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if you stay

24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.
He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match.
But he’s got his reasons.
His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.
As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade.
So he slipped far, far from it.
Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?
And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.
When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.
But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it.
He knows that. And he’s working on it.
But is that enough to make her stay?

Reviewed by Jenny and Gitte

Gitte:  If You Stay is the raw, dark and beautiful story of Pax and Mila. I thought it was a real emotional ride that had me in tears one minute, laughing and feeling hopeful the next. Oh and I have to mention how I don’t think I have ever read a book that starts the way in which this one does. Kudos to Courtney Cole, this Author sure knows how to grab a reader’s attention and hook you from page one!

We have Pax, a real tortured soul with a black hole in his memory, who is broken and unable to find his place in the world, feeling like there is nothing or no one to believe in or love for that matter. When we meet him he couldn’t really have left a worse impression with Mila or us as readers. Yet it is just a first impression for sure!

Then we have Mila who has gone through real tragedy herself yet is a rock to Pax, despite her own share of heartache she is determined and strong and is a true inspiration. Their journey is one of heartbreak, hope, love and determination.

Jenny:  First off I have to say, what a way to start a book!  I was in between books and thought I’d just check out the first chapter and see what it was like……well, there was no putting this down from there. Totally agree Gitte…..what a way to grab your attention!

Pax Tate certainly has demons to deal with.  He has issues from his past that he doesn’t deal with then well at all.  He drowns them in drugs, booze and sex.  Pax feels it’s better to be in a sinking haze than deal with everyday life. As a small boy, his heart was broken when his mother died.  His father, left alone with a small boy, made the decision to uproot him and start afresh. Pax is cut off from his grandfather and has a tense relationship with his father at best.

Mila is a breath of fresh air.  She enters Pax’s life at time when he is at his lowest.  She is everything Pax isn’t.   She is beautiful, sweet and is drawn to Pax.  Mila also deals with heartache and is quite a lonely soul.  Mila deals with her loss through painting; it’s her escape, unlike Pax who chooses a more dangerous route to escape from his issues.

Gitte:   I have to say Jenny, I loved Pax. Despite the way we meet him, actually perhaps because of the way we meet him I felt a connection with him immediately. You know within the first few pages that this is one sexy but broken guy. He had me in tears, he had me laughing out loud and he certainly had me swooning!!!

“You’ve seen me at my worst. Maybe you should see me at my best……” – Pax

“……When are you at your best?” – Mila

“…….In bed.” – Pax

We love our bad boys don’t we Jenny, and Pax is certainly one of those, though he doesn’t hide who he is, he owns it, which I have to say I loved about him.

His behaviour with women, alcohol and drugs leaves a lot to be desired but I got why he thought he needed it once we got deeper into his past. He has subconsciously suppressed a memory which affects his every waking day and some nights in the shape of horrific nightmares. To deal, he numbs his pain and tries to forget what he does remember and feel. His life can only be described as not living and he hates it.

“It isn’t long before the blackness comes back. I welcome it with open arms. I sing to it, I croon to it. I cradle it in my arms. I do whatever the fuck I want to do to it because it’s blackness, the darkest of nights, and it doesn’t care. If I am alone in the dark, nothing matters. I can’t hurt anyone but myself, and I fucking deserve it. I close my eyes and let the darkness cradle me. It can fuck me for all I care.”

Jenny: I agree Gitte, Pax really did enter into my heart and I loved him, even though there were times I could have throttled him I understood him and the wrong decisions he made.   He’s existing, not living and on his way to feeling love for the first time in his life.

He will do anything for Mila, even face his past.  I have to say I was unprepared for what Pax started remember and the details surrounding his mother’s death were heart breaking.   I ached for Pax and Mila.  Pax, because he was forced to remember, and was left with the fallout of guilt and shame.  Mila for having to witness Pax remembering and to witness first-hand the pain he was going through.

Gitte:  Now Mia; shehas her own pain dealing with the loss of her Mum and Dad. However, she has an outlet at her fingertips; painting. In order to not bury her emotions, Mila lets it all out through paint strokes and colours. She has a huge heart and determination yet guards her heart heavily. I loved how she was adamant that Pax needed to want to change, rather than her trying to save him.

Mia and Pax begin their journey when one ugly and traumatic night forces them together; forges a connection, when one saves the other from a horrific ending.  This meeting of can I call it fate? Kismet? Chance? Luck?…sees light entering Pax’s life spurring on changes, enables the building of dreams and makes him realise that love can and really does change everything and everyone.

Jenny:  I think it was fate Gitte.  These two lost souls who not only found one another through a tragic circumstance, but they also found a piece of themselves in each other. I absolutely adored Mila.  I loved her sensitivity, her tenacity, her devotion to Pax and how she gave herself so completely.   Mila was the light to Pax’s dark and the whole story was raw, filled with emotion.

ARC provided by the author for an honest review

 Gitte: 4 Stars
Jenny: 3.5 Stars

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