Olivia Warren used to be a normal girl with a bright future. But on one fated night, everything changed. Hiding the scars of her past up her sleeves, Olivia transfers her enrollment from Columbia University to The College of Charleston, determined to pursue her own dreams for the first time in her life. She intends to allow herself a bit of alone time to heal… that is, until she meets Preston. Preston is best friends with her roommate, completely hot, and off-limits. But the chemistry between them is instantaneous—and as the pair begins to spend more time with one another, their feelings for each other build into something undeniable, something powerful enough to heal Olivia’s deepest scars. Olivia tries to put her own past behind her and trust Preston, but she discovers that his past might be more present than she ever bargained for…
For one so young, Olivia has experienced so damn much. Her future was laid out before her: a wealthy family willing to back her unconditionally, a place at Columbia University, a boyfriend and, a best friend who would do anything in the world for her. In one horrible, horrible moment, Olivia lost everything she held dear and has been quite literally scarred for life. In an effort to put her past behind her, Olivia abandons her place at Columbia and enrolls at the College of Charleston. As “punishment” for her decision, Olivia’s parents have pulled much of their financial support and required her to find a shrink.
Olivia’s first moments on campus are eventful and as she enters her new dorm room she is yelled at by a half-dressed, hung over and, super-hot guy who is apparently the best friend of her new roommate, Kara. Olivia is immediately taken by both Preston (the aforementioned super-hot guy) and Kara and is sure, despite her past that Charleston is the place for her. Kara and Olivia become fast friends and the two begin to navigate their way through their first weeks as college students. As one might expect, the girls face the usual college struggles in their first weeks but each has a little extra heaped on top. Olivia is not only dealing with her past but is also trying to heal with the help of a therapist and Kara is struggling with a long-term relationship that always seems to be stressing her out. The girls learn quickly that they can rely each other but Olivia is hesitant to unleash all of her crazy on Kara out of fear that she will scare her new friend away. As the weeks pass, Olivia settles in and though she is making very little progress with her therapist she is, for the first time willing to try.
Though Preston seems to have it all together and is generally happy, he too has his issues. Preston carries a heavy burden from his past and in Olivia, he sees a kindred spirit. Though both Preston and Olivia are worried about hurting Kara, they begin a relationship. The romance is slow to build as Olivia is fearful of being too close to anyone and Preston understands that pushing her too hard will only push her away. Though she doesn’t want anyone to know about her therapy sessions, Preston does learn of them and does nothing but support Olivia on her road to recovery. Preston’s support is so unexpected and so welcome that Olivia begins to trust both Preston and her therapist. As the semester wears on, Olivia does make true strides with her therapist but the work is difficult and often leaves Olivia emotionally raw. Preston is with her every step of the way, supporting her and, edging ever closer to truly loving her. Mixed into Preston and Olivia’s life is Kara and her boyfriend troubles and the need to protect her from any sort of heartache. Little does Olivia know, the greatest secret being kept is one hell of a secret between Kara and Preston meant to protect her. The uncovering of that little nugget of information is more than enough to derail Olivia, all of her progress and, destroy her ability to trust the man she has come to love.
The Bottom Line: Pieces of Olivia is a gut wrenching read that takes the reader on a seriously effed up emotional roller coaster ride. Olivia is so young and so phenomenally broken that it is hard to see her ever coming out of the darkness. One thing is certain, Olivia wants to heal and wants to learn to live again but she has no real idea how to make that happen. Her move to Charleston, Kara and Preston and, her therapist are all clear steps in the right direction but there is so much work to be done. The strength of this read is Olivia and her struggle and West does an excellent job of pacing this read and not allowing it to become either too fast or too slow. The reader takes every anguished step with Olivia and her awesome therapist as she reveals her past and learns to how to live with what happened and accept that she is worthy of her life and happiness. There are some truly fine moments in this read, West has a strong sense of good storytelling and, the ability to make the reader feel really good about what is, essentially a rather sad read. Do not fear, dear reader there are some moments of happiness and hope in this read that absolutely balance out the intense sadness. In all, Pieces of Olivia a solid read that certainly is on my list of recommended reads.
