…on If You Stay by Courtney Cole

Posted February 26, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 8 Comments

If You Stay by Courtney Cole
Series: Beautifully Broken #1
Published by Lakehouse Press
Publish Date: February 5, 2013
220 Pages
Source: Kindle Loan 

24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole. 

He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match. 

But he’s got his reasons. 

His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count. 

As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect façade. 
So he slipped far, far from it. 

Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right? 

And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila. 
Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he’s got to figure it out because he needs her to breathe.

When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness. 

But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it. 

He knows that. And he’s working on it. 

But is that enough to make her stay?
-(from Goodreads)

If You Stay by Courtney Cole

My Thoughts:  Books like If You Stay are like coffee or chocolate to me – once I get it in my head that I want to read it, I pretty much can’t think of anything else until I satisfy that craving. When I saw this cover and read this summary, I knew it could be one of those ‘candy-sweet’ reads that I love so much. I had to carve some time out and see if this book is as good as it looks. Honestly, with a series name like Beautifully Broken, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get but I had high hopes!

The first thing you need to know is this:
The beginning is a little, um, shocking. 
Apparently Courtney Cole thought she’d just throw us into the water head first. I think it’s fair to say if you make it past the first few scenes of the book, you’ll probably be alright. You might even find yourself falling for Pax and his charm. Myself, personally: my jaw did hit the floor, but I just kept on reading. 

The book opens as our stereotypical bad boy Pax Tate is in a bit of a compromising position with another woman. After an interesting opening scene that left me pretty surprised and a lot blushing, Mila Hill happens upon Pax while he is unconscious in his car. She ends up saving his life. It’s all very dramatic and intense and starts like BAM!

That, my friends, is how Courtney Cole introduces Mila and Pax to one another (well, kind of – Pax was unconscious) and also how we get our first glimpse at their initial one-sided interaction. Things kind of move forward from there after Mila visits Pax in the hospital and the two keep running into one another by chance in various places in town. Eventually, the two decide to go out on a few dates and their relationship progresses from there.    

The second thing you need to know is this: 
As the relationship progresses, Mila wonders if she is making a mistake 
in getting involved with a guy like Pax. 
He has problems AND issues, and Mila doesn’t want to get hurt!
It’s true. Pax Tate is not the kind of person you would really want to get involved with. He is rude, arrogant, and he has poor ways of dealing with his problems: booze, drugs, women. Pax also has some unresolved issues stemming from his past surrounding the death of his mother when he was just a child. All of these things mixed together make Pax act like a first-class jerk on a regular basis until Mila saves his life. After he meets Mila, Pax feels like he has a reason to clean himself up and be better for the first time in a long time. He isn’t exactly sure of the best way to accomplish this, but he is willing to try.

After Mila’s parents died a couple of years ago, she buried herself in her work as an artist. She has a studio in which she sells her work and offers private lessons. She also helps her sister maintain the family business in her family’s memory – it’s an Italian restaurant. Mila has enough to do without taking on a relationship that comes with the burden of drug abuse, womanizing, and other big issues. She can feel in her gut that Pax is not the best choice for her right now, but she still can’t shake his face from her mind and her heart. Despite her reservations, Mila finds that she enjoys the time that she spends with him and can’t help falling for him. She is scared – scared of him making huge mistakes and hurting her, leaving her like her parents did when they died in their car accident a few years earlier. 

Despite all of the reasons not to get involved, Pax and Mila gave their feelings a shot and get serious.

The third thing you need to know is this:

 Eventually the issues had to come out. 
But we all knew that, right?

Pax and Mila were cruising along with life, enjoying each other and their life together, when one day Pax remembered some key events surrounding the death of his mother. These events are part of the issues that had been plaguing him for years and keeping him from moving on from this tragedy. Mila was there for him, as she promised she would be, but his self-destructive behavior was there for him too, as it always was. 

It was hard to watch Pax struggle with himself and his issues, and with Mila over everything. I found myself questioning whether or not their love for each other was strong enough yet to make it through what could potentially be a few huge insurmountable problems at one point. I found myself frustrated with both Mila and Pax a couple of times here and there. 

