From senior class president to dejected social outcast, with just the flick of a match.
After accusations of torching her ex-boyfriend’s home are followed by the mysterious poisoning of her ex-best friend, seventeen-year-old Holland Briggs assumes her life is over. And it is. But not in the way she thinks.
As Holland learns the truth about her cursed fate—that she is descended from the Beast most have only ever heard of in fairytales—she unites with an unlikely ally, good-looking newcomer Mick Stevenson.
Mick knows more about Holland’s twisted history than she does, and enlightening as it is to learn about, his suggestion for a cure is unsettling at best. Holland must fall in love with Mick in order to break the spell, and save their future generations from repeating her cursed fate. Having sworn off love after the betrayals of her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, this may be difficult to accomplish.
Complicating things further for Holland and Mick, time runs out, and Holland’s change begins way before schedule. With Holland quickly morphing into a dangerous mythical creature, Mick struggles to save her.
Should they fail, Holland will be lost to the beast inside her forever.
First of all, a huge thanks to Bewitching Book Tours and Jessa Russo for a copy of this novel! I was given Divide in exchange for an honest review.
Something strange is happening to Holland Briggs. As if high school isn’t complicated enough, everyone at school believes that she set fire to her ex’s home. Holland denies all of the accusations, but she can’t deny that something dark, something menacing is growing inside of her.
Enter Mick: a kind, wickedly attractive stranger. Or is he really a stranger? Mick knows that it is up to him to rescue Holland from her beastly side or she’ll be lost forever. Can he save her?
I was really excited when I discovered that this book was loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. It’s one of my absolutely favorite fairy tales!
PG-13/R: Cussing, three very intimate scenes.
Although there are many retellings of B&B out there, I liked how Russo gender-swapped the roles! It was a unique take on the classic tale and definitely intrigued me. Mick was a lovable character; his protective and caring attitude towards Holland–even when she wanted nothing to do with him–was admirable. He was really looking out for her best interest at all times (and who doesn’t love that, hmm?). I found Holland to be a strong, feisty heroine. She didn’t take crap from anyone and, even though she began letting her walls down, she kept that independence throughout the book.
I think this book had a whole ton of promise. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy this book, because I did! There was one thing that definitely bugged me and kept this from being a five heart review. First of all, while there was a huge emphasis on Mick loving Holland’s personality (and vice-versa), I feel like that was not actually the main focus of their relationship. The physicality of their relationship seemed to be the main focus (with three intimate scenes that tends to happen). I liked Mick and Holland, but I would have loved them even more if their relationship was a bit deeper. So, their relationship baffled me a bit and really kept me from completely embracing this novel!
I love this fresh, new artist, Zara Larsson! Six years ago, she was the winner of Sweden’s Talang (a talent competition) at the young age of ten. I feel like this song fits the protective vibes of Mick in Russo’s Divide so perfectly!
Overall, I’d give this one 3.5 hearts! It was a fun read and I’d recommend it, but I wish that Mick and Holland’s relationship had been deeper.
The girl looking back at me didn’t seem half as broken as I felt. She was beautiful, confident, sure of herself. A mask I’d worn for years out of habit, and more recently, necessity.
With a sigh, I slammed my locker door a bit harder than I’d meant to, shutting the magnetic mirror away for at least another hour. At least until I returned for more books between my next two classes and found myself staring at that pretty face again.
She was any magazine’s idea of perfection.
So unlike what lurked just under the surface.
I felt it. Moving around beneath my skin, waiting, calculating—counting down the days.
“Holl! Wait up!”
I turned around to see my little brother heading toward me. The broad smile on his face pushed away my dark thoughts. With only eleven months between us, Cameron was busy enjoying the hell out of his junior year as I trudged through my senior. With way less enthusiasm.
Although, this time last year I’d felt differently. So much changed in a few short months.
“You cussed in French again, sis. People are going to think you’re a freak.”
I raised an eyebrow at my brother. “Seriously?”
As if saying a bad word in French would cause people to think I was a freak any more than all the rumors flying around about me.
