by KB Meniado
For this session, we’re returning to the I Heart Iloilo series by Clarisse David, a YA+NA romance series set right here in the Philippines. The first book, Keeping the Distance, follows the high school romance between model student Melissa and trouble-making basketball player Lance, while the second one, Making It Complicated, is about a summer fling between photographer Cam and drummer Hunter that turned out to be more than just that. Here are excerpts from each book I had fun (and okay, maybe a little frustration, too) going back to.
Keeping the Distance
As you may have gotten from the blurb, this one has a case of the Bad Boy-Good Girl syndrome, and you have to admit, we all enjoy this trope in one way or another because
Wait, don’t get distracted by that too much; I’m just saying it’s often fun to watch opposites, you know,
And you bet Lance and Melissa did a lot of that, especially in the first chapters of the book. One of my favorites? When both of them got kicked out of class (or rather, when Lance caused trouble and dragged Mel along with him) because of “being noisy.” Boi got a liiitle ~hot and bothered~ by our girl’s Big Dipper-like moles on the back of her neck that he JUST HAD TO straight out ask her on a date. Which of course flustered Mel as according to her, HELLO HE HASN’T SPOKEN TO HER IN YEARS (and in HS girl’s terms, that probably converts to you’ve-been-dead-to-me-for-centuries).
But before they could get down to proper (banter) business, their Physics teacher beat them to it by throwing them out of class. That was a godsend because this happened:
She’d forgotten about Lance. Almost. His footsteps echoed across the green-tiled floors. She didn’t turn around, but her feet stopped in the middle of the hallway seemingly of their own accord. “Yes, Lance?”
“If you agreed to go out with me, we wouldn’t have gotten kicked out of class.”
Like a piece of string tugged too hard, Melissa’s patience splintered apart. She whirled around, ready to blast him to pieces with her fury. All she managed was a squeak of surprise when she found her nose almost buried against his chest. He was standing a little too close and staring down at her, eyes dancing with what could only be mischief.
(I know, I should get a hold of myself. But nothing like a good old high school kilig to bring out the teenybopper in me~)
Now I don’t want to give all the fa-yer, hot stuff, etc. away, so let’s fast forward a bit to this scene, in which Mel’s ~*fury*~ against Lance kind of fell back a notch.
Melissa breathed her own sigh of relief when she heard his sneakered footsteps walk out of the classroom. It was only then that she noticed the paper bag from a local boutique next to her backpack. Her heart suddenly began to imitate a sledgehammer, and she opened the paper bag to see what was inside, her palms beginning to sweat.
It was a sleeveless lavender dress with fluffy clouds printed all over it.
It was also the most perfect dress in existence, the kind of thing she never knew she wanted.
I suck at apologies. Lance, said the note that came with the dress.
Melissa told herself, that she was still never going to be one of the girls who swooned at the sight of Lance’s heart-stopping smile, at the way he sometimes carelessly ran his hands through his hair. No, she was never going to fall for any of that, not even this dress was going to make her think he was something other than trouble.
Because if girl has to convince herself not to fall, then we already know.
Mel and Lance got together, of course, but not without more challenges—strict fathers,
“Having a discussion with her father was as dangerous as swimming in a twelve-foot pool. The possibility of drowning was very real.”
bad reputation, societal pressure. This is why they had to keep their relationship all hush-hush, but with all those raging hormones *clears throat* I mean, love, surely, one had to give, right?
“Don’t what? Show people that I’m crazy about you?” Lance reached for her again, and this time, Melissa couldn’t help herself. She let his fingers make his way through her hair, shivering under his touch. “Because I am, in case you didn’t know.”
Oh, he could so easily unravel her with a simple touch, a carefully placed world.
“I want to eat ice cream with you like that couple we saw on our first date.” Lance’s eyes bore into her face and dug deeper into her with each word. “I want to sit next to you at the library, watching like a creep while you do your homework. I want to be able to put my arm around you and tell people you’re mine at my best friend’s party. Don’t you want that, Mel?”
