This post may contain affiliate links or I may be reviewing a book that I have received for free as part of a review program or as an advanced reader copy. That being said, all opinions are my own. The book cover, author photo, author biography, and plot summary for Taking Chances are courtesy of mollymcadams.com.
Writing this review was a sentimental process for me. Taking Chances by Molly McAdams was the novel that made me fall in love with romance books and fall in love with love in real life. It’s an absolutely heart-wrenching story that I won’t be able to praise enough. I hope you enjoy Chase, Brandon, and Harper’s story as much as I did and do.
Taking Chances in 85 Characters or Less
Deadly love triangle shows truth about compassion, redemption, and love
Full Plot Summary
Her first year away is turning out to be nearly perfect, but one weekend of giving in to heated passion will change everything.
Eighteen-year-old Harper has grown up under the thumb of her career marine father. Ready to live life her own way and to experience things she’s only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father’s unit, she’s on her way to college at San Diego State University.
Thanks to her new roommate, Harper is introduced to a world of parties, gorgeous guys, family, and emotions. She finds herself being torn in two as she quickly falls in love with both her new boyfriend, Brandon, and her roommate’s brother, Chase. Despite their dangerous looks and histories, both men adore Harper and would do anything for her, including taking a step back if it would mean she’d be happy.
Beyond Your Normal Novel
We’ve all learned in English school the standard plot line of a book: it has an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Personally, I learned it as a rollercoaster shape, but that’s just me. Taking Chances stuck to that general outline, but it chose to ride the rollercoaster time and time again without fully taking a break at the bottom.
With just five seconds of reflection on the book, I can think of five separate climaxes. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you what they are because, duh, go read the book to find that out, but just when you thought you’ve reached and resolved the main conflict in the book, McAdams will hit you with another bomb and blow your sense of resolution right out of the water. This makes the story longer than most, yes, but it wraps up life better than most novels you’ll read. In reality, you’re not going to hit one major challenge then have everything fall back into place during your relationship with someone. You’re going to get slammed again and again, both with positive and negative events. McAdams fully incorporates this extended rollercoaster in Taking Chances, making a more realistic and emotionally taxing tale that you won’t easily forget.
Skipped (But Returned To) Major Moments
With the multiple climaxes that I mentioned above come multiple smaller events that, while they’re supportive, are just important for character and plot development as the climaxes. These are some of the moments that the plot builds up to, while the climaxes are the moments that you really never saw coming. Sometimes they overlap, but regardless, my point still stands: they’re critical.
That then raises the question of why we never learned about them in the chronology of the book. Some of them we got little flashbacks to. We started the next chapter after that event had happened, got a little taste of what the characters were feeling, then hopped back to tell how the event they felt so strongly about went down. Some of them we barely touched on before moving on. The moment Harper lost her virginity was one of them. There was so much social stress regarding her virginity in the beginning of the book that I expected her losing it to be a good bit of text. Perhaps McAdams wanted to draw attention to the emotions surrounding those events rather than the events themselves, but I felt that it either disrupted the flow of the story by flashing back or let the readers down when they were expecting more details.
It’s very obvious from the beginning of Taking Chances that Harper is quite the sheltered girl. She grew up on an Army base and was homeschooled her entire life, living with no mom, half a dad, and a bunch of military boys to teach her social skills. Nonetheless, that doesn’t stop her from holding her own against the college boys she meets when she moves across the country for school.
Right off the bat, she’s sassing right back at Chase and Drew, which makes her the favorite in both the hearts of the boys and of the readers. She’s sarcastic, she’s funny, and she knows it, too. She even pulls out some cringeworthy historical stories to keep Chase on his own side of the bed. That being said, her sweet and innocent side still comes through loud and strong. It makes the perfect balance of a young college girl character.
I don’t expect a book to be grammatically perfect, but I do expect it to generally follow the rules of grammar. I expect punctuation to be where it should be to differentiate thoughts successfully. I found this to be lacking in this read of Taking Chances. I’m not going to lie; I was a bit surprised when I realized this because I don’t remember that being the case in the other times I read the novel. I even thought that somehow I had picked up an editor’s copy of the book, but unfortunately, I had read the same copy I had read all those times before.
It was most noticeable surrounding dialogue or in long descriptions of emotion or thought. I’m the type of reader whose inner voice obeys whatever punctuation in the text. That made me develop this never-ending stream of words in my head. They just kept running on and on, and sometimes I read over some critical words because I was so wrapped up in the rhythm. While this was honestly a pretty big negative for me, it didn’t detract from my stellar opinion of this book. Let me tell you why.
Out of all the reviews I’ve written thus far, there’s only one that I gave this same review of “heartbreakingly beautiful” to: The Air He Breathes, whose review was in my bonus eBook. While they received that review for entirely different reasons, both of the novels will leave you sitting there, a little short of breath and tears gathering in your eyes.
Like I said above, Taking Chances takes you through more of the characters’ lives than any other book I’ve read. Because of that, you see life, not just a snapshot of it. You see loss and heartbreak and betrayal riding right alongside of memory and forgiveness and love. If you’ve ever had an emotional experience with another person, you’ll know that all of those positive characteristics go right along with the negative ones. The ups and downs make this novel real, and not just a fairytale relationship. The ups in downs make life real. They make it worth living. They make it heartbreakingly beautiful.
Where to Buy
Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.