Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia AdlerLast Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Series: Radleigh University #1
Published by Author on December 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Author

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

Before I get started on what I suspect will be a lengthy review, it’s time for the disclaimer. Dahlia is a friend of mine. We talk frequently on the Twitters and we even hung out at BEA. Not only that but she bounced some ideas for this off me back in the day. I don’t remember what ideas precisely and I never saw any part of the actual book, but we totally talked about it. My opinions on Last Will and Testament are very much my own and honest. If you don’t trust them due to my friendship with Dahlia, fair enough.

For those of you who know me, I have a rather torturous relationship with new adult books. I love them IN THEORY, but in practice they don’t tend to do what I want them to at all. I love romance and I’d love books about college or starting out in life, but they tend to just be lots of sexing. Now, I have nothing against books with lots of sexing, but it’s not what I’m wanting when I start an NA, which, admittedly, is probably my own fault at this point. Last Will and Testament straddles the line between what I want NA to be and what NA actually is pretty effectively. I think it will please new adult readers here for sexy times and those looking for a new adult with a bit more focus on being a new adult.

gif i made a terrible mistake pll

Lizzie Brandt simultaneously gives no fucks and a whole lot of fucks. She doesn’t really care what people think of her. She loves sex and hooking up, and so she does. At the outset, Lizzie’s banging a guy she knows has a girlfriend and she doesn’t feel badly about it. Not only is Lizzie confident, she’s also a bit of a bitch. She can be quite judgmental and territorial. Lizzie also does mean well. Her put-downs are harsh. She has verbal warfare down to an art. Lizzie can be tough to like, and I think the main thing to understand with her is that most of the mean things she says and does are out of anger. Later, once she’s cooled, she regrets all the worst things she’s said and often even apologizes belatedly, which makes me think I could learn a thing or two from her.

gif we all get it wrong sometimes

Though she was high school Valedictorian, Lizzie is flailing in college. Everything was so easy for her before and she’s barely keeping her scholarship. As some do, she threw herself into partying to make herself feel better and she’s slipping ever further behind. Lizzie’s relationship with her studies gets a strong focus in Last Will and Testament. There’s not too much time spent in class and we don’t learn what she’s learning mostly, but there’s a lot of mention of actual studying. The college environment felt better established than in a lot of NA I’ve read.

Coming to the sad part and the part where this NA actually has a plot beyond meeting a hot guy, sexing him up, and falling in love with him, Lizzie’s parents die. Suddenly, she’s the sole guardian of her brothers (ages 14 and 7). If she doesn’t take them, they’ll have to go into foster care. Lizzie realizes that she has to keep her scholarship, which will be difficult and clean up her life. The great thing is that Lizzie never shames her past self or her friends for the partying and drinking and casual sex. Her transition is very natural and clearly about what she needs at various points in her life, not about “proper” behavior.

gif I'm falling apart pll

Lizzie messes up a lot. She says and does a lot of the wrong things. This might bother some readers, but I think it’s completely realistic. She tries really hard to do the right thing, but she’s so young and really not prepared for what she’s taken on. Through a series of events that’s a bit convoluted but also kind of works, she ends up calling on her history TA for assistance. Then romance blooms. I mean, how could she know that under the pleat-fronted pants was a total hottie?

gif ezra smile pll

It is a well known fact that I am not a fan of teacher/student relationships. I don’t like the imbalance of power and my general rule is that they wait until they’re not teacher and student anymore to start something. I’ll tell you right now that things do not play out that way in LWaT, but also that I think Dahlia makes it work. Connor and Lizzie most definitely cross some lines and, while I would prefer them uncrossed, the main thing is that I actually believe in their connection. Unlike Ezra and Aria’s relationship in PLL, which is messed up. However, I like to look at Ezra. Connor is much better than Ezra. Yes, I’m proud of that.

