Title: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF US
Series: The Fine Art of Pretending #2
Author: Rachel Harris
Format: Kindle, 255 Pages
Published: Spencer Hill Contemporary (April 5, 2016)
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses
One class assignment. One second chance at love. The school player is all in. Now he needs to win back the sweet commitment girl who's forever owned his heart.
Justin Carter has a secret. He's not the total player Fairfield Academy believes him to be. Not really. In fact, he used to be a one-woman guy...and his feelings for her never went away. Too bad he broke her heart three years ago and made sure to ruin any chance she'd ever forgive him.
Peyton Williams is a liar. She pretends to be whole, counting down the days until graduation and helping her parents at the family ranch. But the truth is, she's done everything she can to get over Justin, and salvation is just around the corner. With graduation one short month away, she'll soon break free from the painful memories and start her life fresh. Of course, she has to get through working with him on one last assignment first.
For Justin, nothing ever felt as right as being with Peyton, and now that fate's given him a shot at redemption, he's determined to make the most of it. And for Peyton...well, Justin Carter has always been her kryptonite.
One class assignment. One second chance at love...
A musical laugh sprang free, her happy smile trailing behind, and I was in heaven. “Until you,” she agreed. She squinted one eye and added, “Though you should know, I’m probably gonna be really, really bad at it.”
The expression on her face said she honestly believed it, and I couldn’t wait to prove her wrong. I leaned close to her ear and whispered across her skin, “That’s impossible.”
Peyton’s breath caught in a gasp, and I angled back to see her face.
That’s when the moment changed.
Sounds of the emptying baseball field fell away. The cool air around us kindled. The soft smile on her face faded as she looked into my eyes, shifting her gaze between them to see what I’d do next. Part of me wondered the same thing.
I’d kissed dozens of girls before. Some I wanted, others purely because I was bored. But I’d never felt anything like this. Anticipation. Want. Fear. Unlike any other kiss I’d ever shared, this one needed to be epic. Girls remembered their first kiss for the rest of their lives, and I had to leave Peyton with something good to cling to later… when I inevitably screwed everything up.
Gauging her reaction, I slowly lowered my head and watched her soft lips part. Adrenaline surged through my veins at the swipe of her tongue. She nodded once, silently giving me permission, then closed her eyes.
Inhaling the scent of sunflowers, I kissed her.
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF US by Rachel Harris is the second installment in her The Fine Art of Pretending series. It is both a sweet second-chance at-love story and an engaging coming-of-age tale. Favorite characters from the first book are much in evidence. It can be read as a stand-alone read, but, just know that the hero, Justin Carter, was previously introduced in the first book. If you have the time, I would recommend reading the previous book prior to starting this one.
This is the story of high school star baseball player Justin Carter and Peyton Manning Williams. A few years ago, when they were each fifteen, these two were a couple. But, when their relationship ended abruptly, it ended badly Now, Justin knows he made a mistake and is determined to get her back.
From the beginning, it's obvious that Peyton is mad at him and as we stroll down their memories lane, we discover how and why Justin cruelly broke her heart. Peyton has moved on and is now in a relationship with her best friend who she doesn't love, but who has stayed by her side through thick and thin. Justin's road to earning Peyton's trust back is not paved. Lucky for him, they've been assigned to work together in a marriage-and-family class assignment.
I really liked Justin in the first book, but did not like him with Aly who was paired with him then. His home life is the pits. He is well-liked at school, but has a reputation as a player. How that reputation evolved, and if it's true, comes to light. He is bravado on the outside, but surprisingly vulnerable on the inside.
Peyton lives on a ranch with her loving, supportive family. She and her siblings are named after star athletes. Her family is very protective of her since she's been sick. She still experiences lingering weakness. She's had a rough time, breaking up with Justin, becoming afflicted with Guillain-Barre syndrome, no longer able to ride, and now, her family is facing financial ruin. The last thing she needs is to allow Justin to break her heart - and her spirit - a second time.
Following please find a few my favorite quotes from this read:
"A smile doesn't always mean you're happy." I shrugged and looked away. "Sometimes it just means you're ready to face whatever comes."
Frustration widened her eyes, sparking them with fire. "I don't want to be with you so I can write our names together on a bathroom stall, Justin! I don't care about popularity or rubbing it in girls' faces. I want to be with you because you make me laugh. Because you're confident and smart and you actually see me." When she heaved a sigh, warm breath fanned across my lips. "Because when I'm with you, I remember how it feels to be alive."
"I hear doghouses are total aphrodisiacs."
I laughed aloud, even as a small shiver ran down my spine. Thus was the power of Justin Carter. I looked into his eyes and said, "With you there, hell yeah they are."
I touched my forehead against hers. “And I’m yours.” Her hands left my shoulders and skimmed hesitantly over my back. “I mean it, Sunshine. You deserve better, but if you still want me even after knowing what a disaster I am, then I’m all in. I’m too selfish to walk away.” I leaned back. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
This story is told from dual-points of-view and over a dual timeline. I did not care for the back and forth in time narrative. It was confusing to me. I would have preferred to have their past history told advancing to their present-day story. The story also could have been a tad faster-paced. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed being privy to the thoughts of both primary characters and, well, Rachel writes YA romances like no other.
I love Rachel's books and have been looking forward to reading Justin's story. I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint. If you are a fan of YA romances with life-lessons moments and plenty of heart including the sweetest kisses ever written, the books in the Fine Art of Pretending series should be on your want-to-read-soon list. I look forward to reading the next book in this series and can't wait to find out who will get their story told next!
Suggested Reading Order:
THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING (Book #1)
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF US (Book #2)