Author: Andrea Randall
Series: November Blue #3
Release Date: December 11, 2013
Genre: New Adult
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Barnes & Noble
Regan Kane arrived in San Diego with nothing but a violin, his car and what feels like a lifetime of grief. Although he’s surrounded by friends and music, one delivery from the post office reminds him that the past is always just around the corner. When he befriends a local bartender, Regan wonders if he's finally ready to let go.
Georgia Hall has spent most of her life in the shadows of her mother’s mental illness. Pushing away those around her ensures they won’t get hurt when she succumbs to the same fate.
All of that unravels when she meets Regan. As her life spins out of control and the line between reality and fairy tale blurs, she has to make a choice to trust or fall.
Regan and Georgia are searching for healing among the wreckage. Will doing so together make moving on all the more sweet?
Or will the secrets and darkness of the past drive them apart?
Sweet Forty-Two Prologue:
“This land is incredible. Who owns it?” I look around on the most perfect summer day that’s ever existed.
Rae slows down so her horse is walking in step with mine. “The Greyson’s. Lauren and Warner were friends with my parents for ever. We’d come up here all the time as kids and get lost on purpose.” Her smile makes me feel like I’m right there with her. Back in her memories.
“Did they have kids?”
Rae nods. “Older, though. Well, the girl was around Bo’s age, but she was never interested in him, and I don’t think he was in her. They were good friends. Zoë is her name. The boy, Kevin, was in college before I was in high school. I don’t really remember him.
The breeze picks up, and loose strands of Rae’s black hair whip from under her helmet. Summer breezes are the best; you hear them coming before you feel them, and they’re always warm. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath through her nose.
I love you.
I can’t say it. I want to so badly, but I can’t. The way she lets her lips part as she’s lost in her smile begs me to say it. It’s too soon, though. Too soon. We’ve only been together for two months, even though it seems like longer. Everything is so effortless with her.
Rae is optimistic, bright in ways her older brother, Bo can’t be, especially with all of that brooding he’s doing over his ex-girlfriend, Ember. I still don’t really understand what happened there, but Rae assures me it will all work out for them in the end. Apparently Bo and Ember are meant to be. If the level of snark and brood one shows during a break up is directly proportional to the “meant to be” factor of a couple, those two are goddamn soul mates. That’s what Rae says, too. She uses the term soul mate as if it doesn’t come with centuries of baggage attached to it.
See? Effortless. Love is love. Soul mates are soul mates. And she is perfect. My term, not hers.
We come to the head of several trails that all disappear instantly into thick woods. My heart races a little in anticipation. Reality knocks, but I know I can stay here a while longer. In this dream. Before it’s shredded into a nightmare.
Normally I wake myself up when we get here, to the trail. Sometimes I push it, though. I just want to be with her a little bit longer.
“Which trail are we taking?” I ask, holding my horse back. He’s as anxious here as he was when it happened. Like he knew what was coming.
Rae points with her chin to a trail on the left of the tree line. “That one. It’s shaded and this sun is brutal today.”
I nod and back my horse up a few steps so she can take the lead.
I really should wake up now, but she still has more to say. And one more smile to give.
Not yet. Just a few more minutes.
“Oh,” she sighs in relief, “thank God for shade.”
My horse leads me just behind her and I’m grateful to find out she’s right. I didn’t realize how hot the sun was until I was in the coolness under the branches. Huge trees. Evergreens, pines, maples, and probably a few others my two years in Boy Scouts didn’t teach me, create a narrow tunnel of nature that we travel down in single file fashion.
Rae turns around and smiles.
Wake up. Now.
I don’t, though. I’m greedy tonight and want to hear her voice one more time.
“You with me, Regan? You got really quiet.”
“This trail … it’s … wow.” I gesture with one hand to the grandness of the earth around us.
I forgot she’d done that.
“Right? Come on, let’s get going. This trail is long.” She commands her horse to pick up its step, and it follows loyally.
I do the same with mine, but make it slow slightly as a low hum filters into my ears. It sounds like a far away tractor, or lawnmower, but I didn’t see anyone else in the large pasture we just crossed. And, she just said the trail was long.
Leave. Now. Open your eyes, Regan.
My throat closes and I try to swallow. Nothing. My horse pulls back as I try to push it forward. He shakes his head and lifts his front legs slightly. Warning. I’m not trained enough on horses to know that, though. I think he’s just not submitting to me.
You’ve seen this enough, man. Open your eyes. Wake up. Wake up!
The humming is louder now and I don’t say anything because I’m trying to find the source. Rae is several yards ahead and seems to hear it, too. Her head moves slowly side to side as she continues her stride forward.
Then, I look up. It’s there. Huge. Grey like brains and dangling from a branch just above her.
It’s too late.
The bees come.
