quiet, conservative and shy. He has no idea the Nora he’s introduced to was her exact opposite freshman year. He’s curious and unsure about why he finds himself attracted to her, but Nora keeps her distance. Nora soon realizes there’s a lot more to Crosbie than she thought, and that many of the assumptions she made about him are wrong. She secretly watches how kind he is and how hard he works at everything he does (friendships, schoolwork, sports) even though his accomplishments are often overshadowed by Kellan. She recognizes a fear of people using him to get to Kellan contributes to Crosbie’s insecurities and reluctance to trust others. When Crosbie unknowingly reveals these things to her, she falls for him.
The chemistry and attraction between Crosbie and Nora is off the charts. In one memorable scene (when they’re still just friends), Crosbie helps Nora build a bed frame after he discovers she sleeps on the floor because she doesn’t want to ask for help. When he finishes building it, Crosbie encourages her to jump on the bed with him to test its durability. The bed gives out, both of them fall (banging into each other) and laugh hysterically. The conversation that follows, and Crosbie’s sly teasing about Nora’s weight, is funny and sweet. I fell for Crosbie too.
Ms. Keyes uses the first half of the book to develop the intense attraction and friendship between Nora and Crosbie. She draws this courtship out for so long and in such increasingly painful and awkward encounters, I started to worry she might never find a way to bring them together. Eventually, Crosbie succumbs to his feelings and surprises Nora with a kiss and the author perfectly captures that moment when frustrated longing overcomes Crosbie’s fear of rejection. Their ensuing hook-up is romantic, sexy and perfectly in keeping with the relationship so far. The next morning, when Kellan nearly catches Crosbie in the apartment and quizzes Nora about the previous night, made me laugh out loud.
The couple doesn’t get their happily ever after right away. In fact, when Kellan finally does remember first meeting Nora, they both realize the assumptions they made about each other were wrong and neither wants Crosbie to know how they first met. But shortly before Christmas break, something jogs Crosbie’s memory. The moment when he looks at Nora and makes the connection between who she is and who she was, is devastating. Ms. Keyes wisely doesn’t rush a reunion between Nora and Crosbie. Both have time to reflect on truths about themselves and the assumptions they made about each other. When they do reconcile on a certain romantic holiday (IT’S A LOVE STORY – I’M NOT SPOILING ANYTHING), Ms. Keyes captures the moment perfectly. It’s bittersweet, romantic and funny.
I loved the story, the characters and most especially I loved the hero, Crosbie Lucas. If you’re smarter than I am, you’ll take your time reading Undecided and savor this book. It’s worth it.