I have loved Channing Monroe all my life.
In first grade, he asked for my Trapper Keeper.
I hit him in the head with it.
Third grade, we were best friends. We kissed in seventh grade.
Eighth grade, he turned into a bad boy and the rest was a tumultuous storm.
Growing up, the problem was never love for us.
Bad times. Good times. There were times when I felt our love in every inch of my body, vibrating, making me feel like it could bring me back to life.
The problem was us.
The problem is that we’re from two different worlds now.
Fallen Crest and its millionaires for me. Roussou and their criminals for him. I was thriving in mine and he was running his.
But there were nights I felt we couldn’t be further apart than we were, and there were nights I felt we shared the same heartbeat.
When was it time?
When was it time to either sacrifice, make a change, or walk away from the boy I grew up with?
I have no experience with the Fallen Crest series – I know, shame on me, I plan on rectifying that oversight as soon as I can – but after reading Crew and seeing how much Heather and Channing loved each other I was ecstatic to get their story. I had no idea how long they’d been walking the precarious line between absolute commitment and devastation, after reading The Boy I Grew Up With and witnessing their story both in the present and through significant moments of their past I knew they had no choice in their fate. They were destined, their love preordained by something beyond their control.
I adored Heather, both in Crew and in The Boy I Grew Up With. There are few women who have the kind of innate strength she demonstrated in both books, and I didn’t even know a quarter of her story when I first fell in love with her. She fought for herself, even when the fighting she was doing was a little insane. She had the gumption to go toe-to-toe with one of the most respected and feared people in her town while retaining the sensitivity and empathy to recognize and care for the pain of the people in her life. Heather was extraordinary, and I was delighted to see her finally get the security and joy she so deserved in her life.
One of my favorite parts of The Boy I Grew Up With was the flashbacks to the beginnings of Heather and Channing’s relationship. Seeing those building blocks to the foundation of their relationship made me understand why they kept putting up with the pain they’d been through and were experiencing in the present. I loved how both Heather and Channing realized what they had together was meaningful and unique, and worth making sacrifices for. They both had to fight, forgive, and change their priorities to ensure their happiness, but the rewards the reaped from those changes were well worth all of it.
The Boy I Grew Up With is a standalone novel from Tijan. This book has ties to both the Fallen Crest series and her new Crew series, but none of those books need to be read to enjoy or understand this novel. The Boy I Grew Up With is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Heather and Channing.
I am still brokenhearted that I am so late to the Tijan game. I’ve read several of her books this year, and they are all fabulous. I love how seamlessly she seems to be able to move from an emotionally devastating book like Ryan’s Bed to books like Crew and The Boy I Grew Up With that are rife with intrigue and danger. She is well-versed in her craft, and her skill at bending the English language to her will is superb.
“What are you doing here?”
His arms tightened a little around me, and his hand rubbed over my leg. I was buck naked in his arms. I should’ve dressed, but I didn’t have the energy.
His breath felt good on my neck as he answered. “I was up with the guys. I missed you.”
Meaning: he’d either been fighting or drinking with the group of guys he considered more family than family.
I lifted one of his hands to inspect the knuckles, rubbing a thumb over them. “They don’t look bruised up.”
His body tensed, all six feet of pure muscle.
Channing had a face for the fashion runways, a body of tattoos that could appear in any magazine, and an attitude that made him a leader among the rowdiest and most criminally inclined. He was whip smart, ruthless, cunning, cocky, and had a charming side that had started some of our fights. He could be too charming at times, putting his name on a lot of girls’ to-do lists. It’d been a problem for us since we were kids, and though it’d gotten better over the last few years, I knew women came onto him regularly.
But being transparent here, that wasn’t the cause of our problems lately.
His voice was quiet. “I wasn’t fighting.”
I turned and tried to smell his breath. There was a slight trace of bourbon, but that might’ve been mine. “You don’t seem drunk either.”
He chuckled, his eyes studying every inch of my face. He did this when he was trying to figure out where I was going with my statements and if that’d take us into a fight. We acted like we were married and in our sixties by now.
His thumb went to my mouth and pressed there, softly. “I really was just hanging out with the guys. Cruz came over, said you closed for him. I gambled, thought maybe you’d be up—or not.” That dimple again. “I was hoping just to slide in next to you.”
I sighed, and his thumb caressed my cheek before his hand returned to my leg. I moved back, resting in his arms again.
Tijan is a New York Times Bestselling author that writes suspenseful and unpredictable novels. Her characters are strong, intense, and gut-wrenchingly real with a little bit of sass on the side. Tijan began writing later in life and once she started, she was hooked. She’s written multi-bestsellers including the Carter Reed Series, the Fallen Crest Series, and the Broken and Screwed Series among others. She is currently writing a new YA series along with so many more from north Minnesota where she lives with a man she couldn’t be without and an English Cocker she adores.