Series: Taking Chances #1
Published by: William Morrow on October 16, 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
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Eighteen year old Harper has grown up under her career Marine of a father's thumb. Ready to live life her own way and experience things she's only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father's unit; she's on her way to college at San Diego State University.
Thanks to her new roommate, Harper is introduced to a world of parties, gorgeous guys, family and emotions. Some she wasn't expecting yet, and others she never knew she was missing.
She finds herself being torn in two as she quickly falls in love with her boyfriend Brandon, and her roommate's brother Chase. Covered in tattoos, known for fighting in the Underground and ridiculously muscled...they're exactly what she was always warned to stay away from, but just what she needs. Despite their dangerous looks and histories, both adore and would do anything for Harper, including stepping back if it means she's happy.
Her first year away is turning out to be near perfect, but one weekend of giving in to heated passion will change everything.
This is one of the most infuriating books I have ever read, and Harper takes the prize for the most un-likeable, aggravating, immature, selfish, thoughtless, downright stupid character in literature. That’s right, I think she tops Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey — that is no small feat.
With a “contemporary new adult romance” label and an average rating on Goodreads of 4.01 stars (with over 10,000 ratings, mind you), I thought this book would be a slam dunk. I thought I would love it; no questions asked. Unfortunately I’m a bit of a black sheep here… I guess I should have known that this book was about cheating and that that subject matter alone would turn me off this book. But apparently I’m a moron. Either that, or I thought it would be done in such a way that I could overlook or accept.
I’m basically going to break down the plot of this story and critique it piece by piece. I might include some minor spoilers (for example, I’ll reveal what that “heated passion” is all about in the blurb), but any spoilers I reveal will take place in the first half of the book. Anything else will be clearly labelled in spoiler tags.
Taking Chances and I got off on the wrong foot almost immediately. At the beginning of the book, we only have a teeny tiny introduction to Harper before the romance hits us full force. The problem with that was I didn’t get to know Harper as a character before the romance dominated the book. And if I didn’t know her enough to like her, then how the hell did those guys know her enough to like her? Taking Chances has a horrible case of “every boy in a 10 mile radius falls in love with the simple, plain, virgin, and think she’s SO AMAZING.” But she’s not… At that point in the book (and actually throughout the ENTIRE book), all we see of her is blushing, “ducking her head”, and running off to hide in bathrooms when she gets embarrassed. Harper is not independent or intelligent or snarky or funny or even likeable. She’s not even interesting.
Up to a certain point, I was mostly okay with Brandon. He did come on a little too strong too quickly, for how little he actually knew Harper, but he wasn’t so bad. Chase, on the other hand, was absolutely RIDICULOUS. The book begins and we learn that Chase is a blunt, rude, foul-mouthed playboy, who has a different girl in his bed every night. Actually, scratch that. A different girl on his couch every night, because girls are not even allowed on his bed. Period. But then, of course, Mr. Playboy takes one look at Harper and immediately changes his ways, because she is SO AMAZING!! (Again, why…?)
At this point of the book, he had met Harper a grand total of two times, and had never actually had a full conversation with her. Their conversations only consisted of things like her yelling at him to let her go (because he was grabbing her arm so hard that he was leaving BRUISES), and her reminding him what a man whore he is. But then, after those pitiful conversations, he is LITERALLY kissing the ground she walks on, and making remarks like this:
“You need someone who will cherish you, protect you and take care of you. Someone that realizes they’d never be able to find another you in the world, no matter how hard they looked.”
“You’re amazing Harper. There will never be anyone good enough for you.”
“I’ve never met anyone like you.”
“There’s just something about you that makes guys go crazy wanting to take care of you.”
Where did those even come from??? He doesn’t even know Harper.. hell, I don’t even know Harper. They had never had a real conversation, other than to point out the fact that she is so “PG” because she had never kissed or slept with a guy before. So what does he even love about her? Given the lack of evidence, I can only conclude that he ‘loves’ her because she’s hot… And that does not a romance make.
But the problem with this book was that it wasn’t just Chase. Everyone felt this way about Harper. After like one date, Brandon was also kissing Harper’s feet:
“We just met, but I already know there’s something different about you, and I’m not about to ruin this by rushing into things. I plan on taking my time with you. Those girls, yeah I had relationships with them, but all they were was a distraction for me. I wanted to feel something other than being pissed that my dad was gone for good. I didn’t…[..] They weren’t you Harper.”
And then there are still the hundreds of other guys who check out or flirt with Harper… and then there’s the time when the love triangle becomes a love square. And don’t forget the time where her room mates family practically adopts her because they love her so much.
Again… why? I still have not figured it out.
So anyway, Harper and Brandon start dating, and Chase sulks in the corner. He gives up drinking and girls because he’s too busy feeling sorry for himself since he can’t be with Harper. Poor him, his life is over. To be fair, Harper and Brandon’s relationship was pretty cute. I just couldn’t get that invested in it because it progressed SO quickly and was extremely insta-love-y. But at least Brandon was a perfect gentlemen, unlike Chase—the royal douchebag.
Then it’s Christmas time and Brandon takes Harper to meet his family.
“I’d overheard him talking to his mom telling her he thought I was ‘the one’, and I couldn’t help but smile at thoughts of our future together.”
Again, pretty sweet. But unfortunately, Harper immediately ran out on him to go sleep with Chase. Poor Brandon is talking to his mom about how amazing Harper is and how much he loves her, and Harper has to go cheat on him because for some reason, she’s obsessed with Chase… the guy who left BRUISES on her arm. Oh, and apparently she was sooooo hot for him that she insisted they have sex without a condom.
“I don’t have any condoms here Princess.”
“I don’t care.”
