The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
Abby Abernathy and her best friend, America, have left their troubles behind in Kansas. They’re enjoying their new student stint at Eastern University, and for Abby especially, she loves the anonymity of the college town.
America also loves Eastern, but that could have something to do with her wonderful boyfriend, Shepley. America starts spending more and more time with ‘Shep’, at the apartment he shares with his cousin, Travis ‘Mad Dog’ Maddox.
Abby has heard of Travis. He has a reputation. Not only is he famous for his fists – participating in illegal campus fighting rings, he also has a reputation as a ladies man. He’s a love em’ and leave em’ type, and has been with most of the Eastern female co-eds. And when Abby is introduced to Travis for the first time (after he sprays her cardigan with blood) she is unimpressed by his come-on’s. But Travis won’t give up on the one girl who doesn’t want him…
‘Beautiful Disaster’ is a contemporary romance from self-published author, Jamie McGuire
I admit; the front cover was what first intrigued me. It’s not a great cover – but it certainly makes you look closer and go, ‘huh?’ Then I became curious about the great 4.35 rating on Goodreads, and the many book bloggers who began raving about this little sleeper hit.
‘Beautiful Disaster’ is, in many ways, your typical ‘good girl falls for the bad boy’ storyline. Travis is the campus man-whore, and as Abby is friends with his cousin she is more than aware and cautious of his reputation. Still, despite giving him cold-shoulder and clear ‘not gonna happen’ warnings, Travis can’t stay away. He’s intrigued by Abby, and desperate for her friendship if nothing else. When Abby loses a bet to him, she is coaxed into living at his apartment and becoming reluctant roomie to Shepley and America too. For a little while Abby and Travis make great bedfellows – he treats her with the respect and kindness he doesn’t show to his couch-conquests, and Abby is privileged to see a different side to Travis Maddox, which is a far departure from his ‘Mad Dog’ reputation.
‘Like I would buy a beer for some chick at a bar,’ he said, shaking his head. I help up my beer, and he pulled up one side of his mouth into a half-smile. ‘You’re different.’
I clinked my bottle against his. ‘To being the only girl a guy with no standards doesn’t want to sleep with.’ I said, taking a swig.
But when another guy takes an interest in Abby, Travis’s territoriality breaks out. He can’t deny what he’s wanted from the start, and the two of them enter into a relationship that everyone knows is going to be a beautiful disaster.
I have to admit, I didn’t really know where Jamie McGuire was going with this book – and that was both a good and bad thing. In the beginning I thought this would follow a tried and true ‘good girl befriends the bad boy, falls for a goody-goody prep boy until she realizes she liked the bad stuff all along’ type of plot. But McGuire pulled the rug out from under me when she had Abby and Travis coming to their senses fairly early on in the plot, and embarking on a relationship (the first monogamous one for Travis).
Then I thought the book was going for a sinister bent … when Abby acknowledges her feelings for Travis, he gets very, very scary (at least, to me he did). He becomes über-Alpha and territorial. The kind of guy who keeps his arm draped across his girlfriend’s shoulders in a semi-headlock, just to warn other guys off. The ‘pissing on a hydrant’ of body language. Furthermore, Travis is quick to violence. He has been making easy money off prep boys betting on him in the ring – but when he and Abby start dating he unleashes that violence on any guy who so much as looks at her lustily.
It was disturbing, to say the least. But I also thought it was kind of ingenious – because for the first half of the book, McGuire does endear Travis to us. Girls like a bad boy, and Travis clearly has some residual wounds that he articulates with sex and violence. I, like Abby, was falling for him… up until the moment when they decide to start a relationship, and he goes scary-territorial. I thought surely McGuire was writing a slow creep of abuse, and I was waiting for the moment when Travis stopped accusing other guys of wanting his girlfriend, and started assuming Abby was asking for it.
Except, it doesn’t happen. McGuire pulls out a last minute plot switch-up about Abby’s dark family past and an impromptu trip to Vegas has her seeing Travis is an unflattering light. That’s what drives a wedge between them – not his hella scary hair-trigger anger or suffocating love.
A pained look shadowed his face. ‘You know why I want you? I didn’t know I was lost until you found me. I didn’t know what alone was until the first night I spent without you in my bed. You’re the one thing I’ve got right. You’re what I’ve been waiting for, Pigeon.’
I really, really liked the first half of this book. Abby and Travis were a very different ‘bad boy/good girl’ couple, and McGuire did interesting things with twisting their romantic plot. But things became a little skewed for me when Abby seemed numb to Travis’s claustrophobic affection.
I actually think there is a lot of room for a sequel to this story, and that could possibly explore those issues I found lacking in ‘Beautiful Disaster’. There’s no question that McGuire is a fantastic storyteller and interesting new voice in contemporary romance – but I wish there had been more realistic questioning of this bad boy’s behaviour, instead of glossing it over as ‘forever love’.