Off Limits by Sawyer Bennett

Publisher: Big Dog Books (April 14, 2013)

Format: Kindle edition

Reviewed by: Judith

Score: 8/10

You probably expected something witty or riveting here but this is all I got: Right now (5/20), this book is free! FREE on Amazon! Run, don’t stop, to your nearest internet browser and GET IT!

Plot: [from the publisher] Two years ago, Emily Burnham, had an epiphany about the shallowness of her life. And she made it her mission to become a different person…a better woman. Out from under the controlling thumb of her mother, Emily is tasting the real world for the first time. And she likes it.

Nixon Caldwell has served his time in the Marine Corps, surviving two brutal tours in Afghanistan. He is back home, surrounded by what he likes best…isolation. It’s certainly the easiest way to avoid confrontation of the consuming guilt that is weighing him down.

When an accident brings Emily and Nix together, he soon learns he is not the master of his own fate. Struggling with his own pain, Nix tries to guard himself against Emily’s charms. He wants her in his bed, but he doesn’t want her in his heart. Having grabbed life by the horns, Emily wants it all. But is she willing to accept just the small part of himself that Nix is offering? Or can she reach the part of his soul that he has deemed to be Off Limits?

Review: Guys, straight up, great book. You know how some nights, you’re just dying to get your hands on a sexy, fun read that makes you think a bit while introducing you to two main characters clearly meant to fall in love but are driven apart by something pretty stupid? And then they finally work past all those issues and are unbelievably, nauseatingly happy? This is totally that book! It will have you rooting for society debutante Emily who just wants to be herself; it will make you “awwwww” over the love story between her and hurting soldier Nix  (and then fan yourself cause those two can be incendiary together); it will also make you think about the reality of soldiers returning from war and the toil that takes on them physically and emotionally. It’s a great balance of love story and social commentary.

My favorite part? Not the hot guy, or the sexy love story, or even learning about PTSD. No, the absolute best for me was the setting. LAME (but true). Now, if you read this blog, you’ll know that one-half of its writers (i.e. ME!), lives in Hoboken, NJ. When I saw that the story was set there, I was elated. I was so giddy in fact that I tweeted about it relentlessly and mentioned it several times on our Facebook feed. I couldn’t get over it! No book I’ve ever read has ever been set in Hoboken! And then it slowly and painfully became clear to me that the writer didn’t really do any research about Hoboken (which probably would have required only a google search & some footage of Hurricane Sandy) cause if she had she’d never be making statements like, “he visited his dad in a run down, residential section of town where there are yards” and people most certainly would not be visiting Hoboken and “pulling their cars into parking lots” cause neither of these things exists here. It’s an urban town that’s only 1 mile square with brownstones, apartment buildings, and condos all mashed together. There are no detached houses, no front yards, and no parking lots beyond multi-level garages. Imagine Manhattan at its grittiest and that’s pretty much Hoboken only cheaper and slightly less dense. Now maybe I’m being picky but the fact that the setting of the book wasn’t well researched really got to me. It kept yanking me out of the story as I read about a town that bore the same name and location with the one I live in but had clearly been devised in someone’s mind to fit a story. It was a bit sloppy and is only made acceptable by the fact that not many of you have ever been here and it won’t annoy or matter to you in the slightest.

That said, this remains a really well thought out and sweetly written book. The writing is fast paced and the dialogue very entertaining. Nix will snare you from the moment you meet him and Emily’s story of breaking past the barrier of her family’s political aspirations will get you fist pumping.  Plus it’s pretty smexy and if you enjoy a romantic NA read, this is for you!

I’m giving it: 8/10 but only cause I live in Hoboken. If not, it would have been a solid 9/10!

Based on the following criteria:

How much did I like the heroine: 10. Emily does an about face (or so I’ve been told since there was a book before this one that I didn’t read and don’t let that stop you from reading Off Limits either) – gone are the debutante ways and the superficial eccentricities. Girlfriend decides to make herself over and it is extremely touching to see her discovering who she is as a person. She doesn’t let her parents dictate what she wears, who she sees, what she thinks any longer and it’s a very powerful message to send to readers.

How much did I like the hero: 8. Nix can be moody and uber tempermental. Hot one minute, cold the next, he embodies the brooding and guilty wounded soldier to a T. At times this brand of hotness can be a bit offputting cause let’s face it, he’s not very nice to Emily and I’ve reached an age where all the games (intentional or not) are starting to aggravate me.

How believable is the plot:  9. Guy home from war is extremely guilty and spends his days wallowing in drink and despair? Yes, I believe it! Society debutante has had enough and rebels when parents push her toward abusive ex? Believe that too!

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Sawyer Bennett knows how to pull us in, tug on those heartstrings, and then make us pant a bit! She’s a natural at character development and she slips effortlessly between characters’ POVs. The book is seamless and beautifully written – now if only she would write about Hoboken as we know it.

How much did I want to keep reading: 8. I really enjoyed this story but felt like she ended where it needed to end and there were really no loose ends that kept me guessing. All in all, a delish read about finding love after loss.

Final Score: 8/10

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