One & Only (Canton, #1) by Viv Daniels
Published: November 8, 2013
Source: Purchased from B&N
One night they can't forget...
Tess McMann lives her life according to the secrets she's sworn to keep: the father who won't acknowledge her, the sister who doesn't know she exists, and the mother who's content playing mistress to a prominent businessman. When she meets the distractingly cute Dylan Kingsley at a prestigious summer program and falls in love, Tess allows herself to imagine a life beyond these secrets. But when summer ends, so does their relationship -- Dylan heads off to Canton College while Tess enrolls at the state university.
One love they can't ignore...
Two years later, a scholarship brings Tess to Canton and back into Dylan's life. Their attraction is as strong as ever, but Dylan has a girlfriend…who also happens to be Tess's legitimate half-sister. Tess refuses to follow in her mother's footsteps, which leaves her only one choice: break the rules she’s always followed, or allow Dylan to slip away for a second time.
...And only one chance to get things right. [goodreads]
I was intrigued by this novel because Viv Daniels is the pen name for Diana Peterfreund, an author I have yet to read but very aware of the praises for her work. As I've mentioned before on my blog, I've been reluctant to read most New Adult, mainly because it's been more of a miss than a hit for me in the ones I've given a try. I love the idea of a contemporary romance set at college, so naturally I gravitate towards this theme in New Adult, but the stories don't always pan out the way I had hoped. This one though, was a breath of fresh air. Finally a New Adult novel that captures more than just broken relationships and angsty sexual encounters.
Tess is the product of her mother having a secret affair with a married man, way back when. Instead of her mother walking away and raising Tess on her own, Tess's mother and father made an arrangement. In this arrangement came rules that kept Tess and her mother separate from her father and his other life. As long as they played by her father's rules, he would provide financial help where he saw fit. During the summer before college, Tess goes away to a science program at an Ivy league college, where she meets Dylan and the beginnings of what a life without her father's rules could be like.
Once the science program ends and Tess must return home, she realizes that her father's rules are there for a reason, and right now that reason is so she can afford to go to college. However, it's not the college of her choosing. Fast forward two years, a more mature Tess gets a scholarship to the school she truly wants to receive a degree from, and ends up face to face with Dylan -- the boy who stole her heart that summer, the same boy who's heart she crushed when she left him.
Now that things seem to be on track for Tess, with her education and the potential to be with Dylan again, the edges of her life begin to fray and unravel. She soon realizes that Dylan isn't single and the girl on his arm is none other than her sister from her father's legitimate family, the same family he's kept her away from her entire life. Immediately as the reader you realize it's only a matter of time before these two worlds will collide. My heart went out to Tess and the obstacles she so desperately wanted to overcome, yet felt trapped by because of her father's rules.
Aside from the drama, I really enjoyed the setting of this story. There was a true, authentic depiction of what college life is like. I feel that a lot of New Adult romances place their characters in college, but then it's never fleshed out from there. In this story the setting becomes a secondary character, and not just a back drop that leaves the story unsupported. The male interest in this story, Dylan, was another highlight that I felt distinguished this New Adult book from so many others. He doesn't come from a troubled past, with a bruised soul. He isn't an asshole, attempting to win over the girl who deserves so much more. Dylan is genuinely nice, and always has good intentions. I felt that his mind and his heart were the two most sexiest features about him, and that was a nice contrast to find in an overdose of physically attractive bad boys in this New Adult realm.
One & Only is a good starting point for readers wanting to try New Adult. Or, if you're like me and have had a misfortune with the ones you've tried, this novel may change your mind. There's just enough depth, with engaging writing, to keep a reader interested. Viv Daniels is a New Adult romance writer that I know I can count on to produce a satisfying story. I'll definitely be coming back for more in this Canton series.