Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Release Day Launch & Blog Tour: Be My Downfall (Whitman University #3) By Lyla Payne {Review + Giveaway}

Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: September 20th 2013
Series: Whitman University #3
Pages: 310
Format: ARC/Mobi
Source: provided by author for tour

Toby Wright has always prided himself on being one of the most normal guys at Whitman University. He loves his parents, has a great job lined up after graduation, and with the exception of attempting to cross the unbalanced Sebastian Blair sophomore year, has kept his nose pretty clean. But the rich never have empty closets, and memories long stashed away come spilling free when notorious party girl Kennedy Gilbert almost dies in his dorm room. Nobody really knows how Kennedy manages to stay in good standing at Whitman–she never goes to class, doesn’t pretend to care about her future, and as far as people can tell, is never sober. This isn’t her first meeting with a stomach pump, but it is the first time she’s woken up to Toby’s concerned brown eyes. Despite the fact that she prefers life without friends, he gets under her skin with his insistence on playing her guardian angel. No one knows better than Toby that people can only be saved if they want to be, but the realization that she has no one else draws him back into the shadows of Kennedy’s life–and eventually into her bed. But she long ago came to terms with a truth that Toby refuses to accept: she doesn’t want to be rescued, she only wants to forget. Unwilling to give up on her, Toby’s dragged under by this broken girl and her dark, twisted Whitman University he never guessed existed. If he struggles to the surface, he’ll abandon someone he loves for the second time in his life. If he doesn’t, it won’t be long until they both drown.

My Review:

Wow. Lyla really lives up to her surname with this third installment in the Whitman U series. Not only is this one darker than the others it's deeper and more emotionally trying. I am still sitting here trying to figure out what to say about this book that made me feel so many things it's hard to recount it all. Addiction, dependency and trauma are just some of the issues the characters face down in this book. 

Be My Downfall was absolutely breath taking and tragic. I knew it would be a tough read but I wasn't prepared for the absolute gut wrenching angst Payne brings to the table. Both main characters are facing issues with addiction in some way. Toby Wright, the campus golden boy has dealt with his brother's addiction to drugs by himself due to his father who is a state senator. Kennedy Gilbert suffered a tragic loss and has used alcohol and rough sex as a coping mechanism. Honestly at first I had no idea what could possibly draw these two characters together. They end up meeting while on a trip to Switzerland and are drawn to each other. Once Toby figures out what Kennedy does to herself he tries to help her almost to his own detriment.

Toby was just amazing. He was sweet, kind, understanding and strong. Although I still haven't gotten to read the first book where Toby's character is introduced, I fell in love with him in this book. Because his father is a big political figure Toby has kept the issue with his brother a secret from people close to him so as not to draw unwanted attention to his family. I felt bad for him because he was really kind of lonely not being able to have someone to confide in. Losing his brother to drugs was a tough blow to his psyche because he believes it's his fault for not trying harder to save him. He feels as though he gets a second chance to help someone when he meets Kennedy and tries so hard to help her find her way out of her own darkness. He had his own issues to deal with on top of trying to finish school and staying out of trouble he really didn't have time or energy to help her but he did it anyway. He ends up going to great lengths to help this broken girl even facing down the demons of his past and putting his personal comfort and reputation on the line several times. 

Kennedy broke me in two pieces by the time this book was over. She's not just damaged, she's shattered. I can't understand how I can love and hate her at the same time but I do. I hated that she needed rough sex to feel anything but numb, I hated how she was treated by someone who was supposed to love her and I hated how she wasn't strong enough to be happy. At the same time though I loved that she even attempted to be normal. I loved how she knew Toby wasn't like the other guys and I loved that she valued him enough to walk away so she didn't hurt him the way his brother did. Her circumstances are different in that she isn't addicted to drugs but her penchant for extremely rough sex and alcohol to feel anything makes her a ticking time bomb that nobody wants to deal with. Sure the guys enjoy what she has to offer but nobody knows how to deal with her so they keep their distance. Toby is the first one to show her a different way to live but she isn't ready to be happy and makes it clear to him it may never happen. I absolutely hated what she put Toby through. Even though he knew better I started to hate Kennedy after a while. I completely understood the reasons she did what she did and even had sympathy for her at times. She wasn't looking to fall in love but Toby wouldn't stay in any box she tries to put him in. Kennedy was one of those characters that can't help but ruin things, especially when they are going so well. She doesn't know how to handle it and naturally ends up back where she feels the most comfortable and that's what hurt me the most I think. 

