Rant, Review

Review: Promise Me Nothing by Jillian Liota (2019)

Hermosa Beach, Book #1

Heat Factor: Hot tub sex!

Character Chemistry: Yearning and burning. 

Plot: Girl with nothing to lose moves across the country to visit a brother she’s never met, falls for his friend – but things are not quite what they seem. 

Overall: I loathed the hero.

Here’s our introduction to Wyatt, from the first page of his first POV chapter: 

I’ve always known that women love a man who rides a motorcycle. But there’s a certain pitch to this engine that seems to hit the ladies right between their legs.

Gross. Not the best first impression. 

Wyatt does have positive character traits, but he ALSO has Poor Little Rich Boy Syndrome, which combines two of my least favorite types of heroes: the Entitled Billionaire and the Soul-Searching New Adult. 

PLUS! The Entitled Billionaire Friends! The most egregious example was the party they had at the local park: 

“It’s usually closed at night, but Wyatt’s mom is friends with someone in City Council and blah blah blah… We can stay as long as we want.” 

What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck. Parks are for everyone, not just 22 year olds with money. If some of the other local kids tried to have a party there, what would the repercussions be? Look, I’m not anti-partying, because I did plenty of drinking on beaches when I was in college. However, given that every single one of these kids has a maid, what is the likelihood that they actually clean up their beer bottles?

So speaking only in terms of personal taste, this was not a great fit for me. 

However, I am a professional, so let’s talk about Promise Me Nothing in terms of craft. 

First, the conflict is well-paced. Liota draws it out slowly. She drops hints that are vague enough that the “mystery” isn’t completely obvious, but clear enough that the reader knows that something fishy is going on with Hannah being brought to California. There is enough build up of the relationship between Hannah and her brother as well as between Hannah and Wyatt that when the inevitable betrayal comes, the hurt Hannah feels is palpable.

The strongest component of this book is definitely the development of the physical relationship between Hannah and Wyatt. Wyatt may be a jerk, but he absolutely does right by Hannah, especially as she starts to open up sexually. And while Hannah may be a virgin with some sexual trauma in her past, Liota doesn’t fall into the easy trap of Wyatt teaching her pleasure; Wyatt participates in Hannah’s awakening, but he does not cause it. Hannah is fully in touch with her desires as she connects with Wyatt both emotionally and physically, and she sets the pace as their sexual relationship blossoms. 

The characters themselves are sometimes wildly inconsistent. Depending on how you approach imperfect characters, this may or may not bother you. An example:

Wyatt: My dad bought me this sweet motorcycle before it was available to the general public and I love it because it makes the chicks cream their panties!

Also Wyatt: My dad sucks and I definitely don’t want or need his money. 

Also Wyatt: Thank goodness we have the money to deal with the medical crisis in my family.

Here’s another example:

Wyatt: I’ve been back in town for literally one day after living in a different city and never coming home for three years. 

Also Wyatt: I’m the only one who has been keeping this family together!

A reader might be frustrated by these wild swings of character and conclude that Liota would have benefited from more rigorous editing. A more generous reading of this situation is that Liota is quite skilled at presenting characters who are not entirely self-aware. Given that she is writing about people in their early twenties who are doing a lot of soul-searching, and furthermore, given that she’s chosen to present their stories using the first person, we’ll go with the second explanation. After all, as my husband likes to point out when I complain about people flip-flopping, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Thanks Emerson!

A final note on the writing: awkward prose, misspelled words, and incorrect word use abound. A medical treatment plan is a regimen, not a regiment; an adolescent is a teenager, not a seven year old. 

I would recommend this book to people who like a coming of age story mixed in with a slow burn romance – with all the angst and drama that comes with it. Avoid if you dislike uneven characterization or obnoxious rich people, or if prose mishaps have you reaching for that red pen. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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