"I lived a meaningless life before you came into it. I was just this guy who wanted to have  fun with my friends and meet girls, and well, you know the rest. But then you walked into Jax that first night and without even knowing it, that night was going to change me forever. I was changed forever." ~Raphael Cruz

I met M.R. Joseph at in author signing this past spring (I think). Anyway she was super sweet, and her table was really cool (still love those chucks). As soon as I saw The Shore Series, I knew I had to read it, and that's how my love affair with Raphael Cruz began. 

First of all, this book is not a stand alone. You're going to have to (and want to) read the first book Giving In. You'll fall in love with Harlow Hannum and Raphael Cruz' story. I'm really not going to tell you, so you should probably just one click now. 

Ok, at the end of Giving In there's a devastating cliff hanger. But, you're lucky you don't have to wait because Book 2, Always In is here!! Obviously, Always In picks up the story where Giving In left off.

Be ready because I needed a box of tissues for a good part of this book. Raphael Cruz absolutely broke my heart. Harlow has been in a coma for six weeks and Cruz has never once left her side. He only leaves when doctors come in to assess Harlow's situation. So imagine his heart break when Harlow wakes up after six weeks and remembers NOTHING of what they were to each other.

Cruz is crushed by this, but decides he's not going to give up. He knows his "Turnip" belongs with him and somehow he was going to find his way back to her. Or actually get her to find her way back to him. Unfortunately, Harlow doesn't make this easy for Cruz. When they reunite to meet for tea back in the shore town of Sandy Cove, Cruz tells her he'll take her anyway he can, even if it's just as friends. It becomes apparent friends isn't really going to work for either one of them and Cruz turns to alcohol as a crutch. His downward spiral has earned him the title of town drunk. 

Even though she sees how broken he is, Harlow's brain allows her to feel sad for what Cruz is going through, but doesn't have anything in her heart for him. While Cruz spirals more and more out of control, Harlow starts a new school year and meets Daniel Mathewson (insert sneer). He's beautiful, British and has a little boy name Henry (relax, he's not married). And even though she was trying to just "do her" well she winds up doing him. I admit, this part gutted me. But I had to push on cheering for Cruz the whole time.

Without revealing too much, Harlow has been through a lot of tragedy in her short 23 years. Traumas that would have broken much older people. But Harlow is a strong chick. At certain points in the novel, Harlow dreams of Cruz and what they had. She also starts to remember, but instead of following her heart and going back to Cruz, she falls for Daniel.

There are some glimmers of hope when you think it's all going to work out. Harlow and Cruz will get their happily ever after and life will go back to normal. Then she goes back to Daniel and it's back to square one. For some reason Daniel has a hold on her. You'll understand why as you're reading. You really don't know who Harlow gives her heart to until the absolute end of Always In. Don't cheat and look!

Let me say M.R. Joseph did an amazing job with this follow up. The story was completely different from anything I thought it would be. Any author that gets me totally invested in a character has definitely done their job. Raphael Cruz is a book boyfriend I won't soon forget. 

I'm giving this a five lip smack review. It's definitely a very worthy read. But first read Giving In. Really one click now because both books are a fantastic summer read. Especially for all us Jersey girls who call the southern half of New Jersey "The Shore".


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