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The day he said, “I love you” should have been the day she said, “Goodbye.”
Title: In Too Deep
Author: Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Genre: New Adult Fiction
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
About In Too Deep
Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.
Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.
Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?
My phone buzzed.
I turned off my phone. The doorbell rang before I even had a chance to feel guilty for not answering. I threw the covers over my head and lay there, eyes wide open. It rang again.Can someone please get the door? I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself to get up.
I groaned as I pulled myself from under the covers and flung my legs off the edge of my bed. The UPS man was going to get an eyeful because I didn’t even have the energy to pull my sleep pants on. The super huge t-shirt I wore to bed was longer than some skirts I had. I would just have to reach around the opened door, sign something on his little clipboard and throw the package on the hall table before jumping right back into bed. No one was home. I could have slept all day. Stupid delivery guy.
But when I rounded the corner into the foyer, I could see Noah through the side window to the right of the door. My heart slammed its next beat so hard I was sure someone standing in front of me would have seen my ribcage lunge forward.
“What do you want?” I said the words on my side of the window. He didn’t need to hear me, he had to be expecting something like that. He knew I wouldn’t be happy to see him. I was pissed that he was at my door. Flashes of my birthday night coursed through my mind one by one. I winced and squeezed my eyes closed hoping to wring the images from my head.
“Gracie, I know you don’t want to open the door, but I need you to listen to what I have to say.” He was talking louder than he needed to for me to hear him. I was instantly annoyed. I shuddered.
“So talk.” If I kept a locked door between us, I could walk away whenever I’d had enough.
“Can I please come in?”
“Okay, I’ll talk through a window if that’s the only way you’ll listen.” He waited a couple seconds like he thought I’d have a change of heart and open the door. When he saw that was not in his cards, he started talking. I leaned my forehead against the cool glass and watched his lips form words that proved introspection, self-awareness and a level of thought so deep I could do nothing but hold my breath and wish he wasn’t doing this to me.
“Gracie. I haven’t had a solid example of how to show love or how to accept it. At least not the depth of love you are willing to give. I don’t know how to reciprocate that without feeling terrified. I never expected to fall so hard for you. I never thought I could love someone so hard it hurt. But I can. I do.
“Gracie. When you look at me and I know you can see all the way into my soul, my first instinct is self-preservation. I instinctively push you away so you won’t climb deeper into me. Your heart is so big, Gracie, it could swallow me whole, and that scares the shit out of me because I shouldn’t be worthy of that kind of love. I don’t deserve you. I guess in a twisted sort of way, I push you away to save you.”
The window steamed from the warm breath escaping between my lips. I remembered the conversation I had with my mom. She said only if it was of their own volition could someone truly make a change. I couldn’t believe what was happening in front of me. A huge part of me didn’t want it to be happening because Noah and I proved to be a disaster. I knew I couldn’t handle one more blow from him. My sanity was already climbing the walls. But, as if they had minds of their own, one hand turned the deadbolt and the other opened the door. Cool air across my thighs reminded me I was still only in a t-shirt. I motioned for Noah to follow me back to my room. I needed to put more clothes on so he didn’t ruin his heart-felt apology by making a move on me. He sat on my bed and I pulled sweats off the hook on the back of my door and slid myself inside them. I sat down next to him. He took my hands in his.
“I am head over heels in love with you, Gracie. I have been since the night you kissed me after the fireworks. I’ve always thought that shock between our lips was a sign that you were the one. I’m terrified of that. If I let myself truly feel the level of love I know we are capable of, then what happens if you leave me? I don’t know how to handle that kind of pain. I am sure I’ve never felt something that severe.”
“Noah, you just described what you have done to me, over and over and over. You have split my heart wide open so many times because, unlike you, I don’t know how to guard my heart. I opened it to you almost two years ago, and I’ve been giving you all I have ever since. I can’t turn it off, I don’t know how. So, when you pierce me with your hateful words, the pain is palpable. It takes me to my knees.” There was no holding back the tears. I didn’t even try to. I was done walking on eggshells. Again.
That’s when he did something I never thought I’d see. He fell into my lap and cried like a baby. I had taken all the pain he had inflicted on me and threw it straight to his heart before he had the chance to get that wall back up.
About the Author
Michelle Kemper Brownlow has been a storyteller her entire life. Her debut was on the high school cheerleading bus granting requests to re-tell her most embarrassing moments for a gaggle of hysterical squadmates.
Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Art Education and then marrying her very own “Jake,” she moved to Binghamton, NY where she taught high school. After having two children she quit work and finished her Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Binghamton University.
The Brownlow family of four moved to Michelle’s hometown of Morgantown, PA while the children were still quite young. A few years after moving, her family grew by one when they welcomed a baby into their home through the gift of adoption. The family still resides in PA, just miles from where that high school cheer bus was parked.
Michelle has been an artist for as long as she can remember, always choosing pencils and crayons over toys and puzzles. As a freelance illustrator, her simple characters play the starring roles in numerous emergent reader books published by Reading Reading Books.
“Writing is my way of making sense of the world. When I give my characters life on the pages I write, it frees up space in my mind to welcome in new stories that are begging to be told,” says Brownlow.
between the lines …
Did you ever wonder what life was like for those who play it safe and always do the right thing? Gracie never wondered about a life of taking risks, until she meet Noah. Noah’s bad boy reputation and hypnotizing eyes are enough to make any girl like Gracie enjoy the view but steer clear into another direction. In one electrifying moment, Gracie’s innocent ideals turn into yearning touches and stolen kisses until she’s In Too Deep to just walk away.
Gracie takes a leap of faith one summer by falling for Noah but little does she realize the turbulent toll their love would take after she transfers to UT. Their romantic beginning fades gradually while Noah pledges to a fraternity. The sweet side of the guy she fell in love with crumbles as the his lies, cheating and old habits resurface. Gracie’s determined to see, feel and experience the Noah she fell in love with but Noah’s betrayal may be more than simple drunken confessions.
Gracie’s struggle in each chapter of In Too Deep captivated me. Her raw emotion always sat on the surface and her perseverance to see Noah as the guy that she took a chance on that summer was both endearing, stubborn and heart-pounding intense. My own heart ached over the memories she constantly relived while waiting for Noah to remember why they had loved each other. Thank god for her friends and their unwavering support to help keep her on solid ground. They continued to be her strength throughout the novel.
Gracie’s roller coaster of emotions ricochets through every scene and the reader experiences these moments so vividly right along with her. The reason Gracie gives Noah chance after chance is perfectly paced from chapter to chapter and kept me turning the pages to see how she would handle her deteriorating relationship. There were times when I wanted to shake Gracie out of this downward spiral and let her know she deserved better than Noah.
Noah was a hard character to like. The bad boy womanizer turned romantic and fixing him is never really completely resolved. I felt his demeanor worthy of the bad boy reputation, but when you looked at him through Gracie’s clouded eyes it was easy to see why she couldn’t let go.
Gracie’s friends played the perfect crutch of support while she churned in emotional hell. Stacey is the nurturing friend while Jake is always being, saying and doing exactly what she needed. The author crafts Jake with all the characteristics that Gracie should want and their growing affection skyrockets off the page.
I rated this 3.5 because I liked all the emotional turmoil and the raising strength in Gracie and her growing attraction to Joey who was the perfect best friend. However, sometimes I was confused by timeline of the story. The transitions to past and present had me wondering exactly where I was in the story, but the unexpected plot twists, and the building strength of characters balanced it out. The enticing tug-a-war of Gracie’s feelings for best friend Jake and bad boy Noah made this a page turning novel.
MY RATING 3.5 stars