Back to Us by Teresa Roman
Genre: New Adult Romance
Source: Goddess Fish Tours
Purchase links || soon
Abandoned by her parents at fourteen, Jessica knows what it means to struggle. Jessica’s vowed that getting her degree is the only thing she has time for, until a summer internship brings Justin into her life. But Justin has scars of his own. A tour of duty in Afghanistan has left him with wounds. A medical discharge from the Navy leaves Justin struggling to make sense of his new reality. Then he meets Jessica; but can the two of them leave their pain in the past and make a future together?
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As the title suggests, this is a story about two people finding their way back to 'them' -- them as a couple as opposed to individuals. Individually, Jessica and Justin are strong people. Jessica's parents abandoned her and she's been living with her brother in a cheap railroad apartment where roaches are the norm. She refuses to have people over and is disgusted by the life she's living, but she hasn't any other choices. Justin hasn't had the best recent-past but he covers it up extremely well while coaching basketball at the youth center that Jesse ends up having a summer internship at.
As the summer progresses, these two fall into an easy friendship but one misstep, one wrong word and the friendship crumbles. When it's decided that all was a misunderstanding, the friendship resumes again and starts to get deeper. After going out to the city on a field trip, Justin ends up calling in sick for the week and Jesse decides to return the friendship favor he offered the previous week and stops by his house -- where she learns his deepest secret (which I have to say, did indeed have a shock factor), and yet again, their friendship takes a major back-step.
These two are very much the two steps forward, one back kind of couple, but at times the one back feels like three; instead of getting nowhere, it at times felt that they were retreating. Jesse felt that she wasn't good enough in life because her parents made her feel that way (being told that you were going to be a whore and die of AIDS will do that to a girl when her father utters those words). Justin tended to project feelings -- to a point where I was annoyed with him. He didn't think that anyone would want to know his secrets, and when Jesse did find them out, he felt that she was continuing their friendship and eventually asking him out because she pitied him. Even as the year goes on and the relationship progresses, he falls back on that insecurity -- it is his security blanket and eventually the man needs to learn to trust others. Between his learning to trust Jesse and the helping hand of Mrs. Connor, everything eventually falls into place.
Altogether, this was a cute story. There were writing style things that I did not agree with as well as odd placement for jumps in time, but that's just my style versus the author's. And you know what? That's ok. She's the one published ;)