* * * 1/2
On the surface, Lila Summers is flawless: good looks, expensive clothes, and a big, beautiful smile. But a dark past and even darker secrets are threatening to bubble over her perfect façade. She'll do anything to keep the emptiness inside hidden-which leads her into situations that always end badly. Whenever she hits bottom, there's only one person who's there to pull her out: Ethan Gregory.
Ethan set the rules a long time ago: he and Lila are just friends. He doesn't do relationships. Although his tattooed, bad boy exterior is a far cry from Lila's pretty princess image, Ethan can't deny they have a deeper connection than he's used to. If he's not careful, he could be in serious danger of becoming attached-and he's learned the hard way that attachment only leads to heartbreak.
When Lila falls farther than she ever has before, can Ethan continue to help as a friend? Or is he also getting close to falling . . . for her?
My first thought as I read Temptation was that I had no idea how screwed up Lila was. There was no real indication of this in either of the Secret books. We knew she had a strained relationship with her family but what is revealed here is horrifying. Mommie and Daddy Dearest are not warm and fuzzy people, not to Lila, and not to each other. They are the ultimate dysfunctional family. Ethan is faring no better with his own problems. His abrasive manner and womanizing mask his guilt from a previous relationship that he can’t let go of.
Lila repeats her cycle of abusing pills, sleeping around and calling Ethan to bail her out of trouble. For two people who try so hard to avoid close attachments, they have become somewhat co-dependent on one other. They don’t like to admit out loud how much they want each other because it would confuse their already bizarre friendship. Besides, they’re too screwed up to know exactly what they want.
When Ethan recognizes that Lila is headed down a bad and dangerous path, he has her move in with him so she can get well and he can keep an eye on her. It’s surprising behavior coming from someone who is normally so abrasive and elusive. But he can’t stand by and watch Lila destroy herself. He helps her come off her pills and teaches her how to become more independent. As their friendship line gets blurry, he also has to look to his past and make peace with it. That’s it. No more running away from what needs to get done for these two.
Of all Sorensen's books so far featuring troubled teens, Temptation was harder to get through because of how heavy it is. Aside from featuring the worst kind of parenting imaginable – so not my favorite - Lila's self-destructive behavior is hard to endure and Ethan's guilt over his past has held him back for so long. Still, things do manage to turn around after a lot of painstaking steps forward and back. That's one reason I always return to Jessica Sorensen – she always manages to give her characters hope.