She wanted that, too.
All of it.
He had no idea how desperately she wanted it.
Ew, Lance, no, don’t be a creep. But yes, you two, be proud to tell the world you belong to each other… and be brave to face the consequences (because what is love without pain and sacrifice?). What consequences? How did they pull through? There’s only one way to find out.
Making It Complicated
This one is older and bolder, with a huge side of angst. I’ll admit I wasn’t ready for what this had for me at first, because all in all, the characters and the romance and everything in between? Not easy. There’s a lot of emotional baggage, a lot of walls, a lot of push-and-pulls, especially on the side of Cam. And since this is told in a first person POV, I felt it more, and following through was like trying to mend a wound that kept on bursting open.
That was a bad analogy, but please let it pass? Spare your energy for Cam’s feels I’m about to try to unload instead, here we go.
Here’s her deal in a nutshell: she has family issues that cloud her judgment on how she should live her life… (and because this is a romance) until Hunter.
Hunter Alvarez had been blessed at birth with wide shoulders that made you want to lean your head against them. Or you know, hold on to them for dear life. Whichever option was available.
His hair was soaked and droplets dripped down the sides of his face to his chest, to the six-pack I now ogled freely. Never had I ever wanted to be a water droplet more in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, Hunter was not playing savior nor did he have this god complex, but he did help a lot in opening Cam up (there’s an innuendo waiting to happen here somewhere). For instance, there was one time Cam watched Lance and Mel (yes, they appeared in this book; she and Mel are BFFs) together and got all wistful—
I wondered what it was like, to only have eyes for one person and know that they felt the exact same way.
—and she dialed Hunter’s number right after. Non-surprise, he turned up. Their supposed one-night stand in Boracay grew into this renewed friendship and then onto something bigger (especially that she became his band’s photographer) when they returned to Iloilo. So, you know, confused expectations.
“We already agreed to meet up for practice when you called,” Hunter said, scratching the back of his neck. “And I couldn’t cancel on them. I couldn’t not meet you either.”
I nodded in understanding, because what I was expecting? He couldn’t drop everything for me at a moment’s notice, and he’d already done enough by agreeing to meet up with me.
Boy, does Cam live up to this book’s title™.
Hunter on the other hand is pretty straightforward:
“Is it true, Nong, that Ariel and Prince Eric weren’t supposed to have a happy ending?” Tessa mumbled, teardrops on her eyelashes and snot dripping out of her nose.
Hunter shook his head. “No, it’s not. Even if Ariel didn’t give up her legs to be with Prince Eric, I’m sure they would’ve found some other way to be together. Because that’s how it works when you really like someone.” His eyes slid over to me when he said that last part, his gaze digging its way under my skin.
The need to step back almost overwhelmed me, but I refused to move a muscle, afraid of giving anything away.
Aaand there she went again. In her own words,
Why did I keep stopping myself from wanting more? What was so wrong with that?
This was a pattern, I told you. Cam with Hunter, with her family, with her friends (she had a heartbreaking fight with Mel, for one). Can’t blame the girl, though, as it’s only human nature to shield one’s self from unforeseen unfavorable circumstances (such as maybe getting hurt by Hunter). It takes a lot to sort out this kind of thing, and you can bet Cam worked hard for it.
I knew then that love didn’t just mean letting people choose to be with you. Sometimes, you had to risk everything you had to be with them too.
The wound eventually closed, and there was more love than there was pain.
^ Indeed. Now that I’ve ~slid down memory lane, I long for the next book. Eager to see which trope is next, and if I’ll see more of Iloilo.
Streetlights washed over him as he drove through Iloilo City’s streets. His hometown wasn’t as exciting as Manila. It straddled the divide between a big city and a small town. Tall buildings rose up around him, but at the same time, he was two degrees away from knowing every other person in the city. He couldn’t imagine another place like it.—from Keeping the Distance