BOOK REVIEW ~ SWEET FALL BY TILLIE COLE

We all have secrets.
Secrets well buried.
Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.
Lexington “Lexi” Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve. When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year’s NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track. But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman, a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.
Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

Whatever expectations I had, I didn’t count on this book being so gutwrenchingly emotional. This book made me lose my marbles and break down and ugly cry…definitely one of the more heavy and dark NA romances I’ve read this year. The characters were yanking at my heartstrings right from the beginning, and little by little, the emotion built up until it exploded in the last 20% of the book and basically nuked my heart. Thanks Tillie Cole
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Back to the beginning…
On the outside, Lexi Hart is a perfect college student who seems to have it all: loving family, supportive friends, and a spot on the cheer squad. But underneath, every day is a struggle for her and she’s barely keeping up. Unknown to most, Lexi is anorexic. Her body image worries and thoughts hurt her deeper than any blade could and ashamed of herself, she concocts a mask to hide behind when she’s with friends. Only alone, can she be her true self. Only alone, can she be free to give into her anorexic temptations.
Austin Carillo has a boatload of problems, all invisible to most. Coming from a poor and unstable home life with a sick mother and two brothers to look after, Austin sees football as his only way out of his shithole life. But it isn’t enough and with gang problems giving him trouble, Austin is cornered between pursuing his football dream and living like a lowlife like he’s perceived to be, all in the name of providing for his family.
Austin and Lexi’s romance seemed improbable at the beginning because they were so different. Aside from their circle of friends knowing each other, there is literally no overlap that should’ve happened between them so the fact that their romance did happen was totally unexpected and made it all the more intriguing. Perhaps it was because they were both broken and felt like they were shouldering the world that they had this deep, intense connection, but whatever the reason they’re able to let down their guard and be open with each other.
Reading about these characters individually and what they had to go through with all the problems in their lives gave my heart a big squeeze, but that was nothing compared to the scenes where they were a couple.
“Why the war paint, Pix?”
“Why the tattoos?”
I’m not even going to sugarcoat it – I felt overwhelmed. Reading about Lexi’s anorexia hurt, like in my chest kinda hurt, and it was all portrayed in such a raw and gritty manner I couldn’t help but be moved. Reading about Austin’s poor home life, his very real and heartbreaking struggle to keep his family together while trying so hard to make his football dream come true…all of that combined was a lot to process and emotionally digest down. And as mentioned before, all of this culminated and completely exploded in the last 20% of the book, leaving me a sobbing mess.
But at the same time, I didn’t fully love the romance part. I mean, it was very clear to me that these two characters belonged and complemented each other perfectly, but because there was just SO much going on – Lexi’s illness, Austin’s home life – plus tons of external conflict ranging from gang business to side character drama, I felt like the actual romance wasn’t given enough attention, hence I had to deduct half a star.
Regardless, this is a book that is guaranteed to make you FEEL and ultimately, that’s what I was looking for when I decided to read this book so overall, this one’s a winner for me!
Sweet Fall is a NA romance standalone and the 3rd book in the Sweet Home series. It can be read without reading the first two books and the events in this book run parallel to those in the first one, Sweet Home.