Kara Marcus is desperate to forget the past and move on. But she can’t escape her choices—especially when she finds herself falling in love…
Since the first day she stepped into her childhood Southern Baptist church, two truths have been engrained in Kara Marcus’s head: sex before marriage is bad and murder is a sin. And that’s why Kara can never forgive herself for what she did at the age of sixteen. Now, as second semester of freshman year comes to a close, Kara has stood by her high school boyfriend, Ethan. But as they seem to grow further and further apart every day, Kara realizes that she has feelings for someone else: Ethan’s roommate Colt. Suddenly, Kara’s clear-cut world shifts out of focus, and she’s torn between what her head tells her is right and what her heart is desperately pushing her to do—even if it means committing another undeniable sin…
**Though you don’t have to read Pieces of Olivia first, I highly recommend doing so.**
The following review is slightly spoilerish
Miles from Kara is the second installment of Melissa West’s Charleston Haven series and in many ways, it picks up where Pieces of Olivia left off. Olivia and Preston are a solid couple now and Kara’s long-distance relationship with Ethan is still stressing her out. As the last weeks of her freshman year are winding down, Kara has some decisions to make and in light of her friends’ happiness, those decisions need to be made sooner rather than later. First on the list, finding a way to stay in Charleston for the summer; next on the list, figuring out if her major is really where she wants to be and; finally sorting out her feelings for her boyfriends’ roommate, Colt.
For so long, Kara has been the perky member of the group, the one her friends could count on and, the one who has always known where her life is going. Of the group, Kara has always appeared to be the one the most in control of her life and her future. As the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving and Kara has become a master of deception. When Kara was just sixteen years old she found herself pregnant, very scared and, being forced into an abortion she wasn’t at all sure she wanted. For years, Kara has managed to live her life and conceal from everyone just how guilty and ashamed she feels about her past. The guilt and shame have slowly eaten away at Kara to the point that she is no longer the perky and upbeat member of the group but the surly and snappish member. In an effort to hold it together, Kara continues her relationship with Ethan, finds a job at the campus counselling center and, tries to ignore her feelings for Colt. As you might well imagine, Kara’s past and present are on a collision course in one very, very eventful summer, Kara is forced to deal with everything!
Once she squares away her job and living arrangements for the summer, Kara faces her feelings for Colt and makes what she hopes is a clean break from Ethan. Colt is a bright spot in Kara’s life and as the summer progresses she becomes more and more comfortable with him and with sharing her life with him. Colt is patient and kind (he has a fabulous accent!!) and is completely head over heels for Kara. He understands that her past plagues her and as he sees her present being impacted by her past, he holds on for the ride and does all he can to support Kara. Kara is forced to confront her past and deal with it when she comes into contact with a very young and very pregnant client at the counseling center. Instantly Kara sees herself in the young client and though she knows her actions violate every code and rule of counseling, she dives right in and sees an opportunity to correct the mistakes she made in her own past. Needless to say, the collision of past and present is all kinds of ugly and without Colt, Kara likely won’t survive the wreck.
The Bottom Line: Miles from Kara is yet another emotionally-charged read from Melissa West and a fine follow-up to Pieces of Olivia. Kara is such a unique character: she was quite literally forced into an abortion by her mother, she has no clue if her chosen path in life is right for her and, she has dealt with all of this while walking around with a smile on her face. Kara has always been the rock in her group, the one the others look to for help and support and she has done this gladly while suffering silently. Kara’s strength is her passion for helping and caring for others and in many ways that passion was born out of her terrible, terrible past. Again, appearances can be deceiving and the collision of her past and present initially looks very bad but in the end, is the vehicle for determining her future and finding happiness. Kara is a strong and instantly likeable character and I found myself rooting for her even in her most desperate moments. Once again, West has put together a strong read with a very strong yet damaged female lead that is appealing on every level. In all, I am still quite comfortable recommending this read and the series to others and am looking forward to the next installment of the Charleston Haven series.
Melissa West writes young adult and new adult novels for Entangled Teen and Embrace and Penguin/InterMix. She lives outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband and two daughters and spends most of her time writing, reading, or fueling her coffee addiction. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and a M.S. in Graphic Communication, both from Clemson University. Yeah, her blood runs orange.