The Private series centers on Reed Brennan, a scholarship student, and the chains of events that unfold when she enters the Easton Academy and moves to the Billing House -- the most exclusive and sought-after girls dormitory in campus. Those who have read the series knows that she falls victim to Ariana Osgood after she starts dating seventeen-year-old resident hottie and rogue Thomas Pearson. Now we finally get Ariana's side of the story -- the things that occur before Reed sets foot at Easton. Ariana Osgood has always been a good girl. A constant overachiever, she gets the best grades in school, is a Billings girl, has a boyfriend who is a big Easton legacy, and has her eyes set on Princeton. But no one -- not even her best friend Noelle -- knows that she does it all to make her mother, who suffers from a mental illness, happy. She's never done what she wants. In fact, she doesn't know what she wants. That is until Thomas Pearson, the school's drug dealer, begins to seduce her. They end up stuck at Easton during a big blizzard on Christmas vacation. They are not supposed to be there, and they have to hide from the staff as well as from people who might rat their flirtation out to her boyfriend. Falling for Thomas changes Ariana in ways she had never imagined. But she doesn't want to upset her mother, which means she has to continue to live a lie. She is torn between living a lie and living her dream of being Thomas's girlfriend. Not to worry, because they will be together soon, won't have to hide any longer. Thomas loves her, after all -- doesn't he?
I like what Brian has done with this prequel. It is consistent to the things that go on in the Private series and manages to put on a few surprises as well. As usual in this unpredictable series, there are some twists and turns that will leave you gaping and wanting more. Ariana is humanized in this book, so much so that I felt sorry for her. The characterization is excellent. She has psychotic and obsessive tendencies long before everything unfolds. They are subtle, and Brian shows this rather than tell it, which makes it all the more brilliant. Speaking of great characters, Thomas is wonderful. He has his flaws, of course, but he is a far more interesting male character than Gage, Dash, and even Josh. If only Brian hadn't killed him so soon in the series. The disappointing thing in this book is that Noelle seldom appears in this book. However, it is nice to see her in a position where she isn't as powerful or as influential as she becomes later on. Also, Taylor and Kiran are MIA in this book, which kind of confused me. When did they join Billings? Other than that, I loved Last Christmas. It was like getting an early Christmas present. I so look forward to reading Privilege and Paradise Lost.