by Elizabeth O'Roark
Book 2 in the Waking Olivia duology
Erin Doyle can’t stand manwhores, and she particularly can’t stand Brendan Langstrom—the guy who avoids relationships like the plague and never sleeps with the same girl twice.
She and Brendan have waged a war of mutual disdain for years, but when Brendan picks up the pieces after her world unravels, they’ll be forced to admit that beneath their dislike is something else entirely—something they’re not supposed to feel.
Because Brendan isn’t just her nemesis…He’s also her fiance’s best friend.
After reading (and loving) Waking Olivia, I was honestly wondering if I would like Drowning Erin. I didn't really connect with Erin's character in Waking Olivia, but I shouldn't have had my doubts. Drowning Erin was great! Actually, it was just as good as the first book in the duology.
I think my worried stemmed from Erin's character in Waking Olivia being kind of bland. A side character with no substance. This book gave Erin's character the deep layers she needed to make a truly interesting, satisfying story. Whereas in Olivia's book, the main characters trauma causes her to push people away, and be angry at the world, Erin's manifests in a completely different way. By pasting a smile on her face and covering up her pain. Making other people happy, even at the detriment of her own happiness. I can truly appreciate this duology being written together not because Olivia and Erin are best friends, or Brendan and Will being brothers, but because each book reflects two very different women, and how their pasts and pain has shaped who they are.
As for Brendan, and the romance - I really liked it. Their history with one another felt relatable. Kept apart from being young and not read to settle down. Immaturity. The banter between these two characters is great; I cackled when reading the double date scene at the first of the book. The back and forth between past and present was done well. Actually, Elizabeth O'Roark is one of the few authors I've read that can interchange between memories and present, and have the story still move forward.
Drowning Erin was a great read. I laughed. I cried. I smiled. I can't recommend enough this duology.
He suggests the steak and she tells him she can’t.
Joie: “Too much gluten,”
Erin: “There’s gluten in steak?”
I ask once the waiter leaves.
Joie: “Well if the cows have been eating grain, you’re eating it too. This is kind of my specialty.”
I glance from her to Brendan. This is going to be good.
Erin: “Oh? What is it you do?”
She sips off her wine and gives me a tight smile.
Joie: “I’m a doctor.”
Erin: “A doctor?”
I ask, choking on my drink. Rob kicks my foot and I ignore him. It’s not just that she’s an idiot. It’s also that I find her lack of specificity highly suspect.
Erin: “What kind of doctor?”
Joie: “I’m a doctor of energy medicine. Illness is just the result of the loss of our soul parts. I commune with beings from other realms, and they guide me to those lost parts.”
Brendan’s smug, gloating, punchable face dims slightly. Apparently this is news to him too. Rob’s foot lands on mine but it’s too late. I can’t stop myself.
I say, directing my widest smile at Brendan.
Erin: “How interesting. I thought you meant you were a real doctor.”
She sits up a little straighter.
Joie: “I’ve cured things no one with a medical degree would touch. Heart disease, terminal cancer. You’d be amazed by how much conventional medicine doesn’t know. About humans and animals both.”
I smile at Brendan.
Erin: “Gosh, so your brother just wasted all that time in med school like a chump.”
Rob kicks me again and I go to the bathroom, texting Olivia as I walk.
Will’s medical degree is useless. Brendan’s date can cure cancer by COMMUNING WITH BEINGS FROM OTHER REALMS. Brendan: “So let Rob stay in by himself. ‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness’. Isn’t that the quote?”
Erin: “Holy shit, did Brendan Langstrom, the biggest whore in the state, the man who hates relationships, just quote Kahlil Gibran to me?”
Brendan: “Those who can’t do, teach,” Olivia and Will are pronounced man and wife. As it happens, I glance at Erin. She’s got tears in her eyes, but she smiles at me, and I smile back. I’m not ready yet, I think, but one day I think that might be us up there. Brendan: “I’ve seen you dance,”
he says, cutting me off.
Brendan: “You dance like someone who does it for a living.”
