Heroine: Cadence Miller – Student, 17-18 years old
Hero: Mark Connelly – Calculus Teacher, 28 years old
Cadence Miller just finished doing time - hard time - for the first and only mistake of her young life. Cadence was high as a kite while the people she was hanging out with robbed a convenience store. As far as mistakes go, it was a pretty big one. But now that she's done with juvie and community service, everyone else in her life wants to keep making her pay for that mistake.
Her parents (rightfully so) take away all of her privileges—no car, no leaving the house—but they also take away their love. They withdraw. It’s painful and it hurt me to watch Cadence try to deal with that. At one point, I hated her parents. There was no excuse for their not listening to her and her problems. Namely, when school starts back up, Cadence is bullied. Ostracized. Hurtful words, mean pranks. The things she went through—I cried. A lot. No one was there for her. No one listened. They all just kept making her pay and pay.
Until Mark Connelly. He won me over with a handkerchief and had me utterly with a burrito. He saw a girl alone and hurting and tried to make it better. Yes, he's ten years older. Yes, he's attracted to her more than is proper. But he tries to ignore it, fight it. It never felt like he was preying on her. He fell for her smile and tried to make her happy enough to smile again. He may not be a very transparent hero—not much is known about him other than he likes math and instrumental hip hop—but I do know his feelings for Cadence were real.
As was a lot that happened between them. Jealousy, anger, bitterness, insecurities, age discrepancies, tenderness, raunchiness, support, love... There were a few choice moments and some explicit dialogue that had me saying 'woah' and fanning myself. And squirming a bit uncomfortably. I mean, you know a guy would be thinking it, but Mark says it. He has a very dirty mouth sometimes. I liked said dirty mouth much more once Cadence actually turned eighteen.
Because sometimes, I’ll admit, it was hard to deal with Cadence's age. She's an inexperienced teen with a much older man and the age difference really showed. It would've been easier - less provoking - if Cadence was more worldly. More world weary. She's just so young and naïve and vulnerable… It straddles the line between hot forbidden romance and an off-putting Lolita vibe. And at the same time, yeah, there’s no way I wouldn’t have felt the pull to be with Mark either.
Good is a forbidden romance tinged with desperation and illicitness. Walden took a difficult and often romanticized relationship dynamic and added some grit to it. It hovers between hot and sexy May-December love affair and what could be an indecent and unhealthy relationship. It’s a precarious balance. One that I think will be benefited by part two, which is supposed to be in Mark’s point of view. I happen to fall more on the side of hot and sexy but will admit some scenes just made me downright uncomfortable. This does have a cliffhanger ending. Not too bad of one, but it still makes you want to say, “Dammit, really? I have to wait how long till part two?”
I had no control over my body. It did things apart from my will. It encouraged him to lick and nibble and kiss. And when all of those things stopped abruptly, I screamed. I had no control over that either.
"Don't stop, damnit!"
"Can't I just look at you for a moment? Greedy thing," he mumbled, then drew in his breath sharply. "You have the sweetest little pussy, Cadence. You could drive a man insane with it." He slid his finger inside me carefully. I felt myself stretch around him, my breathing coming in rapid pants. And then he forced another finger inside.