Series: Radleigh University #1
Published by Self-Published on December 9th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.
But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.
Until he does.
Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.
Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.
Since meeting Dahlia at BEA last year, I’ve been in awe of her utter awesomeness. (*cough* I’m not a kiss ass. Whatever.) And I’ve been more curious about new adult books in the last year, so when I heard about Last Will and Testament, my interest was piqued. But I was also worried, because WE TALK and stuff and WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT OMG THE WORLD WOULD END. I shouldn’t have worried, really. Last Will and Testament is excellent and one of my favorite new adult titles to date.
I’ve read quite a few of these NA student-teacher relationship books, but I have to say that in terms of relationship progression, this is probably my favorite one of all. This is truly a slow-burn romance based on admiration of each others’ personalities instead of just, “You’re hot, I’m hot, let’s have sex.” It’s not obvious from the get go that sexing is going to happen, because Lizzie has so much else to deal with in her life. Her parents died, and suddenly she’s been appointed the guardian to her two little brothers. This requires her to get her ass in line and start working harder to stay in school with her scholarship and to keep her family together. Connor agrees to help her by tutoring her, and through those private moments together he gets glimpses of what she’s struggling with, which makes him fall for her in spite of himself.
I think that’s what’s best about Last Will and Testament. There’s just so much depth compared to similar NA novels. Lizzie’s going through a lot, but she shows her strength in how she pushes on. She makes plenty of mistakes, but who can even blame her when this is the situation she’s thrown into? Connor absolutely does not want to fall for a student. He prides himself on his honor and integrity, so the guilt he feels is real. But that same honor means he’s just a good guy trying to help in any way he can. Seriously. Seriously. This is a romance to root for.
And despite all of the dark stuff they’re both struggling with, the book doesn’t feel very dark at all. This is a good thing, because ordinarily if I would read this synopsis, I’d immediately call a pass because I don’t like anything that hints toward trauma and grief. Lizzie doesn’t even really have time to grieve properly because there is so much that she has to handle on her own now. She has moments where she breaks, but otherwise tries to be strong for herself and for her brothers. And she has a fierce and snarky personality that just made me admire her so much. There’s some great sassy humor and clever banter that filled my heart with glee.
Of course, as with NA romances with this trope, there are more than a few clichés and a few scenes may come across as a bit overdramatic. I loved the relationship build up between Lizzie and Connor until it hit this kind of stagnation where they knew they were attracted to each other but couldn’t be together because it would be inappropriate. Lizzie lashes out at Connor asking him why he keeps going hot and cold on multiple occasions, but I was just sitting there going, “Err, he’s your TA. Reason enough.” Luckily we got past that before too long, and then… Boy. The chemistry and the feels are real.
I also love Last Will and Testament because it actually shows more sides of college life. Lizzie used to be the overachieving valedictorian in high school, but college is so different that she’s absolutely struggling. Her grades are slipping, her scholarship is in jeopardy, and there’s a huge feeling of personal failure. As a college graduate, I can totally relate. The way people are taught in college vs. high school is so different, and for many of my classmates and I it took quite some time to adjust and find our personal best learning methods. Then of course, there are the dorm rooms, awesome friend roommates, frat parties, and general campus life that really made this setting feel authentic.
The only thing that I really didn’t like in this book is the mean girl part. The book starts out with Lizzie hooking up with a frat boy behind his girlfriend’s back. This had been going on for months, and when it comes out, the girl just goes way over-the-top. There’s light bullying, blackmail, and heated arguments that just pissed me off because WHY IS THIS A THING? IT’S THE GUY WHO WAS CHEATING ON YOU. Lizzie’s not completely innocent, but HOT DAMN. I don’t understand this part of our culture, which I know is real and does happen, where “homewreckers” are shamed and apparently entitled to life ruining, despite the fact that they’re not the ones who betrayed you. Society: please fix this.