Title: Pay it Forward (Giving Back #1)
Author: Nic Starr
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: November 11, 2018
Page Count: 180
Reviewed by: Kristin F.
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Forced to leave home as soon as he finished high school, Bailey McCreedy’s focus has been on earning enough money to survive. All he needs is a roof over his head and to keep his small mobile lending library running. Books are Bailey’s escape, and he loves to share the joy of reading with those who don’t have access to them.
Tom Brooks’s upbringing is very different to Bailey’s, with a loving family, a good education, and a high-flying job—that is, until things came crashing down. Tom opens a coffee shop, struggling to build his business and reluctant to accept help, operating under the misguided belief that he must pay penance for his sins. Watching Bailey work with the street kids opens Tom’s eyes to the reality that accepting help is not a sign of weakness, and that he is so much more than his past mistakes.
But as Bailey falls for Tom, with his charming manner, obvious care for others, and group of successful friends, Bailey’s own sense of self-worth threatens to tear them apart. In the face of intensifying challenges, he’s reluctant to confide in Tom, afraid he’s not good enough.
A bright future will require Bailey to heed his own advice—people aren’t defined by their failures or inability to live up to the expectations of others. It’s time for Tom to pay it forward, and Bailey needs to accept the help and love that Tom offers.
This is a feel-good hurt-comfort read with just enough light angst to keep the emotional connection realistic and engaging.
Our two protagonists meet through Tom’s coffee shop, where Tom is owner and barista. Tom’s on his second career, a major switch from working in the finance industry to business owner, but one that came with a huge emotional price that he feels he is still paying for.
Bailey has been crushing on Tom from the day he opened the coffee shop. Bailey is a bit adrift in life, kicked out of home at age 18, he’s bumped from dead end job to dead end job, not really knowing what he wants to do. He does have a passion for reading, which he shares with a small group of homeless through a small self-made mobile library.
Bailey has self-esteem issues that stem from his upbringing. Tom is trying to mentally rebuild his life after the previous job fell apart. What Bailey sees is Tom’s success – and the success of Tom’s friends as they land lucrative contracts and buy houses – as Bailey’s world falls apart physically and emotionally.
This is where I thought the book really stood out. I could completely see someone trying to put on a brave face and hide what is actually happening just so their partner doesn’t think less of them – so the partner’s friends don’t think less of them. This dynamic was well written, without unnecessary dramatics, and had – what I thought – a solid resolution.
Where I struggled with the plot was the “pay it forward” aspect. Bailey’s passion for his bookmobile for the homeless, helping Emma with her reading are truly good things, working with Tom to hire Clara…yes, admirable things, but I was expecting something more out of both our main characters and I felt a bit bereft in that department. Tom’s friends wanting to help Tom fix-up his coffee shop? It’s what friends do.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I do want to give a shout out for the ending. A bit unconventional for a romance book, nicely realistic, still sweet, and wrapped up the story perfectly.
Ultimately I found this to be a solid, feel good, hurt/comfort read that was slightly unconventional in its ending which made for a very enjoyable read.