Evan Allen is a handsome, athletic, southern gentleman who now attends Georgia Southern University for no good reason.
After what he expected to be the romantic gesture of the century, Evan is looking at no friends, a year of ineligibility on the football team, and no girl.
He's starting over alone and doesn't know quite how to proceed. Certain members of The Crew refuse to let him face things by himself, taking him under their wing, and it doesn't take the ladies long to notice him, either.
Sometimes life doesn't go as you had planned. Sometimes it goes better.
Embrace, the second book in the Evolve Series by S.E. Hall, follows the characters from her debut New Adult romance, Emerge
Review—Embrace by S.E. Hall
“Seeing Laney in Algebra every week is gonna suck, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to treat her with cold indifference; it just doesn’t feel right. We were friends for so long before we were anything else, but I’m not sure yet if we can get it back there. Not having her in my life at all is foreign and hurts like hell, but I’m not sure I can pull off anything more than cordial distance right now, and the cordiality is sometimes a stretch.”
Evan Allen is having a hard time dealing with his new reality. Chasing the girl he loves has blown up in his face when his rash decision to change his entire life plan is pretty much rejected; Laney chose Dane. Laney loves Dane. Evan is now the one who has to start over, his heart broken, in a new school (where he will now have to see her regularly), with a new team (that he is benched for), and new friends.
Everyone has been cool with him so far, especially Sawyer; keeping Evan in drinks and women as much as he will allow in a feeble attempt to “get back in the saddle” so to speak. No sense in wallowing over what is obviously never going to happen. Evan goes through the motions, but never really lets himself go in order to fully find happiness again; it just hurts too much right now and everything is too confusing…and then he meets Whitley Thompson.
Whitley is the girl we all wanted to hate in Emerge. She hangs on Dane and Laney can’t stand her. Beautiful, blonde with sparkling blue eyes and a petite figure, Whitley is the complete opposite of Laney in all the ways that matter. She, too, is just trying to find her place. Evan knows that there is something different about her and is immediately drawn to her delicate smile, kind words and constant humming. Somehow, Whitley is exactly what Evan needs to move forward; problem is, he’s scared that she may just be a rebound…I mean who finds their “one” in the first girl they meet after the supposed “one” rips your heart out?
“I have a ton of fun with you. Everything does not go to shit when you show up, so don’t believe that. You’re beautiful and kind and I’ll hang with you anytime you want.”…My eyes bore into hers, never straying, as I let the gravity of it all sink in. Practically strangers, stoned, and yet we connected profoundly over the same moment in time—a random act of chasing a deflated balloon around a parking lot…We make no specific plans to hang out again, but something tells me we will. I have no idea what she’s thinking, I’m not even sure what I’m thinking, but I do fall asleep with a smile.”
This doesn’t go over with Laney too well…
Her best friend in the entire world not only wants nothing to do with her, but is now taking up with the one girl on campus that Laney cannot stand; threatened to take a bat to on their very first meeting. This cannot be good! But what right does she have to dictate who Evan spends his time with, and that does get Whitley off of Dane… (enter clever smirk here). Adjusting just isn’t easy when she knows she’s no longer the girl Evan “needs”, not that she can really complain anyway, she made her choice and is happy in that decision. Maybe, just maybe, Laney misjudged Whitley and will have to give her a chance.
Whitley does something to Evan that he never expected. In just her little ways, she slowly starts to heal him. He finds himself more and more drawn to her, and as much as he wants to just remain friends for fear of messing up yet another relationship, he cannot deny that she calls to him on a level deeper than that. Ever the romantic, Evan knows that if he’s going to make a move, it has to be the right one or he will end up right where he started…
“When the last note eases from her mouth, the crowd explodes around us. It was a moving performance, words unable to describe what it meant to know that it was for me. I step to the stage and offer her my hand, which she takes with a timid smile. Her small hand in mine, I help her down and wrap her in a hug. “You’re really good Whitley, that was amazing,” I exhale in her ear. “I’m glad you liked it. I sang it for you.” “It was perfect.” My cheek rubs against hers as I nod my head; I knew who she was singing to. Who knows, maybe she’s gonna be the one who saves me.”
