Review: Rae of Sunshine by Micalea Smeltzer (Light in the Dark #1)

Rae of Sunshine is the first novel in the Light in the Dark new adult romance series from author Micalea Smeltzer. It's the journey of an eighteen-year-old college freshman named Rachael Wilder who has decided to leave the life she had behind. She insists on people calling her "Rae" and makes a point of immediately distancing herself from anyone she encounters, refusing to form any connections or attachments. But her new roommate, Thea Montgomery, has no intention of letting Rae spend her days and nights alone. Then there's the hot guy who seems to make a habit of popping up when Rae least expects it ever since he bumped into her her first day on campus. Not only is Cade Montgomery her roommate's older brother, but he happens to also be a football star and college senior who has been earmarked for professional greatness. Cade steadily chips away at Rae's defenses, but will he still want to be with her when he learns what kind of monster she was? Little does she know Cade has his own secrets...

Rae Wilder was not an easy main character to like, what more become emotionally invested in, but this book is about her evolution as a young woman--from her being Rachael until her life was altered forever to becoming Rae when she started college to finding her way to the person that she is today. She grew on me, especially when the story hit its stride by the midway mark. The burden of guilt that she was carrying upon her shoulders would have brought others to their knees so even though she saw herself as some sort of monster, Rae was a far stronger character than she gave herself credit for. The flashbacks were heartrending but also insightful because they provided a point of comparison between Rachael and Rae and how even though she was trying desperately to be someone else, her true essence couldn't be buried in the past for too long. She may not have started out as a favorite and she certainly drew my ire more than once, but Rachael Wilder is a main character whose transformation was equally inspiring and thoughtful.

Figuring out what Rachael's secret was wasn't all that difficult but it was the secret that Cade was hiding that had me shocked. I don't agree with how Cade handled that particular situation and I understood why it wasn't resolved in this first in the series--I read the sequel soon after finishing this one--since it would leave something that could be settled in the second book, but I'll reserve my additional comments in my review for that book. His situation, though, does make me wonder if there's a connection between that and how his anger got the better of him a couple of times, albeit his reaction was due to his need to protect Rae. This is part of the reason why I would have wished his situation were tackled a bit further and given even a partial resolution rather than it being shelved temporarily without anything really being settled. All things considered, I still enjoyed this book overall and I'm glad that I stuck it out instead of letting my initial misgivings regarding Rae get the better of me. Rae of Sunshine was a worthwhile 4.5-starred read. ♥

Date Read: 29 August 2016

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