The star catcher of the college baseball team isn’t supposed to have skeletons in his closet. But Daniel Quinn is hiding a guilty past so dark he refuses to let anyone get close. Except there’s something about gorgeous, studious Ella Abrams that goes beyond the electric attraction between them—something that makes him want to open up.
Ella has suffered enough heartache and guilt to fill one of her psychology textbooks, but she keeps that part of herself hidden behind a bubbly exterior. Until she receives an anonymous call while working the suicide helpline and the voice on the other end touches something inside of her that she can’t ignore.
Soon Ella and Quinn’s physical connection heats up, even as their deep and revealing hotline talks intensify. But by the time Ella realizes that her seductive jock and her sensitive caller are the same guy, it might be too late to save him—or to stop herself from falling too far.
It’s bold to set a novel around the topic of suicide. If a tale is typically set around suicide, it’s a mystery. Sometimes it’s a maudlin survivor’s tale. Occasionally it’s about the people left to pick up the pieces as they stumble through their grief.
BEFORE YOU BREAK avoids all of these cliches and instead offers new perspectives. It’s every inch New Adult, centered around two conflicted college students. One contemplating suicide. One recovering from her brother’s suicide. Author Christina Lee manages to deftly elevate a Nice Guy to a place of vulnerability that doesn’t translate to weakness.
Quinn and Ella meet twice. Once in person and once over the phone. Unaware of this duality, the story unfolds from both points of view. The reader knows more than the characters do, but forgone conclusions don’t steal anything from the story. I always appreciate stories told from multiple points of view because inner dialogue is what drives empathy for a character. Empathy abounds, dear reader. I was so in love with Quinn and Ella right from the start.
Unlike companion novel ALL OF YOU, Quinn and Ella aren’t coming to terms with childhoods dominated by poverty and broken families. Quinn’s a man living a life of quiet atonement. His childhood of WASP privilege wasn’t as easy as it appears. Ella’s extended Polish family, by contrast, is full of love and support and pirogies.
I adore that Ella is curvy and acknowledges how different she feels compared to her skinny girlfriends in a way that doesn’t paint her as desperate to change. There’s no great weight loss or exercise victory storyline. In fact, Ella’s a gamer who can hold her own with the boys. The fraternity house scenes took me back to my college days hanging around my husband’s house like it was yesterday (it SOOO wasn’t). I love how honestly Ella’s relationship with her girlfriends is represented, foul names (‘dill weed’ is a favorite) and all. Christina Lee’s former life as a social worker is indelibly marked on each page, with characters who are heartbreakingly human. Despite a multitude of unfairness being heaped at their feet, Ella and Quinn never drift into victimhood.
I love all of the resolutions, which start rolling strongly at the 80% mark. I so desperately want to know what happens next. BEFORE YOU BREAK is a standalone, but another companion novel, WHISPER TO ME, is set to release in May. Perhaps a glimpse at Ella and Quinn’s future isn’t too much to hope for after all.
Find Christina Lee and BEFORE YOU BREAK on the interwebs
Enter to win all kinds of fabulousness by clicking here. Prizes include:
- 3 $10 Amazon gift cards
- 3 hand-stamped silver necklaces from Tags-n-Stones (Christina’s jewelry business) with your choice of HEA, Swoon, or Read stamped on it.
- 3 winners will win an ebook of their choice or gift an ebook of their choice
- 3 winners will win ALL OF YOU, BEFORE YOU BREAK, and WHISPER TO ME swag from Christina Lee