Back to the Start by Elle Keating
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jake McGinnis has the life he has dreamed of since childhood: a professional football career with adoring fans, financial security, and the unwavering support of his family. From the outside looking in, he has everything. But nothing could be further from the truth. Because there isn’t a day that goes by that Jake doesn’t think about his first love… and what his world would look like if she was still by his side. When he hears that she is relocating to start a new job less than a mile from him, the pain of their breakup feels fresher than ever. For eight years, he has wondered why their relationship ended and now she’s settling in his city. A city that isn’t big enough for the two of them.
For Morgan Kelley, moving to Philadelphia means living closer to her family and practicing veterinary medicine with two of her closest friends. It’s also her chance to start over and move on from her failed marriage. There’s only one con: the close proximity to Jake McGinnis. Once upon a time being near him was all she wanted, but now he is practically a stranger… and it’s all her fault. Faced with awful memories and the possibility of bumping into him at her favorite coffee shop, Morgan is haunted by the real reason she once broke both of their hearts. Deep down, she knows she won’t be able to embrace this new chapter of her life without finally telling Jake the whole truth.
But how will he react when she shares her secret? Their love story once felt inevitable, unshakable. Is this where it ends for good, or is it the beginning of a second chance.
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It has been a long time since I have read a gritty romance with a swoony boy that makes my heart flutter. I have to tell you that I read this book in one sitting staying up until the wee hours of the morning to get it finished.
Morgan and Jake had loved each other since they were 5 years old. They finally got together and Morgan broke it off quickly without an explanation and left Jake heartbroken and angry. Eight years later and Morgan moves back home, the trouble that ensues can only be expected but why did she leave him in the first place?
This book can be read as a stand alone since this is the first in the series that I have read, but, you will REALLY need to pay attention in the beginning to understand the cast of characters because there are a lot. Once I had gotten everyone straight, I really started to enjoy the book itself and literally could not put it down.
I adored the alternating POVs from both Jake and Morgan. I really enjoyed the glimpses back into their past to see whom they were as children and teens. They had really struggled with their relationship their whole lives and it was a really sweet story starting when they were five. Jake had always struggled with the fact that Morgan was younger than him and tried on many occasions to fight his feelings. Morgan had to struggle with seeing Jake dating other girls in high school while she was trying to reign in her jealousy.
I also enjoyed the suspense that the author gives as to the reason why Morgan broke up with Jake in the first place. It is touched upon throughout the whole book but you never really find out until the end. I speculated a few times but obviously did not get it right and ended up with a surprise.
The ending was beautiful and I have to tell you I was rooting for these characters the whole time. I loved how sweet Jake could be with his defenses down and this made for one great story!
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She swore she smelled bacon cooking. How hung over was she?
Morgan reached for her phone, but it wasn’t in its usual place on her nightstand. She sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Her head pounded as she remembered the events of last night. She didn’t want to know how many shots she’d had. It must have been a significant amount because she remembered dancing to Wham and that would not have happened if she wasn’t shitfaced.
Morgan got out of bed and was halfway to the bathroom when she took notice of her sleeping attire. She was wearing a gray t-shirt she hadn’t worn in months and underwear. Everything hit her at once and she suddenly remembered how she had gotten home, who had apparently put her to bed…and who was in her kitchen right now cooking breakfast.
Morgan quickly went to the bathroom, brushed her teeth and threw on a pair of sweatpants. She crept downstairs and rounded the corner…and stared at the beautiful man in her kitchen. His back was to her as he stirred something on the stove. He was wearing jeans and a white cotton t-shirt that showed off his bulging biceps. She had always loved his body. Even during those awkward teenage years, she had thought he was the most gorgeous thing she had ever seen.
“How are you feeling?” he asked. He didn’t turn around. Jake continued to stir whatever was in the pot.
“I’ve been better,” she said. Morgan spotted her purse on the kitchen counter and immediately dug through it and found the last of her Advil. She popped two pills and chased them with a glass of water. Though her head throbbed, her stomach was surprisingly ready for whatever Jake was making for breakfast. But before she could take a single bite, she needed to ask Jake a few questions.
“Where did you sleep?”
Jake tapped the wooden spoon on the side of the pot. Morgan watched a few teaspoons’ worth of creamed chipped beef fall back into the pot. He then opened the oven door and produced at least a dozen fresh-baked biscuits. Her stomach rumbled at the sight of one of her favorite meals of all time.
“In your bed,” he said, plating their breakfasts. With her biscuit covered in creamed chipped beef, he handed her the plate and a fork and flashed her a smile that left her uneasy. Morgan wasn’t worried that Jake had taken advantage of her in her drunken state. He would never do that to her or any woman. No, what she was fucking scared of was what she may have said while she was three sheets to the wind. Morgan placed her plate on the breakfast bar and took a seat on one of the stools.
“Did we…I mean, did I…”
“No.” His tone was absolute and for a foolish moment she breathed a sigh of relief. But her relief was short-lived. The heat in his eyes shook her and she looked down.
Start eating. Do something. Just don’t look at him again.
“I slept next to you just in case you needed my assistance in the middle of the night.”
Morgan winced. “I was that bad, huh?”
“You don’t remember me carrying you up the stairs?” he asked. She fought the urge to look at him as she shook her head. “Or putting you to bed?”
She closed her eyes. Morgan wasn’t a lush on a regular basis, but hell if he didn’t make her feel like a teenager drinking on a fake ID. “Thanks for taking care of me.”
“Just being a good friend,” he said.
Morgan could hear Jake round the breakfast bar. With her eyes closed her other senses were magnified, and she soon felt him behind her. “So you’re okay with being friends again?” she asked.
Jake spun her around on the stool and she was instantly face-to-face with the only man she had ever loved. “Maybe you should ask yourself that question.” Jake placed his hand over her heart. “Tell me, do your friends make your heart race like this?” Jake trailed two fingers to her bottom lip. “Or make your lip tremble like it is right now?” He leaned in close. His own intoxicating scent mingled with her shampoo, and she realized that he had made himself at home and had taken a shower. His lips curled to form a grin. He knew he had her. That strength she had gathered over the past two weeks, that shield of resistance she had carried in front of her like some silly badge of honor had been stripped away.
Jake released her quivering lip and reached behind her. Morgan heard keys scraping against her granite countertop. Just inches from her mouth he said, “Eat your breakfast, Morgan.” He looked at her beneath his long silky lashes for a moment and then left her townhome.
About Elle Keating
Elle Keating is the author of romance novels with sexy heroes and fierce females. Her first book, Thrill of the Chase (Dangerous Love, #1), was published by Forever Romance’s digital imprint, Forever Yours, in 2015. Cut to the Chase (Dangerous Love, #2) soon followed. Most recently, Elle self-published Wanting More (Dangerous Love, #3) and a standalone novel, Keeping His Commandments.
An avid reader of gritty, dark romances, her favorite authors include Pepper Winters, Penelope Ward, and Anna Zaires.
When she isn’t torturing her heroes and heroines (don’t worry, there’s always a happily ever after), Elle is a public school administrator and enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children in New Jersey.
Connect with Elle: Website | Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram
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