Ultimately, with a series named Beautifully Broken, I had to realize that something like this would happen, right? 

*Can they survive these huge, shocking revelations that come from the memories that Pax suddenly has? 
*Can they beat these issues if they face them head-on, together? 
*Can they even face them together or will Pax shut Mila out? 
*Will Mila decide Pax is too great a risk?

Aah, I had so many questions and just had to keep reading! 


When I clicked open Courtney Cole’s new book, I knew that I had high hopes and I wanted to love it so much. The cover of If You Stay is great and the summary sounds exactly like the New Adult books that I am loving the most lately – contemporary romances with some issues. I just can’t get enough of these books. The thing is – truthfully – after that opening scene, I had no idea how I would feel about the book and more specifically, bad-boy Pax Tate. While I don’t mind a bad-boy, Pax goes to great lengths to paint an awful picture of himself in the opening pages. I was just wow’d at how bad his behavior was at one particular point during the opening scene. 

In the beginning, I couldn’t really understand why Mila was so intrigued with Pax. He was a jerk, yes. He made some HUGE mistakes right around the time he begin to see Mila, yes. While it is true that he was completely honest with her about them, I felt like I would’ve taken his “honesty” at that particularly point (you’ll know what I’m talking about) and RUN THE OTHER WAY. But as I kept reading, I realized that I really couldn’t help falling for his charms because he was indeed a very charming guy. Pax is a stereotypical bad boy – a beautiful, broken, bad boy in a leather jacket – and he has the issues to back it up. But as his backstory is revealed little by little and as his character grows and develops, it is obvious that he wants to change and be a better person. The deal with Pax is that before he met Mila, he never felt like he had a reason to be better. Mila’s good nature, her kindness, her ability to not judge him – all of these things helped Pax see beyond himself and realize that he could open his heart a little and let love in. 

However, opening his heart to the good things in life also means your heart is open to experience bad things as well. Along with loving Mila and experiencing happiness for the first time in many years, Pax also had to go through and deal with some pretty big past hurts and experiences, including dealing with the death of his mother at a very young age. These scenes are heartbreaking. By the time they occurred, I already had fallen pretty hard for Pax and decided that I really, really liked him. To see him struggle with these repressed memories suddenly resurfacing made me feel terrible for him – then to see Mila and Pax have to deal with all of these hard things together made me feel even worse. Pax makes some less-than-ideal decisions and Mila kind-of freezes up because neither know how to deal with this level of grief. 

I am happy with how Pax developed as a person and made some changes within and for himself. Huge, huge character development and lifestyle changes! In my opinion, he is the star of the story. Mila made some development as well although I just have to come out and say that I didn’t understand a lot of what she did. (For example, Mila: you started dating someone you just met after you saved his life when he overdosed on drugs and alcohol?) I definitely was more sympathetic to Pax than I was to Mila but I think that the both of them were very different people at the end of the story based on who they were when the book began, and that makes me happy as a lover of great characters and good development across the story. And I did like the ending, which also made me happy.

I know that sometimes readers tend go on-the-defensive when they read reviews or summaries about girls or guys with issues, but perhaps some of you will take a chance on this one. It is a good one – what I call “candy-sweet” – and I think that lots of you will find Pax to be an irresistible charmer, even as he is a work-in-progress. Thankfully, I knew to expect some big issues going into this book because the series is titled Beautifully Broken and because of some other blog posts that I had read, so I wasn’t broadsided when I got some big issues. If You Stay is intense, but not too intense. And the romance makes up for all of the intensity of the issues. I really loved the heck out of it. I borrowed the book to read as a Kindle loan, but quickly went back to Amazon and one-clicked to purchase my own copy. I will certainly be reading the next book in this companion series which, if I remember correctly, will be Mila’s sister Madison’s story. (Someone please correct me if I am wrong about this!)