Cam waved off my question with a flick of his wrist. “You ditching at lunch today?” he asked, pulling on his black and gold letterman’s jacket.
“No, Cam. That was just one time. Mom and Dad will kill me if I lead you down the path of destruction.” I over-emphasized the words the way our dad had so frequently.
Cam laughed and threw his arm around my shoulder, giving me a light noogie with his free hand. “If they only knew, huh, Holl?”
He leaned down and kissed the side of my head before he headed off to meet his water polo buddies. He may have been younger than me, but he’d already outgrown me by about six inches or so.
I headed to Physics, dreading what I’d find when I got there. The same thing I faced every day. I took a deep breath, straightened my back, and jutted out my chin. Walk in like you own the place. I repeated my mom’s advice for the millionth time as I entered room thirty-two and faced him.
As if it wasn’t enough that Rod had broken up with me two days before homecoming this past October—leaving me both broken-hearted and painfully dateless—I had to see him and Leslie draped all over each other every day in not just one, but two of my classes.
Just get through the year.
As I did every day, I walked past them without making eye contact and sat down at my desk. I pulled out my notebook, flipped it open and started my daily doodling. Somehow, I could excel at Physics with my eyes closed and a somewhat shoddy attendance record.
By the end of the period, Leslie had only glanced back at me four times. A new record. If this continued, then maybe she’d only look back at me once by the time Spring Break arrived, and no times at all by the time the school year ended.
Then I’d be out of Crappo Valley for good and could move on with my life. Maybe I should have switched schools like my parents had suggested. It sounded appealing, but it wasn’t like my fame would stay safely inside the walls of Capistrano Valley High School.
No, my fame would follow me. I had no doubt about that.
I waited for everyone to leave the class, then slowly headed for the door.
“Hollie? Can I talk to you for a minute?”
I closed my eyes, unable to believe it. She waited for me outside the classroom again. I don’t know why that surprised me, just that every day I hoped she’d change her routine. We’d gone over it a thousand times. Her pleas and my responses never changed. Would she ever stop?
“Hollie, please look at me.”
I slowly opened my eyes and repeated my mantra in my head. Like you own the place.
I faced Leslie and waited. She was neatly put together, as usual: dressed in a mint cashmere sweater, paired with a slightly-darker mint pleather skater skirt. I didn’t have to look down to know her toenails were impeccably painted in a contrasting yet complimentary pastel shade. Leslie’s blazing red-orange hair was pulled back into a perfect ponytail, with not even a single strand out of place. Though some would wonder how she created such a sleek hairdo, I knew her secret—Tres Flores hair pomade with massive amounts of Aqua Net. She’d die if anyone knew she used those products.
She’d also die if anyone lit a match within a five mile radius of her hair.
She licked her lips in preparation to speak the same tired words she’d spoken a million times. I fought the temptation to recite her speech for her, but she’d cried last time I did that, so I refrained. One of us had to be the bigger person. Or something like that.
Plus, her eyes already glistened the warning of yet-unshed tears. Ugh. I hated this.
“I miss you.”
I felt my jaw tighten at her words. Fact was that I missed her, too. And I missed Rod. And I missed my childhood spent with the two of them. My two best friends.
“We didn’t mean for this to happen. Please believe me. What can I do to fix this?”
Right on schedule, a tear slipped past the gate, sliding down her pale, freckled cheek. I watched the watery descent and began the same retort I’d repeated a million times.
“Look, Leslie. Just stop, okay? Do us both a favor and move on. You and Rod are in love. I get it. You didn’t mean to hurt me. Fine. But you did. And you can’t fix that kind of betrayal.”
I turned and walked away, not wanting to hear any more apologies. How many would I have to hear? I think I’d paid my dues and suffered enough. After all, I wasn’t the one who went behind her back with her boyfriend of four years.
I’d lost the two most important people in my life and she was the one crying? Ha.
