We have teamed up again to review Penelope Ward's latest new adult romance, STEPBROTHER DEAREST. This heart-warming story about an innocent girl who wears her heart on her sleeves and a pierced, tattooed smart-ass boy totally surprised us. Stepbrother Dearest is one of those books that captures you as soon as you start reading and will keep up late at night.
Release Date: September 28, 2014
Publisher: Penelope Ward
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Group Rating: ★★★★
You're not supposed to want the one who torments you.
When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn't prepared for how much of a jerk he'd be.
I hated that he took it out on me because he didn't want to be here.
I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room.
But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.
At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. But things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.
Then, just as quickly as he'd come into my life, he was gone back to California.
It had been years since I'd seen Elec.
When tragedy struck our family, I'd have to face him again.
And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.
I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.
Describe STEPBROTHER DEAREST in three words.
Ali: Surprising. Emotional. Addictive.
Debbie: Unexpected. Unputdownable. Feels.
Before we get any further, what were your initial thoughts about reading a step sibling romance?
Ali: I enjoy messed up situations, so I was excited to read it. I've never read a step sibling book before but forbidden romance has always appealed to me.
Debbie: The aspect of a step sibling romance really didn't bother me or put me off. I love reading taboo romances. I was really curious and looking forward to see how Penelope Ward handled this somewhat controversial topic.
So what did you think about step siblings Elec and Greta?
Ali: I loved Elec. From the time he enters the book he's a captivating character. He's exactly the kind of guy I enjoy reading. Smart ass, rough, a little mysterious and a total dick. I enjoy watching the layers peel away from a character like that and slowly learning the more intimate parts of them.
Greta on the other hand, was not as strong of a character for me. She's kind, sweet, a bit innocent but there were not a lot of really compelling traits. I would have liked to see more of her personality, more of her quirks.
However, together I really enjoyed their chemistry.
Debbie: I agree. Greta wasn't the strongest of characters, but for the story it really worked well for me. She's sweet, kind-hearted, and innocent - the total antithesis of Elec. I loved how easily she accepted Elec to her home even though his dad didn't wasn't as welcoming. She kept giving him the benefit of the doubt even when he was being a total dick to her. I think at that time in his life, having someone like Greta is exactly what he needed, and that's why I ended up liking her.
As for Elec, well I loved the guy too. He totally captivated me as much as Greta was when he first walked into the house. Smug jerks with a smart-ass mouth are just the kind of guys I love. Greta was the yin to Elec's yang and I thought they had really great chemistry and that really paid off when things started to hear up between the two.
Ali: You are so right, Greta is exactly what Elec needed. Not only in his teenage years but I think also as adults. It was obvious he was in a good place in his life when Greta comes back into it, but it was only 'good'. He still was not able to be 100% himself with anyone but Greta, which speaks volumes.
From the moment Elec walked into Greta's house he was a total douchbag to her. What were your thoughts about his behavior and how he treated Greta?
Ali: As I stated above, I loved that part of him. He baits her, he plays with her...like she's his own personal play thing. I thought it was adorable in a really twatty way!
Debbie: Twatty. Haha! Love it. I know his treatment of Greta seemed really harsh but I just brushed that off as teenage angst. I mean, if I was a teenage who had to move from California to Boston with a new family, I would probably have acted like a dick too. Also, the pranks he played on Greta gave us an insight to an Elec that wasn't all dramatic, emo, or whatever the fuck teens are. It's showed a lighter side of him, and I think, in a way, it helped him settle in with his new family.
The majority of Stepbrother Dearest was written in Greta's point of view but Ward gave us a bit of insight to Elec's mind by letting us read his autobiography. What did you think about the change of POV?
Ali: While I loved getting a peak at Elec's thoughts and I thought the way she introduced his POV into the story was smart...it was too repetitive. There are some very important revelations learned through Elec's point of view that made the story so much more emotional but there was also a lot that I quite nearly skimmed.
Debbie: Totally agree, Ali. I loved being able to hear Elec's side of the story, and Ward's way of doing it was brilliant. You really felt how personal it was when Greta was reading his story and it really tugged at my heartstrings. But I also agree that it felt too repetitive. I wish some scenes weren't almost an exact retelling of what I had just read a chapter or two ago, with the exception of Elec's personal thoughts. The repeated scenes is what swayed me from not giving this 5-stars.
Overall, what were your thoughts about Stepbrother Dearest?
Ali: I loved how unexpected Stepbrother Dearest was for me. I went into it expecting an angst ridden story of step siblings being ruled mainly by outside forces, i.e. parental control. And while there is that, there is really so much more story there. Elec is a pretty deep character and the twists and turns that the story takes due to his choices was not at all what I anticipated. This book delivered numerous heart fluttering moments and a few times I caught myself holding my breath in anticipation for how things were playing out. Those aren't things I experience in many reads. So, while I had some issues with Greta, with Elec's POV and with an ending that felt a little easy and rushed; it was still a pretty fantastic read for me.
Debbie: I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately and I found the books I had been reading to be pretty underwhelming. The excitement I usually feel when reading had been missing for a while but Stepbrother Dearest changed that. I found my self totally absorbed in Elec and Greta's story and could not put it down. I stayed up really late to read the first three-quarters of the book and immediately jumped back in to the story the very next morning. Ward really did a great job in making me feel while reading this story. I felt Greta's excitement when meeting her new sibling. I felt her shock and hurt when Elec was a total dick to her. I felt her heartbreak and loss when Elec leaves. From beginning to end, Penelope Ward had me feeling everything that Greta felt and that's what made me love this book.
Penelope Ward is the USA Today Bestselling author of Gemini, Jake Undone (A Gemini Novel) and My Skylar (A Gemini Novel). She grew up in Boston with five older brothers. Penelope spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family friendly career.
Penelope lives for reading books in the new adult genre, coffee and hanging out with her friends and family on weekends.
She is the proud mother of a beautiful 9-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 7-year-old boy, both of whom are the lights of her life.
Penelope, her husband and kids reside in Rhode Island. She is currently working on her fourth novel and last in the Gemini series, Jake Understood (expected publication January 2015).
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