We are all searching for that once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. Someone who completes the other half of our soul. Age has nothing to do with when your heart is ready and speaking from experience, the age old saying “when you know, you know” rings true. Loving someone and being in love with someone are totally different although sometimes it’s hard to differentiate the two. Learning the differences and experiencing both come in various forms. Thank you, S.E. Hall for showing the differences and that one can truly have both…it’s just about learning the differences.
“What I’ve always wanted. Someone to meet me halfway, to be the half of my team. A bubble of our own that no bursts through, where we’re equally important to one another, we both know it, we both trust it, putting it before all else. When I lean in to kiss her, she’s already up on her toes to grab it and give it back to me, with passion. When I walk in a room, she smiles like her day just got better, and my eyes seek and find her first in the crowd. Honestly, I don’t really ever compare the two, but I do realize something now. With Laney, I put her up on a pedestal, then spent all my time trying to get her to come down and see me. Whitley walked right up to me, out of anyone and everyone in the room, and asked me to sit beside her. She’s been right beside me, literally, ever since.”
Evan is just your All-American country boy. He is gentle and kind, a true gentleman. I loved him in Emerge and I am so glad he got his own story with Embrace. I love the multiple POV’s in this story and Hall again doesn’t disappoint with how everything plays out. The “crew” as a whole are a great group and I really cannot wait to see what happens, there are some very fine men in this series and deserve to be heard (hint hint) while still keeping up with all the people we have grown to love thus far. This series is one I will absolutely recommend as a light-hearted, lovely, coming of age, yet growing up (although the same, totally different) kind of story. There is just enough of the “hard” stuff to keep it from being “fluffy” and I love the little extras in the back stories that I have learned as the series has progressed.
Hall is wonderful storyteller and her tender scenes between family or friends is just as poignant as her steamy love scenes and chemistry between her couples. I laughed out loud more times than I can count and there were times when my eyes teared up so much I couldn’t see the page…yes, I’m an emotional reader; and this book gave me everything I wanted.
**4.5 True Country Gentleman Stars**
About S.E Hall
S.E.Hall resides in Arkansas with her husband of 17 years and 3 beautiful daughters. When not in the stands watching her ladies play softball, she enjoys reading YA and NA romance.
“Zach, don’t say my name,” I choke out, storming across the lot as fast as my shaking legs will carry me.
“What’s wrong? Where’d you-“ his voice comes loud and worried through the phone.
“Don’t say that!” I interrupt, God, how embarrassing. “Can you walk away from everyone and talk to me for a minute? Where no one can hear you.” My voice is nasally and obnoxious, getting on my own nerves.
“Yeah Mom, hang on.” Zach- not a great actor. “Okay Laney, I’m by myself now,” he whispers.
“I’m sorry I bailed on practice, and I’m sorry to bug you now, but I need a Zach of infinite wisdom fix real bad right about now.”
“Let’s pretend I don’t already know what’s up your ass and you go ahead. It’ll give you a chance to vent.”
Alright, so that almost makes me grin.
“Basically, he just hung on that bitch in front of me just to piss me off, and it worked! Seriously? I don’t do that shit to him! Nothing I did was to purposely hurt him. How long did I absolutely torture myself NOT to hurt him Zach, huh? A long ass time!” I come up for air, waiting for him to tell me how right I am while I climb in my truck.
“Laney, you know I love you, right?”
This can’t be good.
“Then you know it’s with love when I say this.” Dramatic pause that makes my skin crawl. “Get over yourself! I don’t care if he fucked her on the field and asked you to film it. You may not have meant to, but you destroyed that kid. He’s here with no friends, no girl and a new team. Sound familiar? He’s just trying to put one foot in front of the other every day, just like you did. You got your happily ever after, so back the fuck off and let him try to find his.”
Well then. Zach-1. Laney-0.
It hurts, not even gonna pretend it doesn’t, but his words are honest…and absolutely dead on. It angers me at myself for being the cause of such sad, but true words, describing the crushing of my Evan. It’s a lot to think on and I have to do that now, before I cruise right out of control.
“You’re right Zach. That’s why I call you. I’ll always get the straight-up what I need to hear. Thanks.”
“I luv ya Laney. Don’t be mad at me, but much like yourself, don’t ask for my advice if you don’t want it.”
I chuckle, “God, if that isn’t the truth. You’re harsh, but right. I’m not mad, I swear. Now go coach! I’ll talk to ya later.”
I hang up and stare out my windshield, pondering. Zach is right, I’m being a selfish bitch.