Review – Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein

Posted July 14, 2016 by smutmatters in New Adult, Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Never Sweeter by Charlotte SteinNever Sweeter by Charlotte Stein
Series: Dark Obsession #2
Published by Loveswept on April 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 262
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Second chances are sweeter than ever in Charlotte Stein’s steamy Dark Obsession series—perfect for fans of Katy Evans—as a self-reliant college girl falls for a reformed bully who’s desperate to make up for lost time.
Letty Carmichael can’t believe her eyes when she catches a glimpse of her high school tormenter, wrestling champ Tate Sullivan, on campus. College was supposed to be her escape from Tate’s constant ridicule. Now he’s in her classes again, just waiting for his chance to make her life hell. But when Letty and Tate are partnered up for an assignment—on sex in cinema, of all things—she starts to see a kinder, gentler side of him. And when she realizes Tate knows more about sex than she could ever guess at, he soon starts making her blush in a whole new way.
Tate Sullivan is haunted by regret over his cruelty toward Letty. So when she agrees to work with him, he seizes his chance to make amends. He can’t blame her for not believing he’s for real, but soon Tate starts to break down her wall. She wants to know about passion, desire, lust—topics he is well versed in. And in return she offers the one thing he always wanted: the chance to be more than just a jock.
Letty is shocked by how sensitive Tate can be. Still, desiring him feels ludicrous. Loving him is impossible. Craving him is beyond all reason. So why can’t she stop?

I apologize for this review. I finished this book about a week ago, and I’ve been sitting with it, trying to get everything swimming around in my head about this book straight and trying to work out my feelings about it. I’m still all over the place, and I have a feeling this review will be, too. Also there will probably be some spoilers because I can’t talk about this book without talking about what’s in the book.

Tate bullied Letty all through all high school. This was not harmless boys-will-be-boys bullying. (Not that there’s any such thing) He didn’t call her names when they passed in the hallway. He and his group of friends absolutely terrorized her for four years. It culminated in them driving their pickup truck into her on a deserted stretch of road and pushing her over a cliff. She had brain surgery. Surgery. On her brain. They had to shave her head, which certainly didn’t help her situation at school. Tate and his friends were wrestling superstars at their small school, so when they told the police they hadn’t seen her and she had just run out into the road, the police chief shook his head and the silly girl and that was the end of it.

She finally graduates and goes to college, where she still suffers from the emotional and mental effects of what they did to her. She’s trying to get her life together, trying to learn to trust people and make friends and move on with her life, when Tate appears in one of her classes. She reacts the way you’d think, but also in ways I don’t understand. Let me preface this by saying I have zero experience with this stuff. I wasn’t bullied in high school, nor did I bully anyone else. I was as bookish and socially awkward then as I am now. If anything, I was mostly ignored.

By the time this book opens, it’s only been two years since the incident with the truck. Letty is far from over it; she’s still extremely closed off and hesitant to be around people. Tate shows up and it quickly becomes clear that he’s not going to get out of her way and let her go about her day, and she automatically assumes he’s there to continue torturing her. She tries to go around him, stumbles and falls, he reaches out to catch her, but she assumes he’s reaching out to do something else, it gets worse, she hits her head and he carries her to the infirmary. And he’s still there when she wakes up. He’s sleeping, she tries to sneak out, but he wakes up and calls to her. And she stops. She goes back to talk to him, to listen to what he has to say.  And I don’t understand that. It’s not really explained, either. She says she almost walked out of the room anyway, but instead she waited until she could be sure she wouldn’t cry, then turned around to talk to him.

…faking weird concern to lure me in.”

“No. Not at all. Who would even do that?” To his credit, Tate managed to laugh….

“You would. You actually did do that.”

“Name one time I did that.”

“How about the time I was carrying textbooks for Merriman and you asked if I was sure I could manage. Then you threw them in the fountain outside the science block.”

“Oh, okay, yeah, my bad. But apart from that one tiny incident of book destruction – of books I might add that were not even yours.”

“Then there was the time the books were mine,” Letty continued. “Only you thought a fitting place for them was a toilet in the boys bathroom. Then when they wouldn’t flush you doused them in lighter fluid and set them alight.”

“I…damn it, all right. But that was years ago; you can’t hold something against me that I did as a kid.”

These are the not the words or actions of a man who understands what he did or is even sorry for any of it. After this conversation, I can’t understand what would make Letty continue to spend time with him. Their professor assigns them to work on a paper together, a paper on the topic of sex in cinema, and though Tate swears he didn’t ask the professor to pair them up, we find out later that he did. She could have asked the professor to reassign them to different partners. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t ask and have her request turned down by the professor; she doesn’t even ask.

Eventually she finds some old emails that he sent to her after the incident with the truck. She never saw them because her father, rightly, blocked his email address. But they’re still in his sent file, and she finds them.

Letty,

If you think I care that you’re hurt, I don’t. I’m not sorry about the shit that went down – it was your fault. Everything was all your fault anyway and you deserve all of this.

Fuck you, Letty, for doing this to me. Fuck. You.

Tate

This is the black moment that breaks them up. This is what makes Letty leave him. What brings her back is finding more emails that were sent later. Emails that started out as horribly as the one above but eventually morphed into more of an ongoing diary. Apparently his big plan, his way to make this right, once he started to accept that maybe he wasn’t a great guy, was to go to Letty’s college and keep an eye on her and make sure she has a great life because he screwed up her life so badly. So he’s decided that he’ll just be her guardian angel, making sure nothing ever hurts her and no one ever screws her over. So even his warped attempt to make amends involves him inserting himself into her life where he’s not invited and not welcome.

This whole thing smacks of Stockholm Syndrome to me. I just can’t get behind Letty’s decision to be with this man. Forgive him, sure. Let him apologize, genuinely accept it and move on with her life? Sure. But to actually be with him? To fall in love with him? I just… I just can’t get behind that.

And if you’re curious why he says in that first email that everything that happened is her fault – apparently he had a crush on her. He asked her out, and she laughed. She laughed because he was this super-popular wrestling star who everyone loved, and she was a nobody. She thought he was joking or screwing with her. That’s it. That’s what she did to kick off four years of terror. Not go out with him. This is what happens when we tell children “He punches you and pulls your ponytail because he likes you.” That’s exactly where this sense of entitlement comes from. I don’t think she even laughed in front of other people. It was just the two of them, he didn’t even have the excuse that she embarrassed him in front of other people.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that the entire book is in third person, Letty’s point of view. We have no idea what’s happening in Tate’s head. And the POV caused a distance with Letty, too. I still can’t understand why she decided to get into a relationship with Tate. There’s a lot of “Letty knew she shouldn’t trust him, but she went along with him anyway” type of narrative, but that doesn’t tell me why she goes along with him, and I really needed to understand that in order to understand her character more.

I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Stein before, so I don’t know if this is typical of her writing or not. The writing was good, just a little emotionally distant. I’m not going to say I’ll never read her again; I usually give an author more than one book before deciding not to read anything by them again, but I just can’t recommend this one.’

About Charlotte Stein

Charlotte Stein is the acclaimed author of over thirty short stories, novellas and novels, including the recently DABWAHA nominated Run To You. When not writing deeply emotional and intensely sexy books, she can be found eating jelly turtles, watching terrible sitcoms and occasionally lusting after hunks. She lives in West Yorkshire with her husband and their now totally real and completely nightmarish dog.