REVIEW – Only Between Us by Mila Ferrera

Only Between Us

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

People can mean well, but when one person’s good intentions overlap with other people’s good intentions, unintended consequences can be detrimental.

Welcome to ONLY BETWEEN US.

More amazing realistic New Adult fiction from Mila Ferrera, ONLY BETWEEN US chronicles the lives of Romy, a graduate student, and Caleb, an artist. Ferrera writes Happily Ever Afters that don’t depend on anyone’s love fixing another person. Instead, their love enables the people who are in need of help to find it.

A real life psycholgist, Ferrera crafts stories that revolve around characters who have survived abuse and/or who are battling mental illnesses. She also writes about the people who treat them. Her obvious respect for these characters compels the reader to respect them regardless of their behavior. Sometimes the people in need are hard to take. Sometimes the caregivers make judgment errors.

Some authors use behavior rooted in mental illness to encourage a reader to hate a character or paint the caregiver as an enabler. Ferrera simply turns the story slightly with every scene, making you see that there’s often no road map and that people do the best they can with what they have to work with.

Despite the realism, the love story central to ONLY BETWEEN US is rich, layered, and moves forward so nicely that it’s pretty tempting to read the book straight through. Give into that temptation if time allows.

Romy, a graduate student in psychology, had a rough time last year.

Last year, I was broken. Dismantled bit by bit, day by day, until all that was left was a brittle shell. I wasn’t even aware it was happening until it was almost too late. I thought I was in love. I thought I could change—be prettier, more attentive—and that would make it better. It took a black eye and a fat lip to wake me up.

This semester, I’m reclaiming myself piece by piece.

Romy’s best friend, Jude, decides to enroll them in a painting class, since it’s something Romy loved prior to her most recent relationship.

As we approach the entrance to the co-op, this multi-story old building three blocks off quaint Main Street with its heated sidewalks and funky boutiques, I push away Alex’s mocking voice as it whispers You’re wasting your time … that looks like something a five-year-old would draw … I escaped from him at the end of January, but he’s still in my head sometimes.

Caleb isn’t exactly setting the art world on fire, but he’s definitely heating up Romy and Jude.

The stairs creak and we look up to see a guy coming down the steps. He looks to be in his mid-twenties, maybe a few years older than I am, and he moves with the careless grace of an athlete.

“Holy hotness,” breathes Jude, mimicking my thoughts perfectly. It’s not that I’m on the prowl, but in this life, there are a few objective truths, and this guy’s attractiveness is one of them. His jeans hang from his lean hips and are stained with paint. A similarly decorated t-shirt clings to his frame, and there’s a smear of blue on his tanned, muscular forearm. He has chin-length, chocolate brown hair, but he’s pulled some of it away from his face in a partial ponytail high on the back of his head. And that gives us a perfect view of his wolf-gray eyes, which skate over us with mild interest as he descends the stairs and walks toward us.

“You guys here for my class?” he asks, nodding toward the classroom. Oh my God. He’s the teacher.

Caleb’s life isn’t just messy…it’s downright dysfunctional. His sister has a mental illness and he’s dealing with a boatload of childhood issues that would make most people crumple into a ball. Yet he’s working to make it through the day without his inner demons catching up. His art is his outlet and Romy, of course, zeroes right in on Caleb’s pain.

At the back of the studio is a huge primed canvas, five by five at least, with a thin layer of gray wash on it. The artist has begun to paint over it, thick smears of paint applied with a palette knife instead of a brush. It’s so intense that I’m drawn forward, needing to see it beneath the light. I flip on the overhead lamp and lean in, admiring the thin threads of yellow and red and purple in the blackish-blue squares of paint. And right through all that inky midnight is a deep red gash, a harsh V carved into the overwhelming darkness, revealing how artist has taken the time to build the layers, each one with a different dominant color.  It’s both inviting and repellant, despair trying to devour a hope that won’t die. It looks edible and painful and I want to touch it but am afraid I’d sink in and get lost.

The story takes off from there, spilling into a messy, beautiful, painful, wonderful display of humanity.

I love it when authors name-check other authors in their books. Extra awesomeness if you write the scene in a library.

Her eerie eyes meet mine. “Can I help you?” she asks.

“Any recommendations?”

She stares at me. “What do you like?”

“Something funny, maybe? I have enough angst in my life that I don’t want to read about it, too.”

She snorts. “Tell me about it.”

I smile at her. “You too, huh?”

She rolls her eyes. “Oh yeah. Have you tried Cora Carmack? Her stuff is hilarious.” She digs in her pile and pulls up a book, then holds it out to me.

I accept the book and look down at the cover. Losing It, it’s called. Sounds appropriate. “Is this what you read when you’re stressed out?”

She smiles, and it makes her pretty.  She looks much younger when she smiles. “Definitely. I’ll be reading one of her books tonight for sure. I could use the distraction.” She holds up another book by the same author. Faking It. Also appropriate.

As a fan of Cormack’s, I felt even more invested in the story when this character recommended her books to Romy. We’re all excited to tell people about our favorite authors, aren’t we?

Ferrera continues to impress me by writing realistic fiction that’s both compelling and entertaining. The love stories are exquisite and the love scenes are steamy. The plights of her characters are big, but their victories are bigger and serve to balance the story beautifully. I walk away from her novels hopeful and lighthearted despite the heavy subject matter. High praise, indeed.

5 Stars

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Find Mila Ferrera and ONLY BETWEEN US on the interwebz

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One response to “REVIEW – Only Between Us by Mila Ferrera

  1. Pingback: BLOG TOUR – Everything Between Us by Mila Ferrera | midwest galley girl·

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