I made it to the bathroom before my tears fell. I hadn’t let them really see how they’d broken me yet, and after four months, I sure as hell wasn’t going to start now. After checking to see that the room was empty, I huddled in the handicap stall and cried as quietly as I could, surrounded by graffiti-damaged gray walls, perfectly fitting for my mood.
When the bell rang a few minutes later, signaling I was late for my next class, I pulled out my compact and looked at my face. Puffy eyes. Fantastic. The red nose I could blame on the cold February winds, but the puffiness was a dead giveaway.
I focused on my blue eyes for a moment; sure I could see it if I only stared long enough.
I know you’re in there.
My eyes had started to change, the blue of my irises slowly seeping away. Only slightly, but enough that I could see the transformation. They were dull, grayer in color than they used to be. Surely, if anyone noticed, they’d probably just attribute the change to my depression.
I knew differently. Something wrong lived inside me, something that wasn’t fully me. Something foreign. Though, what it was, I had no idea.
The main bathroom door opened with a swoosh, followed by the loud thumping of heavy footsteps. I heard each stall door open with the bang of a fist against the metal door, and a swoosh-clank as each door flew inward and slammed against the toilet paper dispenser. One by one, the doors opened as the person made their way to me.
When the cacophony stopped, black boots—with flat soles that had to have been a good five inches tall—parked right outside my stall. Squatting, with both feet up on the lid of the toilet seat, whoever stood there couldn’t see me. But the previous nine stall doors slamming open were plenty indication of what to expect next.
I climbed off the toilet lid and stood, unwilling to be caught off guard, even though I absolutely already was. I waited.
She cleared her throat.
Screw this. I wiped my tears from my cheeks. Like you own the place, I reminded myself. I opened the door and took a step back so I could see this psycho chick, whoever she was.
“Hey, Holland, right? I’m Rosemarie Stevenson. I’m new here.”
Her feminine name and sweet-sounding voice were in stark contrast from her strange clothing and door-punching habits. And her boots had more buckles than a straitjacket.
I almost laughed when I noticed that her face wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d assumed it would be. My gaze travelled down, from her tutu-corset thing-a-ma-jig, to her ripped purple and black tights, down to her crazy-ass boots. Then I brought my focus back to her face, and my head tilted slightly on its own accord. She was actually really pretty.
For a crazy chick in a Halloween costume.
The purple glitter eye shadow made her irises seem almost violet in color, and her jet black hair was cropped short and somewhat jagged. All she lacked were some sparkly fairy wings.
I peered over her shoulder, just to make sure wings weren’t fluttering behind her.
Her arm was still outstretched in front of me. I glanced at her black-tipped fingernails and ignored her awaiting hand, instead deciding to ask the pressing question.
“If you’re new here, how do you know my name?”
“Oh, please. You’re HollandBriggs. Aren’t you, like, famous around here?”
“Yeah, well, if you’re wondering if I burned a house down with my ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend inside, you can wonder no longer. I just had last period with both of them, and they’re as fine as ever.”
I pushed past her, irritated that she was new here and already knew the rumors that I’d hoped to one day live down. How people could think I tried to kill Rod and Leslie even after they both returned to school and hung out with these idiots every day, I had no idea. Add to that Leslie’s daily pleading fests, and it was any wonder how people could still blame me, when she clearly did not.
“Wait! Holland! I’m sorry. We got off on the wrong foot. Can we start over?”
I spun on my heels and faced the new girl.
“Okay, Rosemarie, was it? I appreciate that you’re new here, and by looking at you I can see that you wanted to align yourself with the biggest freak in school, but I tend to keep to myself and don’t need any crazy-ass fangirls, okay?”
Her mouth fell open, but I didn’t care. She’d get over it.
I slipped out the door and back into the hallway, heading not for the cafeteria, but instead for the senior parking lot. Turned out I was ditching for lunch at Harbor House after all.
When I got to the car, Cam waited for me, his infectious smile already making me feel better.
“I knew you’d change your mind.”
I shook my head and slid into the driver’s seat of my red VW Cabriolet. Cam climbed in on the other side and tried to roll down his window, even though he knew from trying every single day before this one that it was a lost cause.