I recommend If You Stay for fans of New Adult contemporary romance with issues. (Fans of Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless may enjoy this book.) I recommend it for older YA readers and adult readers because it isn’t intended for those younger than that! Be smart, younger readers! 


IF YOU STAY will appeal to fans of:

Mature YA/New Adult Contemporary Romance
with Issues
Romance: No triangle. Fast attraction.

**Be smart, younger YA readers! 

There are some things in here that should be reserved for an older crowd.**

IF YOU STAY by Courtney Cole
is currently available for purchase.


Has anyone else read IF YOU STAY yet?
Is anyone considering it? 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


8 responses to “…on If You Stay by Courtney Cole

  1. Wow, this is an awesome review, Asheley!

    For a second there, I almost thought that you didn't enjoy it but I loved how thorough you were in explaining straight to a tee what worked and didn't work for you!

    And yes, book two is about Mila's sister, Madison. :))

    But yeah, seriously, amazing review! I luuuurve it, much!

    • Thank you!

      I actually DID enjoy it a lot. I was just like WHOA when it started and then I was SO SURPRISED at the change in Pax, ya know? I never really didn't like him – I liked him okay all along, but I liked him MORE AND MORE as the book went on. By the time the book ends, he really has shown some great growth as a character and isn't just another NA bad-boy but he has some substance to him.

      And even though the next book is about Madison, I hope Pax and Mila make some appearances!

  2. I too have become addicted to Contemporary NA books where the characters have issues. I wasn't really a fan of contemporary until I started reading the NA novels. Not sure why I'm drawn to the tragedy but I can't seem to get enough.

    I'm definitely going to have to read this one. I want to know what happened during that opening scene:)

    Great Review!!

    • Oh I totally am the same way – I'm a sucker for the romances that are kind of "doomed" – sometimes they make it and sometimes they don't, but I love reading about them. This one was really great. I'm definitely gonna be reading it more than once.

      That opening scene is a real doozy! I was pretty wide-eyed the entire time, haha!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This definitely sounds like what is being called NA these days. While I'm currently not really engaged in reading books like this, I will admit it sounds intriguing. Pax sounds like he's very complex, and I love that in characters sometimes.

    • Pax IS a complex character. He has some problems that he has to deal with, and that is one of the things that I love about books like this. The New Adult thing means that sometimes they are a little more mature in content – the thing with this one is that it started out with one of those scenes. Normally the plot works up to it, ya know? But in this case, it was like BAM HELLO THERE, um, can we get introduced a little bit first?? But I think to fully understand the character of Pax Tate, we needed to see Pax at one of his lowest times, which is at the opening of the book.

      Some of my favorite NA books that are really great have much less mature-content but still have swoon-factor: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, Easy by Tammara Webber, Vain by Fisher Amelie, Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park (which I think you would love).

  4. I love these types of stories as well! I'm a little nervous about Pax's initial behavior…but I do like that he changes so much in the story. I also have a bit of a problem with these heroines that can't seem to stay away from these guys that are so clearly terrible for them, especially when the guys treat them poorly and continue with their bad-boy ways at first. And then when the angst comes out midway through the story, ugh! But this also sounds like a fun/indulgent read and I'll definitely keep it on my radar.

    • This is a REALLY GREAT STORY. I think for this story to unfold like it did, the author put Pax in that predicament in the beginning to show us right away how he is. There is NO QUESTION as to what kind of guy Pax is from the first scene on – but the great thing is that he can only improve from there, and he does.

      Now, that being said, I did question why Mila was so drawn to Pax when she said to herself in the story that she knew that he was bad for her. This is one of those recurring tropes in YA/NA, I suppose. But Mila isn't the winner in this story, IMO, it's Pax. Despite the fact that Mila does have some character growth and I can appreciate her change, it's Pax that REALLY makes strides to becoming a better person and you really can't help but fall for him even though you know he is a 'loser' at the beginning of the book. I think that's the whole point, though.

      The story is great and it hooked me and I ate it up. I'm so ready for the next one, which will be a companion story based on Mila's sister. Loving these series with companions based on the siblings. Seems to be a trend lately.

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