You saved my life, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since.”
The Debt was an addictive friends-to-lovers romance with a sexy, heart-meltingly sweet, tattooed and pierced tortured hero who was totally fucked up but utterly lovable and a strong, sassy, feisty heroine who I absolutely adored!! This was pure old-school New Adult Romance with that delicious balance of angst, hotness, witty banter, heart-break, healing, and of course a swoony love story. A great standalone read!
What stood out to me the most about this book was the writing. Oh my gosh, I fell in LOVE with this author’s writing style. I swear, I could not stop highlighting quotes as I read. Funny quotes, sexy quotes, heart-breaking quotes, important ones, silly ones, romantic ones… I just genuinely loved her use of language.
And the story had my heart racing!!! This had all the thrills, heart-ache, romance, and sexy swoon that makes New Adult romance so addictive. Actually… for those of you who have been following the blog for a while, do you remember all those original NA indies the kickstarted the whole NA romance genre back in like 2012? … Well, this book actually really reminded me of those. It was very pure and addictive — well balanced between the fun and feels of the romantic side, the intrigue from their mysterious pasts, and the kind of angst that naturally comes along with this kind of tortured characters. I’d literally go from feeling heartbroken to laughing out loud in the space of just a few pages. Let me quickly show you the blurb though to give you an idea for the story…
Hadley saved my life… and I ruined hers
Hadley’s my best friend. We share a house, our friends, a life. She knows all my secrets… except one. My desperate need for her is inked on my body, it’s the best I can do. But Hadley needs to hear the words.
Growing up as foster kids, Hadley made me feel whole-sane. And what did I do? I destroyed our chance to be together. I ran out on Hadley when I should have stayed, and something broke between us. Now I’ll do anything to fix it.
I’ll never leave her again. I won’t ever let her feel afraid again. But the more I try to protect her from my pain, the more I just make things worse. I’m terrified that if I tell her everything, she’ll never forgive me. I’m even more terrified that it may be too late to make her mine. I have to try to give her what she needs… it’s a debt I’m determined to repay.
So as you can guess from the blurb, this is a friends-to-lovers romance where the main couple have a complicated, connected, and painful shared history together growing up in foster care and then leading up to this one mysterious night that ended any chance of a relationship between them thus far and that left him feeling indebted to her on a very deep level. Their friendship was strong and they were living together so naturally I was desperate to find out what that whole backstory was and how they were every going to overcome it. They were clearly very close friends, but what was holding them back from being lovers? Why weren’t they dating? I couldn’t wait to find out!
“The downward spiral into this spectacular status of stagnant awful between Punky and I began four years ago. It was the best night of my life, until it wasn’t.”
Oh and yes, he calls her “Punky”. It’s his nickname for her. It’s actually quite adorable!
Josh is one of those tattooed, pierced, tortured rockstar-type heroes whose adorable fuckedupness and even more lovable devotion to Hadley had me swooning all over the place. For the record, he’s a bit of a manwhore at the beginning of the story, but you’ll see why quickly and it all just makes sense. It’s actually all kind of funny…
“Someone sent me half a dozen tit pics since last week.”
“Maybe it says something about your lifestyle that you aren’t sure who.”
Just to reassure you though — he’s always been crazy about Hadley so the minute he has a real shot at being with her, all the manwhoring stops cold. He’s completely smitten with her so his commitment to her is never in question.
But speaking of his tattoos and piercings for a moment… I really loved that the literal fact that he was covered in tattoos had a very strong (heart-breaking) reason behind it. Not that anyone would need a reason for it, but I just though that his reason gave the story added depth.
“My body is my own, so I made myself over to fit my own desire, not for anyone else.”
“To take ownership,” she said.
“Because someone took that away from you once.”
“More than once.”
And his piercings… hehe, they were a lot of fun. Yes ladies, he’s pierced *there* and there’s a whole hilarious scene too (several pages long) that had me in stitches laughing.
“They say it’s supposed to feel pretty goddamn great when you have sex,” I offered up in my own defense. At the moment, however I questioned whether my cock would ever function again. Just the thought … was enough to make me nauseated. Life as a monk started to look good.
“Seriously, Josh, what got into you? And why the hell would putting a hole in your dick be the answer?”
“I”m in love with her…Pretty much always have been.”
Oh wait, have I mentioned yet that the whole book is written in his POV?? Cuz it totally is and it’s one of the best and most realistic sounding male POVs I’ve read. Just made me fall in love with him even more.
Oh for the love of Christ. How was it possible that in a single day I could be interrupted three times from wooing — yes, fucking wooing her panties right to the goddamn floor — the woman I needed to bed with a fiery urgency that threatened to cripple my dick?
Seriously. I wanted an answer.
Was this my punishment for years of inaction? Here. You finally have the object of your desire within your grasp. Now the universe will conspire against you and force you into eternal celibacy.
