Series: Curious Liaisons #2
Published by Skyscape on May 23rd 2017
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Austin Rogers’s dreams of domestic bliss involved watching Netflix and eating hot dogs with the love of her life. But then he cheated on her. And dumped her—as if the whole thing was her fault. To maintain her pride and restore her sanity, she decides to get revenge. It feels immensely satisfying to plot her ex’s downfall—but so does kissing him.
Thatch Holloway, a plastic surgeon straight out of residency, knows he ruined the best thing that ever happened to him. But not all cheaters are created equal. He got himself into this messed-up situation—true—but he has his reasons for what happened, and he’d do it all again to protect Austin.
He’s not over her. And she’s not over him.
Austin wants closure, but since Thatch refuses to give it to her, she takes matters into her own hands. She needs to write a human-interest piece for her MBA, so she demands the full plastic-surgery experience. Sparks fly as they’re forced to work together. But Thatch isn’t afraid to play dirty in return. And he’s still hiding something—something that has the power to destroy not only Austin but their second chance at finding forever…
Thatch has smooched someone else, on purpose (and for a reason that we won’t know until the end) in order to end a relationship that wrecks him both in a good and bad way. Make no mistake –
it’s a cowardly act that has him trying every which way to remedy but fails, until things do come to a head. That in a nutshell, is the start of the drama and admittedly, it’s not that often an author would go so boldly into the murky waters of writing about the aftermath.
The brazen title drew me to this story, I’ll say from the start. It’s self-explanatory, bold and quite the blatant announcement that it crosses no-go territory for many readers. But I genuinely wanted to know how Rachel Van Dyken was going to go through this premise when the story takes place after Thatch Holloway treats Austin Rogers like garbage in trying to do everything to drive her away.
But curiosity did get the better of me and despite years of having known that Van Dyken isn’t quite the author for me personally, I wanted to see how the story would unfold before I started calling it ‘Reader’s Regret’ in my mind. In some ways, I’ve been testing my own limits in wanting to know what would be good enough a reason that would justify such an asinine decision to cheat instead of orchestrating a straight-out breakup?
The direction of the story took a turn I couldn’t entirely be enthusiastic about. As friends of their respective best friends, Austin and Thatch can’t avoid each other and what starts off as a (rather juvenile) revenge ploy turns into Austin ‘shadowing’ Thatch for her final assignment in graduate school, as both of them start the push-pull/hot-cold attraction thing once again. And as much as I thought Austin had a right to be furious, I simply wanted her to hold her head up high and date others in the wake of the heartbreak, but instead got someone who was as needy and desperate for the man who cheated on her, hung up so much on him that she became the very kind of woman she already proclaimed she hated. The pages of her own self-recrimination just couldn’t cancel out her glutton-for-punishment desperation that had me rolling my eyes and wishing she hadn’t shed her dignity along with her clothes in the needy bid to get back with a man who is trying to push her away when he couldn’t even give her the courtesy of coming clean.
The long, drawn-out deception was what made me give up on the story in the end though; that Thatch could not be honest enough to put himself out there was the sort of character growth I think I needed to see when all he seemed to be doing thus far was to perpetuate the same cheating cycle he caught his parents in. Distracting Austin from the truth with sex didn’t improve my impression of him at all, particularly when he had so many opportunities to begin everything on a clean slate but didn’t. That it all eventually caught up with him was unsurprising, though it was by this time my sympathies had officially run as dry as a well for every character in the book.
I wish that ‘Cheater’s Regret’ had been a better read, given the really bold and eye-catching premise it begins with. But having been disappointed in too many stories that went awry like this, I think I’m going to stay far away once more from these sort of books while I desperate grab for my favourites right now to wash my own regret away.