Review: Serendipity by Carly Phillips

SerendipityFaith and Ethan knew each other in high school. She was the rich princess and he was the bad boy. One night he gave her a ride home and stole a kiss—and tried to steal more, although he was denied. ;) Fast forward to the present and their positions are almost completely reversed. Faith’s father was caught running an investment scam and sent to jail. Her family is now broke and a social pariah in town. Ethan left town under a dark cloud but made it big after getting out of the military and starting his own business. They both come back to town with a need to prove something. Ethan needs to prove that he’s not that punk kid anymore and to try to reconnect with his brothers. Faith is trying to stand on her own two feet and make something out of herself. She also wants to discover herself after a lifetime spent being who the men in her life wanted her to be.

I know this sounds like a pretty typical setup, but the author really impressed me with her take on it. Faith and Ethan were not perfect characters who were able to magically conquer their problems at just the right moment. Neither were they necessarily the ones in the right. They made mistakes, Ethan especially, and they had to struggle to earn back the respect of those around them. They were willing to take their lumps, no matter how much it occasionally grated, and I had to respect them for that. Ethan’s past behavior really made me uncertain about his character—because he was wrong, no ifs, ands, or buts—but he was such a good character that I actually became impatient with his brothers for acting like jerks (more on that later) toward him.

I liked Faith and appreciated her desire to make something of herself and her drive to pull herself out of the mess her father left behind. I know that the people her father defrauded were angry at her for benefitting from her father’s income while they lost everything, but I got really tired of her willingness to take their criticism when she had done nothing wrong. She tried to be the bigger person and not spread around her defense, or even an explanation. I can’t fault her for what she was trying to do, but I honestly don’t understand why she would be determined to come back to her hometown when she knew the people there would constantly treat her like crap. One, who thinks they can start a new business in such a hostile environment and have it be successful? Two, maybe it sounds cold, but other than her friends, why did she care so much about winning back the good opinion of the town? It’s not like she was trying to make amends for her father’s actions, she was just trying to get them to see that she was not the princess she used to be and that she was hurt by him too. I was honestly perplexed.

I liked the inclusion of Tess. Usually kids are iffy for me, but I thought she mirrored young Ethan nicely. I enjoyed watching Tess and Ethan circle around each other to try to find a way to connect and was pleased that Ethan finally had someone in his family on his side (eventually). Her transformation from a trouble-child into a girl who wants regular hair and clothes happened so quickly that it felt inauthentic, but I suppose the author had to compress the timeline to make it work. I just don’t think she would have gone from such an angry kid to Miss Dyes-her-hair-back-and-wears-regular-clothes so easily.

Ethan was my favorite character in the book. He was such a good guy. He had made a lot of mistakes in the past, but he was willing to try again and again to make it right in the present. He took a lot of abuse without flinching and it made me so sad to know that there was a very real possibility that he might never be able to apologize enough to make a difference. I loved that he owned the kind of guy he used to be. He even looks back on his teenage experience with Faith and reflects on how he didn’t take the rejection well at all back then. I loved that the author made a point of saying that, because that felt more authentic to a teenage boy.

The fact that I loved Ethan so much made it really hard for me to like his brothers. I knew that they were completely justified in being so angry with him, but it doesn’t change the fact that I found it extremely hard to like them. I had no sympathy for Ethan’s previous actions, but it was hard to get over the fact that they were such complete and utter douches to him. By the end, I liked one brother more than the other, but I’m still not remembering either of them with many fond feelings.

Although I enjoyed the book for the most part, I never quite felt the spark that would help suck me into the story. I didn’t feel wowed by the characters and plot, although I did like how the author approached the setup. I found the book pleasant and enjoyed my time reading it, but I doubt I’ll be continuing the series. I just didn’t like Ethan’s brothers enough to care about reading a Romance where I’m stuck in their head. I know I should sympathize more, but they really bugged me.

Favorite Quote:

The bad boy he used to be would take what she offered and not look back. But Ethan had worked too hard to get past that kid, his cockiness, arrogance, and the devastation he’d caused. He was still working on it. And he wasn’t stupid. He knew he could never be this particular princess’s Prince Charming.

Rating: C+
Serendipity by Carly Phillips
September 6th 2011 by Berkley
Contemporary Romance
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Comments

  1. Tori says

    Great review. I enjoyed this story a lot. There were a few things that irked me-his brothers and how Tess came into their lives but other then that-I liked.

    • says

      Those were two of my problems, too. When I looked at the situation from a distance I couldn’t blame his brothers at all, but being on the other end of the situation made it hard to like them. I was also pretty surprised with the way Tess was thrust into Ethan’s life. I know that her sister was at her limit, but she didn’t know him from Adam. Very irresponsible.

  2. says

    I’m a sucker for any sort of narrative involving moving back to a small town, and I’m glad that Faith mostly has the stuff to make this an interesting read. I really struggle with tough-guy or alpha male characters, though, and think I’d have the same issues with this that you did.

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