But with all the Josh love going on here, I don’t want to forget about Hadley because she was a seriously awesome heroine. Like really. I loved her. I have a total girl-crush on her. OMG this girl was so feisty and fiery. Between her sass and his humor, they had some pretty wicked banter.
Great dialogue is a really key factor in romance and I have so many highlights.
“Is there a trick to it?” she asked.
“Just like a Popsicle.”
Hadley’s smirk grew menacing.
“Forget that. You chew your Popsicles. Do not bite it off,” I scolded her.
Punky’s answering pout was both adorable and frightening. “Just a nibble?”
“You have no levels between gentle and vicious — your elevator only stops at one and one hundred. No, sweetheart. You can’t be trusted with teeth.”
“You’re no fun.”
I loved that she literally went toe-to-toe with him on everything. She was like the exact opposite of a doormat. She was strong, resilient, forgiving, flawed, but very admirably understanding. Vulnerable too, as we all are, but that just made her even more relatable. Hilariously vengeful too in a playful way. I’d totally want to be friends with her.
“I know. I lost my shit. But I didn’t hit him. That was good, right?”
“Yeah,” she answered without inflection. “That was good.”
I took a deep breath, flicking my tongue piercing between my teeth. “Everything I said to you was bullshit. I’m a horrible bastard and a goddamn liar. I’d feel a lot better if you came over here and kicked me in the spleen.”
“I’d rather knock our your teeth, rip out your tongue piercing, pull your nipple rings out with tweezers, and hook up your apadravya to my car battery. Your spleen is innocent in all this.”
“Fuck, sweetheart. I might like it. In either way, I’m at your vengeful disposal.”
Josh’s soft side and quick-to-act protectiveness was just the right mix of Alpha caveman and tortured bad boy. But I just loved the way you knew that any moment in time, he’d give anything and everything to keep Hadley safe or make her happy no matter what. Here’s some swoon for you…
“Every day all I want is to lean on you and get as far away from you as possible. You were the only person I could talk to and the last person I wanted to tell… My life didn’t begin until I met you. I’ve loved you every day that matters.”
And also, I especially appreciated how smart they were as a couple. Not to say that everything went smoothly, because it didn’t. They had many hurdles to overcome, but I loved that they really tried hard to work together to create a functional relationship. They felt very real — strongly reminding me of a the way a real couple has their own quirks and inside jokes. They relationship was very believable to me.
“You’ve always had my heart.”
She looked up, biting her lip and failing to hide her sweet smirk.
“That was the cheesiest line I’ve ever heard.”
“That? That’s what you tell me when I profess my undying love for you? Fuck, Punky. You’re killing me.”
She laughed, grabbing two fistfuls of my hair and shaking my head. “I love you.”
While there are a lot of laughs and light-hearted banter, this story also touches on some very serious themes of childhood abuse in foster homes (him, not her) and the lasting damage that can be left in its wake. You should know though that it is only alluded to — there are no graphic scenes. But it is a painful part of Josh’s past and a part of what shaped his character and his bond to Hadley as children. My heart broke for him, but I also loved that the therapist was incorporated into the story.
“I loved you then. You taught me how to survive in that house. You saved my life, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since.”
Josh and Hadley were one of those couples who really stole my heart. I loved their characters as individuals and I loved them even more together — they balanced each other out in such an adorably heart-warming way. I couldn’t help but want them to make it.
“Start at the beginning and just tell her the truth. Hadley will understand if you fill in the blanks. Trust her. She wanted to be there for you then and she will be again. You just have to let her.”
My only complaint is that the story sometimes felt a little scattered — like there was too much going on in one book. I’m thrilled that it was a standalone, but it just felt like there was a lot happening within one book and I do feel like it could have been edited down to make the story a little tighter. I loved everything that was there — but might have preferred it to be trimmed down a smidge and focused a tiny bit more on them only. I kind of zone out scenes with friends — maybe I’m too much of a hardcore romance reader, but honestly all I care about is the main couple.
This being a standalone was a huge draw for me. I love standalones because it’s just such a wonderful relief to have all the storylines resolved in one book in such a way that leaves you with a very satisfied feeling. And reading this book was a genuine joy. I connected so strongly with this author’s writing style. I feel like she and I share the same sense of humor and her writing just had that a great balance of wit, sass, and emotion that really made me care.
This was one of the best New Adult romances I’ve read in a long time. It felt really pure, very old school, and that was exactly what I wanted. I’ve fallen in love with Tyler King’s writing style and absolutely can’t wait for her next book. Whatever it is, I’ll be buying it!
If you’re looking for a swoony, addictive romance with just the right balance between angst, heartbreak, and hilarity, with light-hearted banter, a sexy love story, but also some serious and darker themes, then you have to try this book!
Rating: 4+ stars. Standalone New Adult Romance.