Review: If You Stay (#1, Beautifully Broken) by Courtney Cole - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: If You Stay (#1, Beautifully Broken) by Courtney Cole

My Thoughts

The story of a beautiful, but broken man that finds love
unexpectedly and in turn, hope and redemption.
Sweet and sexy, moving and bold,
it hooked me from the very beginning.



if you stay cover24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole.

He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match. But he’s got his reasons.

His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count.

As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade. So he slipped far, far from it.

Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right?

And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila.
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.

When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness.

But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it. He knows that. And he’s working on it. But is that enough to make her stay?

My Review

“Life isn’t black and white. People aren’t all good or bad… Life is just a mixture of good and bad, of varying shades of grays and whites and blacks.”

I had heard this book starts off with a bang… and holy hell, that is right. Its bold and unexpected approach caught my attention quickly, hooking me to the story from the very first page. This is the story of Pax and Mila, but really, even more so, it’s the painful and tragic journey Pax stumbles through on his way to being whole. Immediately we see, in all its vivid glory, what Pax’s life is like. Apathy. Oblivion. Numbness. Arrogance. That’s what his life is all about.

“And no, I don’t care that this coked up little bitch thinks I’m an asshole. I am an asshole. I’m not going to deny it.”

The gripping beginning had my heart thumping erratically against my chest. It was a train wreck you from which you couldn’t peel your eyes. His world seems so bleak and we learn his comfort is found in the deep recesses of oblivion. He anesthetizes his feelings with drugs, alcohol and women, never allowing himself to feel anything at all.

“I don’t know what’s real or not real. And that’s just the way I like it.”

We learn that about the only thing Pax does feel is a gaping void inside of him. One that he hasn’t been able to fill, so he blocks everything out to cope with the void. He craves darkness… the expected eclipse that occurs with whiskey and cocaine. The void is controlling his life, or at least, what life he has left. When destiny brings Mila and Pax together, suddenly Pax is drawn to her lightness, her kindness, her honesty. She’s not the type of girl that Pax is typically around… immediately he realizes she’s too good for someone like him.

“She’s like a breath of fresh air.
I may be the Big Bad Wolf, but even wolves need to breathe.”

Mila Hill has also been struggling. Her parents died in a car accident, and the tragedy left her reeling… questioning the value of life, it’s fragile fleetingness too overwhelming to ponder. How can she find happiness, when so quickly it can all be taken away? For both of them, the past haunts them relentlessly and they’ve been so stuck in blurry shades of gray and black that they really aren’t living at all.

“Sometimes the past doesn’t want to sleep.”

Despite Mila’s fear that Pax will break her heart, and in turn, despite Pax thinking he isn’t good enough for Mila, they can’t help but be attracted to each other. It isn’t even solely a physical pull, but it’s also a deeper kind of connection. This is the beauty of the book, as a reader, we recognize that at a fundamental level these two flawed people need each other to find hope and muster the courage to face their pasts. Mila sees through Pax… below his tough exterior is goodness, fragility, vulnerability… a brokenness that has been ignored for too long, allowing more fissures to form over the years. Mila inspires Pax to want more, to want to change.

“Something about you makes me think that I can be better, maybe even get my shit straight. I haven’t felt that way in a very long time.”

Pax challenges Mia to let herself feel and to let go and slowly that connection solidifies into something quite beautiful to see develop, something very real. As we learn more about their pasts, an in particular, Pax’s past, we begin to understand why he is so broken. What he’s had buried so deep within is so horrifying that he’s completely blocked it out, leaving only that all-consuming void. As he begins to face his past, his transformation accelerates, but not without bumps and bad choices. And before he knows it, he’s pushed away the one person he loves the most.

“I’m afraid to trust you to not break my heart. I’m going to need some time for you to prove that you won’t.”

Their story is a blend of beauty, tragedy, forgiveness, healing, redemption and courage. I loved seeing them work through their issues, particularly since it was inside both of them to want to change. And the desire to change is what’s most important. You have to want it for yourself. It was an uplifting story in the end, one which ended quite perfectly. I liked both characters, and although flawed, they were in no way weak or annoying… they felt real and authentic to me and I loved that they had to WORK to make it through. I also appreciated her thoughtfulness in closing all the parts of the story satisfactorily. I didn’t feel anything was skipped over. This was my first Courtney Cole book and I really, really liked it! I enjoyed her writing, which isn’t overly fluffy or verbose, it’s moving in its boldness and brevity. If You Stay is book 1 of the Beautifully Broken trilogy, each book a spin-off of the other. I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series, If You Leave (available now) and Before We Fall (available December).

“Love never fails.
But then again, sometimes love has to put boxing gloves on and be tough in order to survive. Sometimes, you have to do the harder thing—the thing where you let someone grow on their own.”




beautifully broken

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