Jen’s review of The Day He Kissed Her (Bad Boys of Crystal Lake #3) by Juliana Stone
He can’t wait to leave…
Mac Draper finally has everything he’s always wanted: An amazing career. A New York City apartment. He’s this close to being free of his past forever. But a mind-blowing encounter with the sexy yet tough-as-nails Lily St. Clare has him delaying his plans to put Crystal Lake in his rearview mirror for good.
She’s finally found a place to stay…
For Lily St. Clare the charming small town of Crystal Lake is her haven – a place she can hide from her famous, back-stabbing family. It’s as close to happy as she’s ever been. Until an unforgettable night with tall, dark and tortured Mac Draper gives her a glimpse of what true happiness feels like.
Lily can’t help but melt a little under the sizzling heat of Mac’s touch. But Mac’s scars run deep, and Lily’s afraid she may be falling for the one man who can never return her feelings…
I was in the mood for a small town contemporary and I’ve been looking for a new series to dig into, so I decided to give this book a shot. Regrettably, this story didn’t come close to satisfying me. There are so, so many things about this book that make me angry (e.g., grammar errors, poor word choices, too-convenient ending, an underdeveloped plot moppet, etc.), but covering them all would just be too much! Consequently, I have tried to distill my disgust down to just the essentials, a concentrated shot of 100-proof disgust, if you will. Because this book really did not work for me.
The story is about Mackenzie Draper, a successful NYC architect who grew up in the town of Crystal Lake, Michigan. Mac came from a terrible home, with an alcoholic dad who physically and emotionally abused his wife and children. Mac comes back to Crystal Lake for a short visit that he ends up extending into a summer architecture job. While back home he gets involved with Lily St. Clare, someone who, by way of a massive coincidence, he happened to have had an anonymous one night stand with months ago. Lily is an artist living in Crystal Lake because her best friend (who is also Mac’s best friend and the subject of book 2 in the series), lives in the town. They start out agreeing their fling is going to be casual, but when things get more serious neither is sure whether they can make it work.
Let’s start with the one thing I didn’t mind so much–Lily. When she was consistent (more on that later), I liked her. She stands up to Mac a few times and calls him on his BS, and she is independent and doesn’t collapse into a useless heap when it looks like things might not work out. That version of Lily was fun to read about. I didn’t buy the ridiculous insta-lust between Mac and Lily, but eventually the sex scenes are reasonably sexy (with one exception**).
The problem is, Lily was portrayed a bit inconsistently. Sometimes she’s described as this party girl who has sex in back alleys and can never settle down, and other times she is described as being less experienced at sex, her friends act as though she’s vulnerable, etc. She is strong and pushes back at times, but then she totally ignores Mac’s very questionable behavior. The cover blurb, and indeed some sections of the book, make her family history out to be a big factor in her life, but aside from some brief scenes with her drug addicted, reality show-starring sister and some mentions of her parents, there is no serious discussion of how those things impacted her or even what the deal with her family really is. I haven’t read the other books in the series so perhaps her family situation is explained in greater depth elsewhere, but even if that is the case Mac wasn’t present for any previous explanations. I need to see something in this book about how Lily feels about it all and how it impacts her relationship with Mac. With no exploration it feels like scenery, not something integral to understanding Lily’s character.
But the rant-inducing part of this story is really Mac. He does things in this book that convince me he is unhealthy and in no position to enter a relationship. He pretty clearly has a drinking problem. At several points in the book, he goes on benders, including one multi-day bender, in order to “forget.”
He had a bottle of whiskey at the cottage, and he was thinking that some alone time with Jack [Daniels] was what he needed right now.
He’s on a first name basis with his whiskey, and this isn’t the only time he expresses something like this. Y’all remember his father is a major alcoholic, which Lily is aware of, right?
“I drink too much.”
“Yeah, you do. But do you drink because you need it? Do you drink to cope?”
“No,” he said after a few moments. “I drink to forget.”
Oh, that’s different then! Lily is totally right to ignore that warning sign! And then there’s the physical abuse element. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?
1) Mac is ridiculously jealous, even at the very start of the story when he barely knows Lily. He gets angry that she has a male friend that she brings to a party they attend. Did I mention that he only even learned her name the day before? He goes so far as to angrily say “[S]he belongs with me” after the woman he’s barely even spoken with spends time with the date she brought to the party. Yeah, no that’s definitely not creepy.
2) Mac is not only jealous but physically possessive, too. The morning after they start sleeping together, Lily has to go outside half naked in Mac’s clothes and comes upon some of his guy friends and their kids who’ve come over to go fishing. Aside from the fact that Mac is a pretty big asshole and actively worsens her embarrassment, he doesn’t mind that all the guys saw hickeys on her neck.
Except that Mac kind of liked the sight of them on her skin. They were his marks. On her skin. Marks he’d put there while he’d been inside her.
So he enjoys physically marring her skin because it reminds him, and everyone else, that she’s his? Holy shit, you guys.
3) Mac has some major anger issues. He’s described as having “blinding rage,” “absolute rage,” “a hundred parts rage,” and “red-hot rage.” Granted it’s mostly his family that sets him off, never Lily, but doesn’t this trigger warning bells for anyone given that he comes from an abusive home?
4) SPOILER: Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. Mac actually HAS hurt a woman in anger…more than once! Mac tells Lily about an incident in his past, where he got into a fight (while he was in an “absolute rage”) with a guy his girlfriend was flirting with. While trying to break up the fight, the girlfriend got elbowed in the nose by Mac. Lily is all sympathetic and loving, not the least bothered by the story. So of course, guess who else gets elbowed in the face when Mac is in one of his rages? Our girl, Lily! (Plus he also does this in a public place in front of his impressionable nephew, and he goes to jail overnight because of it.) Perhaps I could excuse it once as a genuine accident, but twice sounds more like a pattern to me. At BEST, Mac is so filled with anger that he literally cannot control himself.
Jealous? Check. Possessive? Check. Filled with rage? Check. Has a history of violent behavior? Check. Family history that includes all these things and more? Once again…check.
So does Lily realize how toxic he might be and back away? Does she demand that he immediately enter therapy or possibly even rehab to deal with his demons before she begins a serious relationship with him? Does she even call out his behavior and enter a long term relationship with eyes wide open about the risks?
No, she excuses his serious problems and acts like her love will fix it all. Even when Mac himself acknowledges he’s out of control and genuinely worried about hurting someone, Lily and all his friends instead brush off his concerns as evidence that he’s just scared of love.
Listen, romance novels can explore the darker side of relationships, but I didn’t feel like this book actually dealt with any of that darkness in a productive way. Mac is portrayed as a slightly tortured but genuinely sweet hero who just needs love, not a potential abuser with a history of addiction and violence. I didn’t want to read about him, and I didn’t buy that he and Lily could have any sort of HEA, at least not without some serious, extended professional help. I actually was in a bad mood after ending this book. Not only did I not enjoy the writing style, but I was really disgusted with Mac. I just couldn’t get on board.
Grade: 1 out of 5
**There was one part I reread three times, because I was sure I had misunderstood it. Lily and Mac are getting busy, and this happens:
[H]e could count the freckles across the bridge of her nose. They looked like little bits of pale gold. He bent forward and licked them, feeling like he was going to come apart when he heard her gasp.
Wait, he licked the bridge of her nose? Not kissed, but licked? I assume her gasp was one of shock that he would think that was hot, because…really? Seriously, someone please let me know in the comments if I am just crazy and this would actually be a turn on.
This book is available from Sourcebooks Casablanca. You can purchase it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.