I smile a little.
Erin: “Are you saying I dance like a stripper?”
Brendan: “I’m saying you dance like a dancer. One who’d potentially be a fucking awesome stripper.”
And with that he pulls me into the crowd. I call Olivia on the way home. She tells me to quit, which is what she always says.
Olivia: “Or plant a bomb in his car. It’s so easy. One can of gunpowder and five rocket igniters.”
Erin: “I knew I could come to you for advice,” Rob: “What the fuck, Erin?”
he asks, on the cusp of shouting.
Rob: “I don’t want to be with someone else. I love you. I love our life. That’s what I want.”
The right words, delivered far too late.
I tell him as I hang up,
Erin: “you probably should have acted like it sooner.” Brendan: “How’s poor Rob ever going to join the mile-high club if you’re always asleep?”
My smile falters a little. Did Rob tell Brendan we’re definitely getting back together? Did he imply we hadn’t really broken up? Neither are true but I don’t feel like introducing the topic.
Erin: “Have you met Rob? Can you actually imagine him doing that?”
He looks at me out of the corner of his eye.
Brendan: “But you would?”
I flush. I’ve always been more interested in mixing things up than Rob. Over time I just stopped suggesting anything different, knowing I’d get shot down.
Erin: “No comment.”
Brendan: “I always imagined you’d have a little wild side.”
Erin: “Spent a lot of time imagining me in bed, have you?”
I tease. His eyes linger on my mouth for one long moment, during which my heart seems to flop over, again and again.
Brendan: “No comment. Go to sleep, Erin.” Erin: “Sorry,”
I whisper, disentangling myself.
Brendan: "Do me a favor, and turn the other way for a minute."
I roll my eyes.
Erin: "I've seen you in a pair of shorts before."
Brendan: "Fine, smartass. I was trying to be a gentleman.”
And with that, he throws back the covers and reveals the kind of bulge that would catapult this moment straight into an NC-17 rating.
Brendan: "Happy now?"
Erin: "Good Lord,"
I say, covering my eyes.
Erin: "Put that thing away, perv."
Brendan: "I woke up with your tits pressing against my arm and your bare leg draped over my stomach, Erin. That doesn't mean I'm a pervert. It means I'm straight." After a moment he rises. I half expect that he’ll just walk inside, but instead he comes around behind my chair with the champagne in his hand.
Brendan: "Tip your head back.”
He offers me a deliciously dirty grin.
Brendan: "I've got something I want to put in your mouth.”
Erin: "I'm warning you, Langstrom. I use my teeth."
Brendan: "Christ, you've got a dirty mind, woman."
Brendan: "And make sure you swallow everything."
Erin: "Right. I'm the one with the dirty mind."
He lifts the champagne high overhead.
Brendan: "Mouth wide,"
Erin: "No, Brendan, it's going to go everywhere,"
Erin: "I can't swallow it all."
Brendan: "That's what she said," Matthew: “What are you doing, Bwendan?”
Matthew asks. He looks so much like Olivia, but at this moment, oddly, he reminds me more of Will. There’s something calm and self-possessed about him, as if he’s older than both of us. As if he already knows the answer to the question and is waiting for us to discover it ourselves. Brendan glances at me. A look that says what the fuck am I supposed to say? And I have no idea so I just stare back, my eyes wide.
Brendan: “I’m, uh…”
Brendan flinches, zipping up his shorts.
Brendan: “I’m kissing Erin.”
Matthew: “Because you love her?”
Brendan looks horrified. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so awful. He runs a hand over his head and exhales heavily.
Brendan: “Sometimes people just kiss.”
His words are the splash of ice water I needed. Because this isn’t love. We aren’t even dating, and I have a boyfriend, sort of. Who is Brendan’s best friend. Ah, yes. The thing I was trying not to remember.
Matthew: “Mommy says that’s what people do when they love each other,”
Matthew informs us. Brendan turns toward him.
Brendan: “Yeah, uh, sometimes.”
Matthew: “So you love Erin.”
