Publisher: MTV Books
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Romance
For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions–it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?
Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true.
Erin was given a choice: her grandmother will pay for college where she’ll major in business and she’ll inherit the multi-million dollar family horse farm or she can choose to study something else and lose it all. There wasn’t any question about what Erin would do. She’d always wanted to be a writer so she turned her grandmother down flat, got as many scholarships as she could, a job as a waitress and lived on the cheap so she could follow her dream.
When Erin left Kentucky she knew exactly who’d be getting her inheritance. In exchange for that college tuition complete with a business degree, the son of one of the farm’s trainers, Hunter Allen, gets it all. He and Erin had a rocky past beginning in middle school when a crush bloomed, but an accident, misunderstandings and the jeering of high school students calling him her “stable boy” kept them apart despite their feelings and led to hostility when her grandmother made the deal that gave him the horse farm.
Pouring her heart into her latest story, Erin writes a romantic historical piece about a wealthy debutante and her dangerous dalliance with a stable boy. Her creative writing class takes turns reading each other’s stories and critiquing them in a discussion and Erin’s story is up that day. She gets the unpleasant shock of her life when Hunter appears in the room, saying he’s transferred in – and he’ll be reading and critiquing her story – one that contains thinly veiled characters based upon them.
Hunter’s revenge is simple. He starts writing stories about them that are obviously meant to get a rise out of Erin. They barely even conceal who he’s writing about and soon he and Erin are battling it out in front of the whole class with their fictional work. Erin’s fallen back in love with Hunter but she can’t tell what he’s feeling – she doesn’t know how she should interpret his stories but she’s afraid to ask him.
I was surprised this was the first Echols book I’d read given how popular she is. I did a quick look this morning and saw (a little sheepishly) that I have a couple of her books way, way back on my Kindle that I haven’t gotten to yet. I really like her writing style and I liked several background elements of the story but I just didn’t like the relationship between Erin and Hunter.
Erin and Hunter’s story is interspersed with the stories that they’re writing in class (shown in italics) and the book starts off with the piece Erin wrote. It wasn’t that offensive and if Hunter had kept his mouth shut, no one would have known it was even remotely based upon him. I know, then there wouldn’t have been any more Big Misunderstandings, but it was just one of the things that made me think these were characters that were in high school, not college. Hunter’s answer, to write an over-sexualized story that hinted about a sexual encounter with someone else while someone like Erin was watching was obviously intended to get a rise out of her – this sort of thing went on and on and on. It was a contest to out-hurt each other, to probe each other’s soft spots to test what the other one was feeling. How about just asking?
I really didn’t strongly like or dislike Erin. She was an interesting character that could have had her own book without Hunter – she might have been better off in too many ways. I liked her when she was with her friends, at her job and doing the usual college things like going to a party or just hanging out in her dorm room. I could relate to her. I could relate to the “does he or doesn’t like me” feeling with a guy too, as well as the feeling that I had to play some silly game to make him admit he liked me – but that was in high school or middle school – not college and I really didn’t understand the lengths Erin went to. She repeatedly risked the internship with badly written overwrought personalized stories just to get back at Hunter. I couldn’t see why that would make sense.
For the most part, Hunter was as clear as mud to me. Since the story was from Erin’s perspective, what she sees as his response to her – none – is what I got. I didn’t get the feeling that he was hiding any grand passion for her from his stories, only that he was poking at her and he seemed shocked when she didn’t get what he intended. It was more of the same game Erin was playing. If you like me, you have to say so before I’ll say I like you. There were so many misunderstandings – in a non-novelized relationship, these two would need couples therapy to unravel the hurt feelings they went back so far and were likely so ingrained.
There was a small secondary romance involving Erin’s roommate and Hunter’s. It’s a shame more page space wasn’t given to it because it was more realistic than the main romance was. It had all the great hallmarks of a real college romance – getting drunk at a party and sneaking off, being afraid to introduce each other to the others’ parents for one reason or another and unexpectedly not coming back to their own dorm room one night. I didn’t care or expect that they’ll have a permanent happily ever after, but I enjoyed their story anyway.
My Summary: I wanted so much to drag this rating up. I kept thinking that Echols’ writing was so good that it had to overcome the things that bugged me about the story the more I’d think about it, but it just didn’t happen. I know my angst tolerance can be fairly low sometimes but it was more than that. I didn’t buy their story, I couldn’t believe who the characters became and the things they did and even though I really did find pieces of the story authentic, there were too many sections that felt out of place. I’m not writing Echols off at all – the two books I have are rated very highly – but I don’t think this one is up to her usual standards.
My Rating: C+