“Just because you find better ways to deal with it, doesn’t mean it gets better.”
One of my all-time favorite series is Andrea Randall’s November Blue, so to say I had been anticipating getting my hands on this delicious morsel would be the understatement of the year. I kept my eyes peeled for teasers, grabbing up bits and pieces as she wrote it, savoring every last part. Because that is what you do with an AR book. You don’t simply read it, you live and breathe it! You are a key player in the story, experiencing everything right along with the characters. Randall puts you in the story, just as Lewis Carroll did in Alice in Wonderland. This is aptly spoken of for Sweet Forty-Two is riddled (pun intended) with Wonderland references. So get your tissues ready, put on some comfy pants, and come take a journey with me down the rabbit hole.
Lissa dropped her arms from my body and stood back, knowing this was where the conversation ended. It’s where it always ended. She had nothing to say. No charts to disprove the course I was on. No scissors to cut the strings that were tied around my wrists generations ago.
Just a lonely girl.
And no prince.
We first met Regan, albeit briefly, in Reckless Abandon. He came to visit his cousin CJ, who was friends with Bo and Ember. Though he wasn’t in many scenes, you couldn’t help but fall in love with this introspective Irish fiddler with an upbeat passion for life. Regan (pronounced REE-gan) has an uncanny ability of meeting you only once and seeing straight through to your soul. This happens with anyone he comes in contact with, even more so for those that he is close with. There is no hiding your thoughts and feelings around this man, he often knows them before they even formulate in your brain. He is one of the MOST caring, empathetic individuals I have ever read in a book. He feels EVERYTHING all the way down to his bones and he isn’t afraid to wear those emotions proudly. After a life changing event, Regan fled to Ireland for a few months. Having reached the solitude and reflection he desired and needing a change, he decides to see what the future holds for him in San Diego, where Bo and Ember are now living. If you have read Reckless Abandon, you know the turmoil that he is going through. For those who haven’t read it yet (get on that), I won’t spoil it for you. Just know that one event presides over every action he makes in this book. This is a man who, with one single solitary event, life has kicked in the shins. He is emotionally broken yet in the midst of all this, he still has hope. You don’t simply ever get over losing some one; you just learn how to live with it. When love is true, it never leaves. It lingers, enveloping you, giving you strength to go on. And once in a lifetime, the universe gives us an unexpected fairy tale.
“I just mean, Georgia,” he teased, “people generally take the few basic and bare things afforded to us in this world and make them as complicated as possible. Us, though? We complicate it in beautiful ways. We have fun with it. Basically, we’re awesome.”
Enter Georgia, who honestly and truly, life has shit all over. She wears it on her sleeve like a badge of honor, never really letting anyone see the real her. Georgia is the close friend of CJ, Regan’s cousin. Having grown up together through their formative years, they know all of each other’s secrets. Through all of her rough edges and the false bravado she exudes, Georgia really is just a lost little girl who wants to be loved. She quickly became one of the best female characters I’ve ever read, and I fell HARD for her. As Georgia’s story slowly unfolds throughout the book, I can’t give away much. Just know that she is dealing with a very real situation, which unfortunately isn’t talked about much. Not in the book mind you. There we are given plenty of details. I am referring to life in general. Mental illness isn’t talked about enough. It is more mainstream than many would choose to believe, yet it is viewed as being weak and those dealing with these REAL illnesses are all too often shamed and looked down upon. It is because of these exact facts that Georgia stays closed off to most of the world. She has insecurities and doubts; so in turn she draws attention to other aspects of her life. Georgia is just a kick-ass chick, plain and simple. She has so many layers that it would simply take you a lifetime to get to her core. That’s exactly the way she would like to keep it; the world living at an arm’s length. Or so she would lead you to believe….
I trailed off, looking around the room for a reason not to. There were hundreds. I ignored them. I jumped. I kissed him. Holy shit, I kissed him.
There is an attraction from the beginning between Regan and Georgia for sure, but what I absolutely LOVED with this book was the connection between them. These two, above all, had a friendship to last the ages. You know that moment they talk about in books and movies when you meet your soul mate? That is what I felt for these two, though neither of them knew it. Randall has a way of writing that allows you to see behind the scenes before the characters even realize what is happening. What I mean to say is that even though it may be perceived as insta-love, the fact that the characters didn’t know nor act on it makes it all that more delicious and believable. Randall takes you on a journey with Regan and Georgia as they navigate the waters that they BOTH try with all their might to resist. Yes, you read that right. Neither of them WANT this. One isn’t ready, and the other doesn’t see the point. Their resistance made Sweet Forty-Two so electrifying for me; I simply couldn’t put the book down. I relished in the words on each page. Every scene grew with intensity, the next one better than the last.
I was falling slowly.