gif we go forward together ezra pll

The romance definitely follows some NA tropes that are not my favorite, like being pretty quick to the “I love you”s (though I wouldn’t quite call it instalove), but two things made it work for me: 1) Connor and 2) the way it creeped up on them. Connor is a genuinely nice, nerdy guy. Sure, I hate his habit of swearing with Catholic words in French, but otherwise he’s very much swoon-worthy. Though he does say he was attracted to her before everything, the way he treated her in the beginning was very clearly professorial and, were it not for the unique circumstances, I’m sure nothing ever would have happened there. They bond as he’s tutoring her (in history, not sexing, I swear—and let’s be real Lizzie would probably be teaching that class). Even post sexing and post love, they totally maintain their same lightly jibing dynamic. I like that this is an NA where they build a relationship, rather than jumping into something. It also helps that Connor is VERY aware of the potential consequences and willing, if necessary, to face them. He’s not trying to get away with something and he hates that she’s a student. All of that really made me ship this, even thought it’s not my usual sort of ship. Bonus points for not always making the sex completely perfect (though don’t worry, because almost all of it is hot hot hot).

gif aria and ezra pll

What I didn’t like so much was the plot line around Sophie Springer, the girlfriend of the guy Lizzie was hooking up with at the beginning of the novel. Sophie makes it her mission to destroy Lizzie for fucking up Sophie’s perfect life. Now, I am not saying that a woman in her situation wouldn’t go after the “other woman,” but I’m just really tired of people who get cheated on blaming not the person who cheated on them, but the person with whom they cheated. Lizzie made no promises to Sophie; Trevor did. Yet it’s Lizzie who gets the shit storm. This is just not something I personally like and I’m really tired of seeing in fiction.

gif shouldn't be this hard

To round out this lengthy wordfest, I want to talk about two more things. First, I like how supportive her parents’ friend, Nancy, is and also just what a happy family the Brandts obviously were. There are a lot of dark pasts in NA, but LWaT is more of a dark present. Second, I love that LWaT is not heteronormative. Though there’s not really any on-screen LGBT+ stuff, one of Lizzie’s closest friends is a declared pansexual. There’s also mention of a lesbian professor and a gay TA. It’s all very casual and wonderful.

Finally, since I forgot to mention it above, Dahlia’s NA some fabulous sassy humor, so if you’re into crude jokes and her Twitter feed, you’ll get some chuckles. Last Will and Testament was the book I needed in my life right now. Though not the ideal Christina book, I had a blast reading it and am totally on bored for more Radleigh.

Favorite Quote:

I make what I hope is a noise of agreement but probably sounds more like the mating call of the African buffalo, and flee from the room.

gif very cute moose princess diaries

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif ezra shirtless gif
I mean.

8 responses to “Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler”

  1. SOLD. Now if only I weren’t on a book buying ban *cries forever* I am very tempted to break it for this book – LOOK WHAT YOU DID CHRISTINA.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh SundquistMy Profile

  2. Heather says:

    I’ve been super afraid to try NA books because of the reasons you mentioned (GET OUT OF MY HEAD, CHRISTINA!), but this one sounds like something I would enjoy. I’ll definitely check it out 🙂

    • Christina Franke says:

      My very favorite NAs always get called YA because they don’t have sexy times in them or minimal sexy times. Not that I don’t enjoy the sexy times, but I also like a lot of stuff about college or life. Did you read Cora Carmack? Those are fun, if still not as much life stuff as I want ideally.

      • Heather says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. Sexy times definitely have their place, but I know that is not what the transition to adulthood is like for a lot of people, and it would be so cool if there were more books that focused on college/life/feelings at that time.

        I still haven’t tried Cora Carmack, but she is also on my list!

  3. Bekka says:

    “The first pansexual character I’ve encountered” was total Bekka clickbait. I wasn’t totally sure of this book before, because I’m not totally sure about books dealing with taking care of kids, but if you liked it, I think that aspect of it is safe. I really want to read something by Dahlia and I think I might start here. It sounds like my kind of book – for some reason I cannot tear myself away from studen-teacher romances even though they usually skeeve me out.
    Bekka recently posted…Review: Darkest Part of the ForestMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Haaaaa, it was. I love coming up with clickbaity promos. Such fun.

      So the kids are fine. I mean, the youngest one is seven and he’s old enough to be capable of speech and such. I found them non-obnoxious. I mean, they do some stupid kid stuff, but they didn’t bother me.

      I don’t really go for student teacher either, but I have read a shocking number of them, so I suppose the same is true for me.

  4. […] A Reader of Fictions’ review: “Finally, since I forgot to mention it above, Dahlia’s NA some fabulous sassy humor, so if you’re into crude jokes and her Twitter feed, you’ll get some chuckles.” […]

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