TITLE: Only When It’s Us
BY: Chloe Liese
SERIES: Bergman Brothers #1 (Can Be Read As Standalone)
GENRE: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
PUBLICATION: April 1st, 2020
NOTES: An e-copy was provided to me by the author and publishers via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion about the book in any way.
Sweet and funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking — truly unexpected. A frenemies-to-lovers romance that rivals all my favorite friends-to-lovers stories and that says a lot.
MY OWN BLURB
Only When It’s Us starts with a matchmaking professor, a prank and a big misunderstanding. Willa is an up-and-coming star of women’s soccer. Busy with training, she’s got conflict with her Business Mathematics course and her professor isn’t helping. Instead of giving her the lecture notes, her professor tells her to get them from the the silent, surly ass sitting next to her in class, who ignores her when she did ask. On the other hand, Ryder has no idea why Willa is giving him death stares. It’s not helping that the day she sits next to him for the first time is not a good day for Ryder. Willa reminds him of a life he once have but lost due to an unfortunate medical condition.
But as they start spending time with each other (forcefully) they soon realize that the prank might be the best thing that ever happened to them.
The story is truly unexpected because it’s more than the blurb has promised. I thought this is just another enemies/friends-to-lovers story set in a college campus but no. Only When It’s Us is a story of a romance between two strong but vulnerable people who are growing up, healing/moving on and trying to be the best versions of themselves as they achieve their dreams.
The story has a lot of important elements and they all touched my heart.
Ryder’s condition really, truly, surprised me. It was not mentioned in the blurb and it’s definitely not mentioned in any review I read prior to requesting this book from Netgalley. I almost tear up because I know it must be really hard for him. And yes, having Willa in his life is harder than it should be because of what Ryder lost. But wow, this aspect is really handled well by the author. Of course, I’m not sure about the medical stuff but still I think, it’s handled well. Most importantly, Willa and Ryder, as characters handled it well. In Ryder’s side, there’s no I-can’t-be-with-you-coz-it-hurts-you-remind-me-of-something-I-lost drama. And on Willa’s side, there’s not a single issue about Ryder’s medical condition. She just accepts him and deal with him for who he is but without treating him as if he’s not normal or anything. I mean they’re frenemies despite it. I love them for being such mature people.
The Family aspect is amazing though it’s different for Willa and Ryder.
I wasn’t expecting that there would be a big deal of a family thing in the story. Ryder’s family is very ideal. They’re close-knit with amazing parents and loud siblings. His mother is Swedish, by the way, and his father is American. It really makes me happy that Ryder get to share his family to Willa because Willa…
Willa facing such a big challenge with her family while juggling her classes and soccer training is just too much. And I think the emotion that goes along with it is handled very well and realistic. I truly felt Willa’s hardship that I wished her hardship is just about money. But no, it’s not money. I really love her relationship with her mother that it hurts more to read about them. And her history with her father explains a lot why Willa doesn’t trust easily and is her problem till the end of the book. This brings me to the romance.
A romance that didn’t change the characters…
Ryder is this sweet, soft-hearted guy with beard and he remained so till the end. His patience with Willa till the end didn’t surprise me at all. And Willa, fierce, goal-oriented but short-tempered Willa. I already mentioned that she doesn’t trust easily and she’s not even good at conversation (also she’s a verbal processor) and this became an issue in the development of the romance with Ryder. Until the end she’s still the Willa I met in the beginning of the novel. That seems like lame in terms of character’s development but no, for me, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT doesn’t entirely mean changing a character 100 percent. It only means the character learns how to handle themselves and the things around them better without losing their identity.
Willa and Ryder fell in love with each other without changing to be the person the other needed. Willa literally didn’t back down until the epilogue. They just learned how to make decisions smarter. This is harder to explain than I thought. hehe.
Anyway, I think the romance started awkwardly. I really thought their attraction wasn’t clear and almost forced the first few interactions they have. But as the story went by, it became deeper, more real and heart-tugging. Plus, I really enjoyed their banters and their childish antics. Simply hilarious.
And the steam…
Another element that is unexpected because really. I know the first times they seduce each other were just little pranks to get back at each other but wow, those pranks really backfired to both of them. Serves them right, if you ask me. Hehe. From meh-ish seductions to full-steam make-outs. Don’t even get me started with the real, full sex scenes.
Unforgettable Side Characters
First, Professor Mac. To be honest, at first I thought, the thing with Mac, his own pranks are kind of forced and that the plot’s just making Willa’s life harder. Then Mac explained it and I finally understand. Suddenly, Mac’s intervention is not anymore a case of the plot manipulating Willa and Ryder’s romance. Here’s a secret and a spoiler… Professor Mac is Ryder’s brother-in-law and he thinks he’s doing Ryder a favor and he just wants to help Willa do more in terms of her classes. I actually love Prof. Mac.
For other amazing characters, there’s Rooney, Willa’s bestfriend. She’s like a badass barbie girl which is amazing. Ryder’s housemates, Tucker and Beck are really hilarious and I can say loyal because they stayed with Ryder despite what happened. I already said Ryder’s family is very ideal and I meant it. I’m actually very excited for the next book because I’m hopefull, it will star Ren, Ryder’s brother and a hockey player.
My main issue…
…lies in Ryder and Willa’s internal monologues. This is told in alternating povs and I noticed Willa and Ryder are both fond of explaining themselves, especially their actions, to the readers. Like, in Willa’s pov, a scene happened, Ryder will surely explain his actions when his pov comes. Maybe that makes sense but some of those actions are already obvious so there’s no need. There’s also instances where both Willa and Ryder outrightly tell the readers who they are. For example, Willa seems feel the need to tell me that she is a badass. I can figure that out by myself. So yeah, just a bit issue of telling vs. showing.
RATING: 4.5 blissful pages with lilies
I highly recommend this book. Willa and Ryder made me feel, hope they do the same to you. 🙂
Have you read this book? Or planning to? What do you think of it? Let’s chat.