Book Review – Life on the Level by Zoraida Córdova

You’ve maybe already read my reviews of the first two books in the On the Verge series, and if you have, you’ll know that I’ve loved all of them. [You can read them here: Luck on the Line and Love on the Ledge.] But this book takes the cake, hands down. I listened to it on audio from the library, so I’m sad I don’t have it in front of me to reference right now, but I definitely remember the feelings I was left with. And oh buddy. SO SWOONY.

In Life on the Level, River Thomas is on the run. Her dad passed away about six months earlier, and she’s been spiraling every since, gambling her way through life, until she gets in some trouble and realizes someone is after her. So she takes off for the wild west of Montana to attend a rehab facility out there. But the night before her stint in rehab is about to start, she decides to have one last hurrah. So she heads to a local bar, drinks some, and picks up a local guy, who takes her home with him. She’s gone before sunrise, headed to rehab to get started on her new life.

Except that guy–Hutch–is a counselor at the rehab facility. HER counselor. And they both realize that what they thought was a one-night stand was going to end up being anything but.

life on the level

3 Things I Loved

  1. Hutch. A lot of times, in romance, it’s not the nice guy who gets the girl. It’s the grumpy duke or the billionaire or the star athlete. But in this book, it’s the nice guy. The counselor at a rehab facility. The guy who only wants to make everything better for everyone. And it’s HOT too, which makes it so much better. I love it. I love the nice guys (I love the grumpy guys too, obvi, but I’m just saying.), and I think we need more nice guy romance heroes.
  2. The cast of side characters. Having this book set at an in-patient rehab facility opens the door to a lot of very interesting characters who are trying to overcome real problems. And those characters are written wonderfully, and respectfully, and they’re funny and they enhance the story so much. It was so fun.
  3. River’s friends. Sky and Leti (whom we met in Luck on the Line and Love on the Ledge, respectively) know all about River’s past and her problems, and they love her anyway. They’re there for her and they support her and they don’t question her even when she’s clearly messing her life up. They want the best for her, and they love her unconditionally in order to show it. More books with this type of female friendship in them, please!

Dislikes/Problematic Content

I have two things I want to talk about here – River herself, and some triggers to be aware of in this book.

River is… hard to love. But I think that’s the point. I didn’t love her in Love on the Ledge, so going into this book, I was unsure of what I would think. And I’ve seen that reflected in some of the other reviews I’ve read – people who didn’t love River in Sky’s book had trouble getting behind her finding love and happiness. But that’s the whole appeal of River in the first place. Even the people who are broken, who may be a little hard to love – they still deserve to find it. AND why is it only broken men who get to be redeemed? So anyway, it took me a while in the book to get behind River, but by the end, I was super pleased that she found happiness and stability and all those things that she needed to find in Hutch. (And if nothing else, read the book for Montana. It’s such a gorgeous place.)

The second thing I want to address are some triggers that are associated with this book. River is an addict. She’s surrounded by other young addicts, people whose vices were slowly killing them, so they were sent away. This makes it a complicated storyline. It leaves room for so many triggers, and I’m truly not sure I can remember them all. I know there is addiction present – lots of it. River’s specific vice is gambling, but there’s alcohol and drugs present as well. And there’s at least one overdose. So, as always, take care of yourselves. The book is fun and hot and satisfying, but know your limits.


A reminder of the rating scale:

  • Red = DNF, I hated everything
  • Orange = Ugh, no thank you
  • Yellow = I mean, I’ve read worse, but there were problems
  • Green = This was good! 
  • Blue = Oh my gosh, I loved this book!
  • Purple = This is the unicorn of books and I will be rereading it until the binding falls apart and EVERYONE should be reading it!

I’ll be the first to say that NOT everyone will like this book. It’s got some specific aspects that make it complicated, which I love, but isn’t for everyone. But it was by far my favorite book in the On the Verge series, and I have to treat it as such! I’m giving Life on the Level a BLUE rating. Because River and Hutch are beautiful.

Happy reading!

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