The supporting cast was made up of some familiar faces from the previous books. Emilie, Quinn, Ruby and Cole all play a part in the relationship between Toby and Kennedy in some way. I'm not familiar with the first two characters but Ruby and Cole were my favorite so it was nice to see them again. Ruby has a special connection to Kennedy being that these two kind of grew up together so it was nice to see Ruby step up and try to be there for her. Even if Kennedy didn't want the help.

Be My Downfall was a bittersweet story that had some really rough moments but at the same time had some beautiful, healing, romantic moments as well. Watching Toby and Kennedy fight to overcome everything was wonderful to see after all they had been through. This isn't a happily ever after kind of story even though the book ended on a high note. I don't think with stories as realistic as this that deal with these kinds of topics you can seriously expect a HEA because it doesn't exist for broken people. As torn up as I was about the events leading up to the end and as heartbroken as I still am I have to say the author did a fantastic job wrapping the story up the way she did. This wasn't my favorite in the series by far but I think it's the most memorable and well thought out. The characters were flawed and broken, and the author brought to light serious subjects that affect everyone on a daily basis and I loved that about this book. This wasn't an easy read and will stick with you long after you are done so I recommend it only if you can handle gut wrenching emotion and characters who will break your heart.


The next time she climbed in the backseat with a boy from her school, she felt nothing. There was no pain the second or third or fourth time, and nothing rose to take its place. Dead weight on top of her to match the emptiness inside. Going through the motions lying down, the way she did standing up, walking through her days. Treading water. Content to mourn for all of her days, to prove her love. Her loss. Her belief that she didn’t belong here. ARC 32%

The way I felt right now, like I’d swallowed a shot glass of stars and they were gushing inside me like sparklers on the 4th of July. Like happy and sad and honored and terrified, and every other emotion I’d ever named, combined and ran through my blood, swelling my heart to a size that couldn’t possibly fit inside my chest. ARC 76%


“Hey.” Kennedy’s eyes looked blue today under her knitted cap. A matching scarf ringed her neck and her cheeks and lips were rosy.

The sight of her, with the fresh snow drifting down around us, looked like something off a postcard and caught me off guard. She looked so damn normal—prettier than most girls, but normal. “Hey. Enjoying your final runs?”

“Yeah. Headed up top for a few more. You?”

Her change in attitude from the other night left me feeling a little unmoored, but my default setting of polite kicked into gear. “Me, too. Shall we?”

Kennedy hesitated for the briefest of seconds, a flicker of indecision in her eyes, before nodding and giving me a smile that could have lit half of St. Moritz. “Let’s do it.”

We poled over to the lift and waited our turn, then settled onto the cold metal chair together and got situated for the fifteen-minute ride. The higher we went, the more astounding the view. The sun dipped toward the horizon, coloring Switzerland with her own personal halo.

“I’m sorry about the other night. When I was rude to you at the bar. And for showing you my ass.”

I snorted. “I have to tell you, I didn’t mind the latter. And it’s fine.”

She scooted almost imperceptibly closer, then scooted again, until the heat from her body founds its way inside my ski clothes. She smelled like shampoo and snow, fresh like the world around us and I breathed deep. It doused my brain like some kind of drug.

When she reached out and slid her arm through mine, though, it snapped me to attention. The about-face was too much. “What are you doing?”

“Boys belong in boxes, Wright. Anyone ever tell you that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you nuts?”

She shot me a conspiratorial smile and leaned closer, lowering her voice to a whisper even though no one could possible overhear. “I’ve seen you at Dr. Porter’s. Are you nuts?”

Embarrassment flooded my cheeks with heat, stinging in the face of the chilly wind, and I fought the instinct to pull away from her. So I saw a psychologist. So did eighty percent of Whitman.

“Not most of the time,” I replied, keeping my chin up.