And I didn’t want there to be a bottom, because what greater feeling in the world is there than to actually be falling in love?
There are two scenes in particular that stood out as utterly soul-wrenching; two scenes that I won’t soon forget. Two little words, yet the meaning and emotion behind them will have you sitting back wondering what in the hell just happened. How did I just get emotionally sucker punched and how in the hell am I supposed to function? Obituary and Letter. Once you get to these parts you will know exactly what I mean, and I dare you to deny the feelings that ensue. I felt them to the depths of my soul, and try as I might, I could not inhibit the tears. Nor would I want to. This is what makes Randall special, that not all authors are able to do. She evokes emotions in you through her words that you didn’t even know you had the ability to comprehend or emit. But fear not. While she will certainly take you to the pits of the rabbit hole and make you face the Jabberwocky, once you slay the monster and defeat the Queen, you will wake up and realize what an adventure it was. And while that may all sound cryptic, that’s my intention.
“You broke down the walls and led a search party for the pieces of me you knew you could love, and you dragged those out of the fucking rubble I’d let pile up around my soul.”
While Bo and Ember are secondary characters in this book, and it’s mostly about Regan and Georgia, we still see plenty of them. The little nuggets that Randall throws our way keep on the forefront why we love this couple so deeply. While our hearts grow to make room for Regan and Georgia, Embo (Ember + Bo) never leave. There are some juicy tidbits that Randall napalms us with, and I cannot wait to see how they play out in the future. Regan and Ember share such an endearing and honest friendship, more as if they were related by blood. There were a few other characters briefly introduced that kept me very intrigued. It will be very interesting to see if and/or how their stories develop.
Life is an endless ocean of tears, happy and sad, and it’s our job to smile in their wake.
Sweet Forty-Two is an adventure of the purest kind, from start to finish. I found myself saying aloud “Holy crap on a cupcake” many a time whilst reading this! When you get to the end of the book and realize the symbolism and imagery behind the title and cover of the book, if you are anything like me, you will have an ah-ha moment. I don’t think I have ever before seen a cover and title that so encompassed every detail of a book so perfectly in one fell swoop! While I absolutely LOVE Bo and Ember’s story and cannot wait to see where Randall takes them next, Sweet Forty-Two is on another level for me. It is as if November Blue and In the Stillness had a lovechild. A lovechild that craves cupcakes, angst, realizations, closure, and redemption, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect story. This is going in the books as one of my favorite reads of the year, and will be filed in a category I save only for a few books. 10 “We’re All Mad Here stars!! Though it doesn’t lessen the hurt, this book truly reiterates the fact that everything happens for a reason. My soul bled, but in the best possible way!
Sweet Forty-Two Excerpt:
Just one more locked door separated me from the visiting area. Another nurse greeted me at the door and escorted me in.
“How is she today?” I checked my backpack and jewelry at the nurses station before going further.
Daniel, the nurse who seemed to always be here, gave a stern nod. “Not excitable. We’re not sure yet if the sedatives haven’t fully worn off or or if she’s back on the immobility end.”
I swallowed hard as we entered the large, bright space, gilded with damaged dreams, disappointment, and fear. The sign out front scribbled something about hope, but I’d only ever been in here when hope failed.
Daniel started discussing some of the protocols they’d put in place over the last twenty-four hours, but as soon as I saw her slender figure in the wheelchair by the window, all other attention fled my body as I walked toward her. She was facing me, and I mumbled a small prayer under my breath that she’d recognize me.
“Mama,” I whispered, kneeling in front of her, trying to find the focus of her eyes.
Her head didn’t move, but her eyes did. The empty brown holes fluttered over my face before settling on my eyes. They opened a little wider, just as her lips parted.
Please, please let her say something.
She titled her head to the side, her greying brown hair laying over one shoulder, and with a slight smile she quietly spoke. “Baby.”
Tears clouded my view of the far-away woman I still called mama. Taking her hand, I smiled and nodded.
Other Books in the November Blue Series
Book One: Ten Days of Perfect
Scars from her first love and the reckless lifestyle of her parents force Ember Harris to chart a new course. She favors practicality over spontaneity and rules over a broken heart.
An encounter with a musician at a local pub forces Ember into making a decision to let go or hold on for dear life as passions are unlocked and deceptions revealed.
Book Two: Reckless Abandon
November Harris is lost. After a failed romance with musician Bo Cavanaugh, Ember is left struggling to regain her true self. The problem is, Bo won’t go away and Ember’s stance is firm—she doesn’t want him back.
Adrian Turner, Ember’s ex-boyfriend-turned confidant, is patient with her heartbreak, but he can’t hold back his own feelings forever.
As she sorts through her past, in an effort to plan a solid future, Ember will find that sometimes even the best laid plans bow to the soul’s desire for reckless abandon.