“Sure glad it’s cold out today because I can’t seem to get my window to roll down,” he said. “I don’t know why you insist on driving this car. You know Mom and Dad will get you whatever you want. Maybe even something from this century.”
“I love this car. It was Mr. Greenburg’s, and he trusts me to take care of it. Plus”—I waved my hand around the old interior—“character.”
“If you hate Penny so much, why do you insist on driving to school with me?”
As soon as the words left my mouth I regretted them. We both knew why Cam hardly ever left my side, and I hated bringing it up. I was past it, but no one else seemed to think so. My little brother had sort of taken on the role of bodyguard, confidant, and babysitter. Always making sure poor Holland wasn’t heading for the deep end again.
“So who was that weird fairy-looking chick that followed you outside?”
I quickly glanced back at the doors to the school as I left the parking lot, and sure enough, my newest fan stood outside watching us drive away. As I brought my attention back to the road, I turned the corner and my view of her disappeared.
“Some new girl. She heard about my experience with pyromania and wanted my autograph.”
“Nice! Did you give it to her?”
“Fuck off, Cam.”
“Nice again! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
I glanced at him, his brown eyes sparkling. “I kiss your mother with this mouth.”
He groaned. “You do know that ‘your mama’ jokes aren’t funny when she’s your mom too, right?”
“So, was Leslie waiting outside for you after Physics again?”
“Is she ever not?” I asked, pulling Penny onto the freeway.
“Wow. She needs to give up already. But I have to hand it to her: she’s got a lot of nerve. And stamina. Nerve for thinking you’ll ever forgive her, and stamina for the relentless apologizing. I couldn’t apologize for that long, that’s for sure.”
“When have you ever apologized anyway, Cam?”
“Pssh, when have I ever needed to?”
Twenty minutes later, we parked in the lot behind the Harbor House Café in Dana Point. My stomach growled just thinking about it. Cheese fries and a chocolate shake: the lunch of champions.
Cam clapped his hands one time, his thoughts clearly mimicking my own, then climbed out of the car. He pulled off his water polo jacket, revealing a shirt that was about two sizes too small and stretched around his arms, showing all of his muscle definition.
“Your shirt. Are you serious?”
He flexed his bicep and winked at me, his brown eyes sparkling. “The ladies love it.”
I shook my head at his ridiculousness.
Cam ran a hand over his cropped brown hair, then matched his pace to mine and draped his arm across my shoulders. Clearly still stuck on Leslie, he asked, “Did she say anything different this time? Anything to change your mind about her?”
“What, like the past few months were all a big mistake, and I’ve only been dreaming that she slept with my best friend slash boyfriend? Nah. She didn’t say anything like that. I’m pretty sure this all actually happened to me.”
“Yeah, well, their loss, Holl.” He squeezed my shoulder.
“Yeah, their loss.”
Cam had said those words so many times, and I was pretty sure he believed it was their loss. I wasn’t so convinced anymore though.
Jessa Russo believes in fairytales, ghosts, and Jake Ryan. She insists mimosas were created for Sundays, and that’s not up for discussion. She’s obsessed with the great city of New Orleans—where she’s collected too many beads to count, eventually married her sweetheart, and visited graveyards they don’t include on maps.
She’s loud, painfully honest, and passionate about living life to the fullest, because she’s seen how abruptly it can be taken away.
What began as a desire for reading and writing young adult paranormal has bled into stories of all kinds. From fantasy to pre-dystopian to erotic contemporary, Jessa’s stories always include romance, though she’s given up on pigeonholing her work into a category or genre box.
Jessa was born and raised in Southern California, and remains there to this day with her husband (a classic car fanatic), their daughter (a Tim Burton superfan), and a Great Dane who thinks he’s the same size as his Chihuahua sister.
ENTWINED, the final installment of Russo’s Ever Trilogy, will be released later this year, as well as an erotic romance written under the pseudonym Parker Jameson, so please stay tuned!