One and Only by Viv Daniels is the first installment of the Canton series and this is Tess McMann's story.
Tess did not have a "regular" upbringing, she is the product of her father's affair with her mother. Tess and her mother are the dirty little secret of an influential businessman who supports them on the condition that they follow a set of rules in order to keep his double life a secret. Tess grows up watching her mother being the "other woman", having a father who she can only interact behind closed doors and knowing that she has a sister but not being allowed to have any kind of relationship with her.
Tess is passionate about science, she's smart and dedicated to her studies and eventually she's accepted to a science program in a private college - Canton - but in order to protect his secrets, her father denies her the financial support necessary to attend Canton and she's left with no other option than to enroll in a state college.
Meanwhile, after her senior year, Tess receives an invitation to attend a prestigious science summer program at Cornell University.
Among the students on that program is Dylan Kingsley. When he first approaches Tess, she denies her attraction to him but they easily become friends and start working together on a project, but at the end of that summer program they are undeniably in love with each other and ultimately they can't resist their mutual attraction.
I didn't want to be dependent on anyone, the way Mom and I had always been. I knew I was weak like her, willing to give up the things I wanted – like Canton – to make the people I loved happy. I knew I was weak like her and wouldn't be able to be with a guy without falling for him.
Eventually they part ways, Tess denies herself the possibility of having something more with Dylan and she avoids his attempts to contact her.
Fast-forward two years and Tess gets a scholarship to attend Canton and for once she goes against her father's rules and doesn't lose this second opportunity to attend the school that has one of the best bioengineering departments in the country. She transfers to Canton where she reunites with Dylan, who is also a bioengineering major, Dylan is now more confident and really hot but he is also dating her half sister, Hanna.
I'm going to stop the "re-blurbing" now and let you find out the rest of this story. One and Only is a really engaging, highly entertaining and heartwarming, it's really "angsty" right from the start and you can expect a good amount of sexual tension,
and some cute and swoon-worthy moments too.
One and Only was a pleasant surprise, the college setting is really detailed, it felt real and it was great to follow a female character who is smart, driven, ambitious, that has goals and works hard to achieve them, and simultaneously has a part-time job in order to afford her education.
She has to deal with the tension and conflicting feelings generated by the situation with Dylan but it goes beyond that, Tess is someone who wants to be independent but struggles with the insecurities created by her upbringing and also with the difficult dynamics of her family.
The character development is great, it defies some common stereotypes in the NA genre, it was refreshing to have a male character who is nice, confident, smart and sexy. We also get to know some of the secondary characters back story and I also liked the fact that Hanna's (Tess' sister and Dylan's girlfriend) negative traits were not emphasized in order to solve the love triangle or to justify the relationship between Tess and Dylan.
It was an entertaining read,engaging, although, along the way, there were some minor developments that made my initial enthusiasm waver a bit, but they didn't affect my overall interest in the story. That said, the writing is excellent and I will definitely read the next book in the Canton series.