Brendan: “Uh…buddy, you should be in bed.”
Matthew: “I heard a noise. You said the f-word.”
Brendan: “Jesus Christ,”
Brendan: “He must have the hearing of a bat.” Olivia: “Where are my babies?”
Will: “On the way. Mom called, and everyone just woke up. You okay?”
Will asks, raising a brow and nodding in the direction of her chest.
Will: “You’re looking a little swollen there.”
Olivia: “I fed her this morning before we left. I’m fine.”
Brendan: “Oh my God,”
Brendan says with disgust.
Brendan: “I thought you were talking about Olivia’s feet.”
Olivia scowls at him.
Olivia: “With all the shit we’ve heard you talk about, you’re giving us crap for discussing breast milk?”
Brendan: “Yes. Jesus. The only thing worse is when Mom and Peter talk about needing ‘alone time’, like none of us knows what that means.” Brendan: “Do me a favor. Stay away from Lee.”
I roll my eyes.
Erin; “He’s harmless.”
Brendan: “Yeah, he is. But I’m not.” Olivia: “So according to my son, you and Brendan are in love and probably having a baby.”
Oh God. If he told Olivia, then he probably told Will, and Peter and Dorothy, and...shit. Matthew never stops talking. He probably told everyone.
Erin; “We’re not together,”
Erin: “It was a misunderstanding.”
she says with a brow raised,
Olivia: “so many misunderstandings involve someone accidentally putting his tongue in your mouth.”
Erin: “We just made a mistake,”
Erin: “Shit. Who did he tell?”
Olivia; “Everyone who will listen. He wants to know how soon the baby is coming, and he wants you to name it Rubble—that’s his favorite Paw Patrol character.” Erin: “Things aren’t like that with us. Truly. And I’m sure Brendan will try again someday, but I get the feeling that’s still a long way off for him.”
Dorothy: “I know that boy better than he knows himself, so let me tell you something, Erin: he’s already trying. You might not know it, and he might not know it, but he is already trying.” Will comes down and unceremoniously hands Caroline over the table to Olivia.
he grunts. I'm unsure if he means himself or the baby until I watch Olivia pull her shirt over Caroline's head and start to nurse. Brendan flinches.
Brendan: "It's so awkward when you do that."
She rolls her eyes.
Olivia: "Not nearly as awkward as you trying to push the headboard through the wall last night. I mean, I ran a hundred miles yesterday, and even I couldn't sleep through that."
Brendan: "Olivia, my mother is sitting right here at the table."
Dorothy: "I slept here too, Brendan. It's not like I'm just figuring it out now."
Erin: "I'm going back to bed,"
I grumble, turning on my heel to leave the room.
Olivia: "Don't worry, Erin!"
Olivia: "We'll keep Brendan away as long as we can!" Brendan: "I'm going to fuck you so hard you won't be able to stand when I'm done,”
he grunts. And say what you will about Brendan, but he always keeps his promises. Erin: “I’m still pissed,”
I say. But the words are slightly breathless, unconvincing.
Brendan: “I know, but I can probably do a thing or two that will make you forgive me.” Crystal: "Well, that ring is fufleek either way,"
she tells me.
I ask, thinking I've misheard her. I'd assume she was just pulling from another language entirely except…come on, this girl doesn't speak a second language.
Crystal: "Yeah, you know. Fleek as hell. Fucking fleek."
Erin: "Ah, of course,"
I say, casting a shaming glance at Brendan.
Erin: "Yes, that's what I wanted. A ring that's fucking fleek. We went into Tiffany, and that's what I said. 'Take us right to your fucking fleek section'." Harper frowns.
Harper: “You’re not moving in with him. You’ve only been single for, like, a day! You need to keep your options open.”
Brendan: “She’s not keeping her options open, Harper!”
shouts Brendan over his shoulder.
Brendan: “She has no options.”
she says quietly, her voice full of doom. I smile. While I have no intention of moving all of my stuff to his place just yet, he’s really sort of right.
Erin: “I don’t want options. I’ve got exactly what I want.”