Review: One and Only by Viv Daniels

O&OOne & Only (Canton #1)
Viv Daniels
Genre: New Adult
Release Date: November 8th 2013
Format: eBook
Pages: 264
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles

One night they can’t forget…

Tess McMann lives her life according to the secrets she’s sworn to keep: the father who won’t acknowledge her, the sister who doesn’t know she exists, and the mother who’s content playing mistress to a prominent businessman. When she meets the distractingly cute Dylan Kingsley at a prestigious summer program and falls in love, Tess allows herself to imagine a life beyond these secrets. But when summer ends, so does their relationship — Dylan heads off to Canton College while Tess enrolls at the state university.

One love they can’t ignore…

Two years later, a scholarship brings Tess to Canton and back into Dylan’s life. Their attraction is as strong as ever, but Dylan has a girlfriend…who also happens to be Tess’s legitimate half-sister. Tess refuses to follow in her mother’s footsteps, which leaves her only one choice: break the rules she’s always followed, or allow Dylan to slip away for a second time.

…And only one chance to get things right.

I’m not sure what I expected, but what I read surpassed my expectations. There’s just something about family drama that makes for a good story, and Daniels did not disappoint. Tess and Dylan meet at a science summer camp at Cornell University where they spend three weeks as partners. During those three weeks, their friendship and attraction blossoms, but it isn’t until the end of the summer, that they get together. As sweet it was though, Tess knows that she can’t start a relationship with Dylan, so she just up and disappears. He doesn’t get a call back, text or email. My heart broke for him when I read that.

Two years have come and gone when Tess finally scrambles enough money to transfer to her dream school, Canton University–which coincidently enough, is where Dylan attends. Tess and Dylan’s reunion definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. It’s certainly a shock for both of them–and yes, the snarky comment or two comes out–but overall they handle everything so… amicably. On the inside, of course, Tess is both elevated and dying at seeing Dylan, but like a true champ, she never lets go of her poker face. They were both friends at first, so that’s what they try to be the second time around. Dylan was cute, sweet and slightly nerdy when they first meet. He’s still sweet and nerdy, but now’s he the hot nerd you just want to take a bite out of and corrupt. The attraction is stronger than ever, but at the same time, the risks for Tess are higher than she expects. Still, I loved the tension and was just devouring the pages until they got together.

Tess lives with her mom, being the product of an affair. It’s not that her home life is tough in the physical sense, but emotionally, it’s draining. Her father is still in the picture, but Tess and her mother are his secret family. The hurt and anguish Tess feels is an undercurrent in the novel, barely scratching the surface, and for some reason, that made it that much more heartbreaking. She’s had her dad’s (partial) love from the very beginning, that it’s just become the normal for him to have no interest in her life–at least publicly. Tess’s resignation at that was what was truly hurtful to read. It’s like reading about the heroine, who’s been so defeated, she doesn’t even try. I disliked her father so much because of that. Because he was such a coward, he didn’t even deserve to be hated. Hate is such a strong, powerful emotion, and the feelings Tess’s father brought out were those of distaste. Her mother, on the other hand, I liked. The only thing is, I wish I would’ve gotten to know more of Tess’s mother. At the end, there’s a hint of a much better relationship between the two, but I think it could have been highlighted a little bit more throughout the story.

I think one of the reasons I was so surprised to like this novel so much was because science was a main concept–and I hate science. Still, I enjoyed reading any scenes between Tess and Dylan, even if they contained science–and let’s face it: most of the novel contained it. While their friendship restarts on good terms and grows stronger, their romantic relationship is one that builds a little bit quicker and more intense. Right off the bat, they know they want to be with each other, but Dylan is unavailable… with Tess’s half-sister. And Tess doesn’t want, in any way, to be the other women. The rejection she’s received from her father goes deep and one of Tess’s biggest fears is turning out like her mother, a mistress. I honestly loved that this wasn’t a story where Tess and Hannah become competitive and possessive over Dylan. I specifically loved that Hannah doesn’t become the jealous, raging, ex-girlfriend. I think partly that’s due to the fact that Tess knows they’re sisters and honestly cares for her, and also because Hannah is a good person, not a self-titled bitch like you originally assume. Still, their relationship is far from perfect and it’s one I’m looking forward to reading more about in the sequel–which is Hannah’s story.

All the lies come tumbling down at the end, but once again, the direction One & Only takes is different than most NA novels, and it’s a good thing, too. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. Perhaps it’s because so many indie authors are trying out the self-publishing route and NA genre, but not many succeed in capturing my attention. Daniels, however, definitely got it. There was real depth to her characters and beyond physical attraction there was an honest friendship between Tess and Dylan. There were no tragic pasts to overcome, but still a hurtful one. Once again, I’m really looking forward to reading more from Daniels!

4.5/5 Stars

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