Four Years Later - Monica Murphy (2014)

Owen Maguire hasn't had it easy growing up but thanks to his sister Fable and her husband Drew, he's managed to get his life on track. Now in college and left to his own devices, with his toxic mom back on the scene, once again Owen is ruining his chances, not least through smoking weed and missing class. With his grades failing, he's given one last shot to make things right with the help of a tutor, Chelsea. High-achieving, innocent and prim, Chelsea seems to be from a completely different world to Owen, but she makes him want to be a better person and in turn he makes her want to enjoy life. A lot of the New Adult series take characters from the original or preceding books as the focus for subsequent books and most of the time these characters feel secondary. But from the first book in Murphy's series, One Week Girlfriend, Owen has been demanding his own story, and because we already know his background and have such an investment in him, the book and the series feel much more coherent and fulfilling. There were parts of the plot that seemed undeveloped including Chelsea's problems and Owen's friends, but it's great to read his story and the drug issues especially were interesting. It really feels like we've come full circle in this series and apart from book three which went a bit off-piste, it's a neat and consummate series. (JC)

Three Broken Promises - Monica Murphy (2013)

Jen Cade has always been able to count on her brother's best friend, Colin Wilder, to look out for her. Not least when Jen found herself working in a far from salubrious strip club and Colin gave her a fresh start, allowing her to live and work with him. Jen wants more from Colin but he doesn't seem to want the same thing and when her past starts catching up with her, Jen decides she needs to move on before Colin finds out the truth. Murphy has already established in the first two books in the series that she can write hot romance and intense relationships and she delivers once again here, unfortunately there were just too many weaknesses and gaps in the plot in this one, not least Jen's moving away which is over within a matter of hours. Both Jen and Colin's behaviour, thinking and struggles were also unconvincing at times. I felt there was a lot more that could have been done with this story but unfortunately it didn't succeed in the same way as One Weekend Girlfriend. (JC)

Second Chance Boyfriend - Monica Murphy (2013)

Fable Maguire has been trying to carry on with her life after her boyfriend Drew Callahan bailed on her two months ago but as much as she is trying to move on, she can't help how she still feels about him. As for Drew, he's trying to confront his demons, although Fable, and the way he left her high and dry, still occupies most of his thoughts. When they run into each, they can no longer ignore the past or the future. The triumph that was One Week Girlfriend was always going to be a hard act to follow, and so it's not too jarring to say this sequel wasn't as breathtaking as the original. However, that's more to do with the strengths of the original. I didn't find the plot as compelling in Second Chance Boyfriend, and there's more emphasis on the physical relationship between Drew and Fable than the crises that defined the first book and set it apart. Whilst some of these tensions arise here, I felt they were rather secondary and didn't have the intensity or drama I had expected. Again the romance between Drew and Fable is superb, but I also thought Owen emerged as a strong character, perhaps worthy of a central role in a future book. Although I think Drew and Fable's story could have been successfully managed in one book, you can't help but be pleased to see this cute pair again, and the adorable ending is a perfect reminder of all that is good in this series. (JC)

One Week Girlfriend - Monica Murphy (2013)

From the outside, Drew Callaghan seems to have it all but when he asks Fable to play the part of his girlfriend for one week back home for Thanksgiving for money it's clear there are issues in his life. But even Fable can't anticipate the strange family dynamic and unsettling atmosphere that she's met with at Drew's house with his father and stepmum. And with Fable needing the money to keep together her own dysfunctional family, she's got to ride it out for the week. The central premise of this story - guy pays girl to act as his girlfriend - did strike me as a bit cliched and unoriginal as I went into this novel, but oh how wrong I was. This book is anything but cliched and unoriginal. Indeed, in many ways it reverses all of the expectations of the New Adult genre with the male lead the real victim here. For whilst Fable's life is messed up, it has nothing on Drew's predicament, and his story is captivating and heartbreaking, original and groundbreaking. I was really impressed with the author for tackling such a difficult and uncomfortable subject matter and at times it can be a quite unsettling read but it's hugely brave and authentic. I also loved the fact that there's a lot of substance to this novel; it's not all about the physical relationship between Drew and Fable, although there's definitely that too. But above all I loved that we have a hero who is vulnerable and for once needs saving even more than the heroine. (JC)

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