The story starts off with Harper (love the name by the way... And would have named my son that if he wasn't... well... my SON) leaving for college and reminiscing on growing up with a widower father, a sergeant in the Marine Corps whom she calls "Sir." Homeschooled and raised by rowdy marines in training, Harper is more than ready to step out of her bubble and find herself by having "real college experiences."
This doesn't quite pan out, however, as during her first few interactions with frat boys, she falls instantly in love with two of them. Chase, the gorgeous playboy who also happens to be her roommate's brother, is everything Harper knows she shouldn't trust but can't resist. Brandon, Chase's fraternity brother, is, in contrast, everything Harper has always dreamed of and never thought she deserved. Both boys are hopelessly in love with Harper and engage in numerous verbal and physical battles to win her affections. For a good portion of the book, Harper works to convince herself why she should be with one or the other (that is when she's not seeing both of them).
Perhaps my biggest problem with this book was that it attempted to do too much. The aforementioned love triangle takes up about the first half of the story and then something tragic happens to completely change the scope of the storyline. I would argue that the author could have ended the story here and then wrapped up the rest of the story with a summarized epilogue or a sequel (of which there is one, but not that continues the story... More to come on that later). Instead the author continues with a story that has a number of other sub-climaxes, including another man professing, over and over again, his undying love for Harper, and a too-close call with an MMA fight sequence.
As I mentioned earlier, there were sparkling moments when I really wanted myself to like this book. Though he won't be taking the place of Ren Rajaram or Daemon Black as my book boyfriend anytime soon, I did find myself rooting for bad boy with a soul, Chase. I also thought that the plot had a lot of possibilities, but could have been better executed. For example, Harper's relationships with her father (Sir) and marine Carter, her best friend from back home, could have been expanded on more at the beginning and throughout to better set them up for the strained communication and eventual fallout with one and the not-so-surprising declaration and eventual fallout with the other. Perhaps because of this lack of development, the reconciliations with both toward the end of the book seemed a little forced.
I also had a hard time believing the time frame in which Harper was able to fall in and out of love with the boys. While McAdams covers a lot of material in the short space of one book, Harper breezes through a whirlwind of emotional epiphanies, changes of heart, and lifetime milestones in the course of just over a year.
Perhaps my hopes were just too high for my first read of the year. However, I don't think I will be moving on to the sequel to this title, "Stealing Harper," which is a retelling of the story from Chase's point of view. For starters, knowing what happens would make it too difficult to get overly vested in the story (if I was able to), and I'm not sure I could bear to see Harper toddle back and forth for another 400 pages. For those of you who ignore my review and give this series a try (or those who have already read both titles and/or anything else by McAdams), please let me know if I'm making a mistake by not trying the second installment. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this title, no matter how conflicting with my own they might be ;-)