Side note: Yes, Chase does indeed call her ‘Princess’ all the time. How lame.
This is when I just lost any and all sympathy for Harper. I could no longer even try to relate to her, and I sure as hell stopped giving a crap about her. She made two RIDICULOUSLY bad decisions in one go. She cheated on her amazing, super sweet boyfriend so she could lose her virginity to a douchebag (who also happened to be one of Brandon’s best friends), and she didn’t use protection.
So after this, Chase is like, “That was awesome sex! So are we dating now? Are you going to break up with Brandon?” and of course, Harper is like, “No, I can’t hurt Brandon like that. I’m going back to him. Please leave me alone and give me space.” Maybe you should have thought about that ‘not hurting him’ thing BEFORE you decided to cheat on him??? But the best part about this particular sentence, is that she very, very clearly told Chase to give her space. So, Chase does. But apparently that was the WRONG move.
After a couple weeks of not hearing from Chase (and yes, Harper did go running back to Brandon), Harper gets super upset. Why is Chase avoiding her??? Why won’t he text her??? Why won’t he hang out with her???
“You expected me to think you still wanted me after you’ve completely avoided me for a month?”
He threw his arms out, “I was giving you time! You asked me to give you time!”
“I didn’t want you to avoid me like the plague, I wanted you to fight for me. To show me that you loved me like you said you did.”
“God I had to stop asking him to give me time, he flat out disappears when I do. Guys need to understand that sometimes, we mean exactly the opposite of what we say.”
You know when guys talk about their crazy, psycho girlfriends who are always raging and hormonal? This is Harper. Chase follows her instructions and leaves her alone, but all she does is complain that he’s avoiding her?? That he “left her”?? And she blames it on HIM and says that he should know better, and he should read her mind and be able to realize that she actually wants him to fight for her?? Good lord, woman! If that’s what you want, you need to tell him that! Don’t assume he’ll be able to read your mind.
The rest of what I have to say occurs after the half-way point in the book, so I’ll put those in spoiler tags.
At one point, when Chase and Harper start dating, it appears that Chase cheats on her. I was furious when Harper actually had the nerve to get angry at Chase for cheating. I know he didn’t actually cheat, but when Harper thought he had, she was actually pissed. As far as I’m concerned, a cheater has no right to be upset when they’re cheated on. Ever. That’s Karma for you, bitch.
When Chase died, I laughed. I seriously laughed my ass off. We have a complicated love triangle, so what do we do? Kill off one of the guys. This means Harper doesn’t actually have to choose which one she wants to be with. Great.
But the most ridiculous part about it, for me, was the fact that everyone got over Chase’s death so quickly. After a while, even I forgot it happened. I never saw Bree get upset, I never saw Chase’s parents break down, I never even saw Brandon get upset. Yes, Harper was upset for a little bit, but ultimately her reaction was so quick and fleeting that I completely forgot about Chase in the entire second half of the book. It’s like he never existed.
And on a slightly different note, I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was that everyone still ADORED Harper after she cheated on Brandon. Even Brandon’s parents just brushed it off. “Oh you broke our son’s heart? No problem! Come in for a hug!!!!” And then Chase’s parents didn’t care when she hopped out of Chase’s bed and went back to marry Brandon right after Chase died. I guess it all ties back into the fact that Harper is so perfect and amazing and ‘one of a kind’.
The worst part about this book is that it’s riddled with bad decisions.. but not just that.. it’s that Harper makes all these bad decisions but she NEVER learns from them (After getting pregnant, I thought she would have learned that unprotected sex was a huge no-no. But nope. She does it again and gets pregnant AGAIN!); instead, she gets rewarded for them. That’s the worst part. At the end of the book, all her bad decisions still land her with a perfect life, despite all the people she has hurt and wronged and betrayed. Since she’s so amazing, none of them care, and they’re all way too quick to forgive and forget.
I need to quote another reviewer here because what she said is brilliant:
We should be able to sympathize but not like or forgive the main character when she does this, and we should feel for the men she cheated on. But TAKING CHANCES acts like it’s not a problem to do these things.
In fact, it glorifies it. Teenage pregnancy? Check that, or check it twice, actually. Teenage marriage? Check. Slut-shaming? Check. Adultery? How about a check for that.
I almost feel like Taking Chances is a book dedicated to all the ‘poor’, ‘misunderstood’ cheaters in the world. Like, as if they have such horrible lives, so this book was written to highlight how their lives should go instead. Or so all cheaters can read this book and sympathize with each other and understand each other. I read Harper’s reasoning, but all I saw was a stupid cheater trying to justify her actions.
“I was more in love with Chase than I realized, but I couldn’t live without Brandon.”
Ultimately, I hated that this book had a happy ending. It actually upset me, because I felt like Harper didn’t deserve it. She made so many mistakes and I didn’t feel like she learned from any of them. She acted like a stupid, immature child, but she got to walk away blissfully and happily, surrounded by all these rich
minions people who worshipped her.
What sucks, is that the end of this book did have a sweet romance. If it weren’t for the non-existent character personalities, the bad decisions, the love triangle (let’s cut that out completely), the random love square that pops in and out, and probably a few other factors, then this could actually have made a cute story. Give Harper a fierce, charming, intelligent, independent personality, pair her with Brandon, and I might be game.
There were so many problems with this book, so many bad messages, and ultimately it just drove me crazy. After the half way point, I disliked it so much that I went from rolling my eyes and raging, to just laughing at the stupidity of it all. And believe it or not, there are still a million other things that are wrong with this book that I didn’t even cover in the review. I figured my review was lengthy enough as it is.
Don’t mind spoilers? Check out this Taking Chances comic I made! You won’t even have to read the book!