“I’m fucking bats,” she said, cheerfulness oozing from every pore.

The other morning, Kennedy had seemed…not depressed, exactly, but not happy. Not like this. It made me wonder if she was bi-polar, but the real reason probably had more to do with her state of sobriety. Or maybe how honest she felt like being.

Those things might even be connected.

“Anyway, boxes. Boys fit in them so nicely—in a ‘too nice’ box, or one labeled ‘good fuck’ or maybe ‘run for the hills he has no idea what to do with his penis’.” She cocked her head. “I suppose there are teeny, tiny boxes for the ones that girls might actually be able to stand for more than a night at a time, but I’ve never used them.”

I didn’t tell her that I’d never found a use for the last box, either. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I want to put you in one, but I can’t decide which.”

Heat spilled down into my groin as she looked up into my face, pure suggestion burning in her bright eyes. Her hand snuck over and rested between my legs, and even through ski pants there was no way she missed what she’d set to life with the simplest of comments.

Through the foggy desire gumming up my brain, I tried to remember this was Kennedy Gilbert. Whitman’s resident hot mess. I was pretty sure whatever she’d smoked or drank for breakfast was rubbing my crotch right now, not her.

Get a grip, Wright. And for Christ sakes get laid when you get home.

It took every ounce of willpower to reach down and slide her hand away, back into her own lap. “Not that one.”

“Which one? The ‘likes to get off in public’ box? Noted. We’ll throw that one away. Bunch of fucking weirdos.”

“You really are odd.”

She nodded, settling back on her side of the chair and pulling her poles loose. Our lift neared the top of the mountain and I did the same, still struggling to shake loose the lust. When she looked at me again, the proposition had disappeared from her gaze, leaving cool detachment in its place. Her stare left me feeling abandoned, cast away, which was silly but still true.

“You have to get in a box, Wright.” She swallowed hard. “I can’t deal if you don’t.”

My skis hit the packed snow at the top and training took over, propelling me off the seat and out of the way of the people coming behind us. Kennedy was graceful on her skis, gliding at my side until we reached the summit and looked down at the run waiting for us. I wondered what she meant, or why it mattered to her if she couldn’t figure me out.

“Wanna race?” She tipped her chin my direction, her whole body radiating mischievousness, the moment of desperate vulnerability I’d glimpsed on the chair lift long gone. 

“If you’re into losing,” I shrugged, puffing out my chest like an idiot.

Without warning she switched both of her poles to one hand, grabbed the front of my jacket, and planted a kiss on my mouth. Her soft lips tasted like strawberries and lingered, her tongue flicking over my bottom lip for the briefest of seconds before she pulled away.

I couldn’t come up with one single response before she turned and headed down the slope.


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About The Author:
I’ve long had a love of stories. A few years ago decided to put them down on the page, and even though I have a degree in film and television, novels were the creative outlet where I found a home. I’ve published Young Adult under a different name, but when I got the idea for Broken at Love (my first New Adult title), I couldn’t wait to try something new – and I’m hooked.  In my spare time I watch a ton of tennis (no surprise, there), play a ton of tennis, and dedicate a good portion of brain power to dreaming up the next fictitious bad boy we’d all love to meet in real life.


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  1. Wow, she is a quick writer! I still need to read the second book, but I hope to soon. I'm so glad you liked this, babe!

  2. Oh wow. I've only read the middle book. I was debating this one and truthfully, I'm not sure I will now. I'm not really in a place to read such an emotional book. Great review.

  3. Well this sounds like one hell of an intense read! I love when guy characters are sweet and caring, instead of the usual bad boy (not that I don't like me a bad boy sometimes hehe)

    I also noticed your currently reading The Only One - OMG I loved that book so much! Are you enjoying it?

    Amy @ The Reading Realm

  4. I am loving the complexities of Kennedy's character. She sounds so provocative and a character one can easily get invested to. Even if I think I'll throttle her mentally, I still think she's worth spending a few hours reading about.

  5. I love Ruby! I skimmed your review, because I have my stop late next week. I know this one was an emotional read for you, but I'm glad you liked it!

  6. I can't wait to read this. Loved the review!


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