Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thoughtless / Effortless

by S. C. Stephens
Published by Gallery Books
544 pages
Genre: New Adult
Thanks to edelweiss and NetGalley for the previews
4.5 / 5 cupcakes

Thoughtless is the first of a three-part series; Effortless is the second.

In the first, we meet Kiera, a college student who heads to Seattle with Denny, her Australian boyfriend of two years. He goes for work, she for school, leaving behind her family in Ohio. They move in with Denny's friend Kellen, a bad boy womanizer who fronts a band.

At first, everything is peachy for the threesome. But as Denny becomes more immersed in work, Kiera finds herself with free time. And Kellen. Well, Kellen likes it when Kiera has free time, because she gets to spend it with him.

The two bond as friends - at the start, anyway. We can see that Kellen's feelings for Kiera far surpass friendship. She sees it too - or senses it - but she is loyal to Denny. She loves her boyfriend and doesn't want to hurt him. When Denny says he accepted a transfer to Arizona, though, Kiera gets mad. And then she gets naked. With, uh, Kellen.

The tortured romance between Kiera and Kellen is quite well written. This may have the appearance of a YA novel, but really it's more of a New Adult Lit genre. The sex scenes - and there are sex scenes - are not explicit in a Fifty Shades kind of way, but the camera doesn't cut away, so to speak. Kiera tells the story, and when she discusses her sex life, she tells us what she does and how she feels while doing it. In that regard, Stephens knows her audience. Twenty-somethings have sex, and they allow themselves to like it. Kiera needs sex to feel closer to Denny and to connect with Kellen, even if some of her couplings are foolish or fueled by alcohol.

Then there is Kellen. He is intricate and interesting, and you cannot help but feel drawn to him. In fact, Kellen is the reason you keep reading. You want to see how he navigates his way with Kiera, especially when she's with Denny. If you sometimes don't understand what it is he sees in her, you can't be blamed. She is frustrating and sometimes childish. But she gives him something other women don't, and that is emotional strength. She is with him because she likes who he is, not what he does for a living.

In the sequel to Thoughtless, life for Kiera and Kellen is anything but effortless. They are together, and nothing comes easy for them. Denny may have moved out, but he's still very present in their lives. Kiera cheated on him to be with Kellen, and that is something neither she nor Kellen can forget. As much as they love each other, the fact of her cheating does not disappear.

In this book, the happy couple face their share of challenges. First, there is Kellen's job. He and his band sign with a record label, and the first task for a new band is to tour. Meanwhile, Kiera is still in college, and she has to come to terms with Kellen's increasing popularity. Just as her past comes into play, so does his, and this is what Stephens does well. Kellen has a history of jumping from woman to woman, solely for sex. Sex is what also grounds him with Kiera. To say that sex is complicated for these two is an understatement.

I really enjoyed these books, and I look forward to Reckless. I'm not sure I want fourteen-year-olds to read them, but older, more mature teens certainly can. Sex is not casual here, but it happens. There are ramifications, and knowing that there is a cost to sex is important. What keeps you reading, though, are Kiera and Kellen. Their story is engrossing. You find yourself fully invested in the two of them as a couple, wondering how they will overcome the various obstacles that come their way.

This is a good series, off to an excellent start.

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