Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BROKEN AT LOVE (Whitman University #1) by Lyla Payne

AUTHOR: Lyla Payne -- Twitter | Website
PUBLISHED: Self-published March 12, 2013
GENRE: New Adult, Romance
PAGES: 338
SOURCE: Self-purchased
BUY IT: Barnes and Noble | Amazon
Find it on Goodreads

*This book may not be suitable for audiences under 18.*

When a knee injury ends twenty-year-old Quinn Rowland’s pro tennis career, he’s not only dumped by his hot Russian girlfriend but ordered to attend college by his disinterested billionaire father. A rich kid who’s not used to being disappointed by life, Quinn and his sociopathic half-brother Sebastian create a frat house game intended to treat girls how they see them—as simple game pieces to be manipulated for their pleasure.

College sophomore Emilie Swanson knows Quinn’s reputation—after all, he did send one of her sorority sisters into therapy earlier in the semester—but the game and his charm bring them closer together and soon she starts to believe there’s more to Quinn than people think.

But what if the more is something darker than a game of toying with emotions and breaking hearts?

Quinn and Emilie might be falling for each other, but there are secrets he’s not ready to tell—and lifestyle changes he’s reluctant to make. She willingly stepped on the court, but if Emilie finds out she started out as nothing as a pawn in Quinn and Sebastian’s twisted game, she might never forgive him.

To his surprise, Quinn finds that he might finally care about someone more than he cares about himself…even if that means letting Emilie walk away for good.

I come to the new adult genre and phenomenon by way of YA literature. You know, books that are PG-13, at best and that may or may not end up with the endgame couple having sex, but it's rarely described in as many words. They are books that I'm comfortable recommending to my mom, my brother, and yes, even my dad, because I know we'll be comfortable talking about the contents.

I never hopped on board the 50 Shades of Gray train. I hear I'm missing out, but I downloaded the previews and read them -- with an open mind, I swear -- and I just couldn't get into it. It's not that I'm a prude -- I'm not -- I just hadn't gotten into the genre because I wanted there to be more to the plot than just sex. (I look for the same thing in relationships. Ex-boyfriend, here's lookin' at you.)

Only a few books have met my litmus test, but Broken at Love surpasses all my standards. I'm not exactly surprised. The author, Lyla Payne (a pen name), is also the other of another series I've loved and reviewed on this very blog and was one of the reasons I started book blogging. In her debut NA novel, Payne (otherwise known as Trisha Leigh, author of YA series, The Last Year, and the forthcoming YA series, The Historians) reminds me why I fell in love with her writing in the first place.

At the fictional Whitman University, Quinn Rowland, a former tennis star and now infamous member of Sigma Epsilon Alpha, the hottest fraternity on the Florida university's campus, fills the many voids in his life with partying, drinking, and an elaborate game to ensnare the hearts of unwitting Whitman girls -- and then leaves them high and dry.

One of my favorite things about Payne's writing (and is in her YA series as well) is her ability to really capture the essence of a character. She is extremely successful at writing a novel from multiple point of views, which is not an easy thing to do. To change voices, chapter after chapter, can be a daunting task, especially when you're trying to create a cohesive character that doesn't seemed jumbled together or weak. But Lyla does it seamlessly.

The first chapter, told from Quinn's point of view, sets him up as a villain and you find yourself thinking to yourself that there is no way in hell you could possibly root for this character or want him with any female, even they are fictional. Quinn is much like Gossip Girl's resident bad boy, Chuck Bass -- so bad, yet, you cannot tear your eyes away because there is something also captivating, and if nothing else, he's hot. Quinn's sexuality and gorgeousness drips off the pages, along with what appears to be the paralyzing venom with which he seems to poison his prey. In the first chapter, this target is Annette, the hot blonde Delta Epsilon who plays hard to get and has shut down the advances of plenty of his fraternity brothers, making her a perfect target. As Annette falls for his every trick and every line, the ticker scrolls through his every thought, keeping score of each of his win and each of her losses.

When the second chapter picks up in Emilie's point of view, it's hard to believe that this girl could possibly be part of Quinn's twisted little game. But, just like Annette, things manage to follow a systematic pace -- from "accidental" encounters with Quinn's creeper half-brother Sebastian to the planned spilling of Irish car bombs (a drink containing dairy and making it necessary to leave or change). It seems like everything is going according to the dastardly plan when Quinn makes his move upstairs in the bedroom and Emilie slams the door shut in his face.

Over the course of the book, Emilie continues to confront all of Quinn's preconceived notions about women and forces him to confront the losses that have plagued him: His knee injury that effectively ended his professional tennis career and his heart, more seriously injured by Alexandria Ikanova, a fellow tennis pro who stomped on his heart and inspired the game he now plays with other women. And again, not unlike Chuck Bass, we start to see the humanity and the heart in Quinn Rowland.

It's no shock that Lyla Payne's first NA novel made it onto the USA Best Seller list -- when it comes to New Adult, Broken at Love an example of the genre at its very best.

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