by Julianna Keyes
Series: Time Served #1
Published by Carina Press on March 23, 2015
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Erotic
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Dean Barclay had nothing to do with my decision to flee my old life, but he is 100 percent of the reason I vowed to never look back.
I've never forgotten how it felt to follow Dean—dangerous, daring, determined—away from the crowd and climb into his beat-up old Trans Am. I was sixteen and gloriously alive for the first time. When I felt his hand cover my leg and move upward, it was over. I was his. Forever.
Until I left. Him, my mom, and the trailer park. Without so much as a goodbye.
Now Dean's back, crashing uninvited into my carefully cultivated, neat little lawyerly life. Eight years behind bars have turned him rougher and bigger—and more sexually demanding than any man I've ever met. I can't deny him anything…and that just might end up costing me everything.
I have mixed feelings about Time Served. Halfway in, I would’ve sworn it was a 5-star read, but the character development dropped off a bit in the second half, so that prevented me from loving the book more.
Rachel Moser grew up in a trailer park, though you’d never know it by looking at her. Now, she’s a competent Chicago attorney working on a high-profile class action lawsuit. It’s a long way from the trailer park, which she left abruptly years ago. She left behind her mess of a mother. She also left Dean Barclay.
Dean and Rachel were dating when she took off without even saying goodbye. Not long after Rachel’s departure, Dean was arrested for armed robbery and sent to prison along with the other guys involved in the crime. Dean served eight years before being released.
When the story opens, Rachel and her best friend/fellow attorney are conducting interviews related to the lawsuit. During their lunch break, Rachel unexpectedly runs into Dean and the two awkwardly reconnect. Now an ex-con, Dean works in the warehouse of a grocery store and frequents a boxing gym when he needs to let off some steam. It’s clear that Dean’s still carrying an enormous chip on his shoulder–and why shouldn’t he? Rachel left without explanation and didn’t once visit him in prison. So it’s understandable why he would still be angry and need closure.
The two reconnect sexually as well when it becomes obvious that they have even more of an attraction now than they did years ago. They’re a bit older, certainly wiser, and their convoluted history only complicates their physical relationship.
Rachel and Dean both run hot and cold–at times pushing each other away, only to seek each other out, then repeat the cycle. Dean needs closure from the hurt Rachel inflicted, and Rachel feels she needs to atone in some way for the damage she caused. They’re both living in their memories, in their own heads, and they each need to get out and live for now.
Rachel and Dean seem to communicate best when they’re having sex, but the problem with that is they still need to work through their individual issues. Rachel thinks she knows what she wants out of life: job success, stability, and a comfortable existence. But is that all there is for her?
Dean isn’t so clear on what he wants. He reconnects with Rachel thinking he’ll use her and lose her, but he realizes that it’s not that simple. He pushes her away, only to draw her back in over and over. Because of this, I had trouble warming up to Dean. Frankly, he’s a big jerk to Rachel initially, but I think she puts up with him because she feels like she owes him that much. Over the course of the book, though, I really wanted to see Dean soften up and show his kinder side. We get the briefest glimpses of it, only to see him put on that hardened mask again.
There’s also a scene where Dean reveals some pretty shocking feelings to Rachel, who’s rightfully horrified. As a reader, I was troubled at first, until I reminded myself that there’s a huge difference between feeling like you want to hurt someone and actually, intentionally hurting them. When I reconsidered this, I kind of understood where Dean was coming from.
As I mentioned, the relationship swings back and forth: they fight, they make up, they fight again. Making up usually involves quite a bit of sex, and eventually Rachel and Dean need to decide whether that’s all they have, or if they could possibly have something more.
I really loved the epilogue and wish that Dean from the epilogue would have been more prominent in the second half of the story. Nevertheless, despite all my mixed feelings, I still enjoyed the book.
Note: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. I’m going through my NetGalley backlog and this book has since been published. My review is for the published version of the book.
Rating: 3 stars