“In the balance of love and loss, it was love that made me struggle to… Breathe.”
This is the story of a girl holding on to a fragile thread of hope and a love that that brought a ray of light into her world of unspeakable cruelty. Intense, heart wrenching and gripping. I could not put it down!
I’d been waiting to read this book for what felt like forever. This was actually one of the first series I heard about when I first started reading contemporary romance. Everyone kept telling me how amazing they were and I had a feeling I’d love them but I also knew about the brutal cliffhangers so I decided to tough it out and wait ’til I could read all three books back-to-back. So, the moment the final book was released, I was all over it.
I’d been warned to read this book with tissues and Xanax. I knew to expect painful. I knew to expect intense. But wow, the sheer cruelty in this book was just gut wrenching.
From the very beginning, you can feel how trapped Emma is. With her parents no longer in the picture, she was sent to live with her aunt, uncle and two little cousins. Her aunt was cold-hearted and brutally abusive in every way – physically, verbally, and emotionally. Emma’s main goal was just to keep her head down, stay invisible, and get good marks in school while she counted down the days ’til she could escape to college – away from the hurt, abuse and brutality. She was smart, kind-hearted, and hard working. You couldn’t help but desperately with she could escape.
Enter Evan Mathews. Confident, gorgeous and new at school – something about him managed to unravel her… bringing her out of her shell. He had this way about him that was hard to ignore, he saw into her, was direct about his thoughts, and utterly determined to get to know her better. And, despite her better judgment, she carefully decided to let him in despite knowing the repercussions if they were ever found out.
What was with this guy? First I didn’t notice him for almost a week, and now I could avoid him… Why wasn’t I invisible to him like I was to everyone else?
“No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?”
Her home life was brutal. I need to stress how much of a monster her aunt was. She might actually be one of the most purely evil characters I have ever read. The horrible things she said and the horrific things she did just appalled and sickened me. And her uncle just stood by and willfully ignored it despite knowing what was going on. Between the two of them, they personified “the bully and the bystander”. Equally bad, equally hurtful, equally cruel.. because having the power to stop cruelty and choosing not to is really no different from delivering it yourself.
I think the worst part was how her aunt’s cruelty was directed solely at her. She was a good mother to her own children and while Emma knew that all she had to do to end her suffering was make one phone call, or walk into the school’s psych department and utter one sentence, she also knew it would rip apart that family and take away her little cousins’ mother and she was too good of a person to do that so she bore the pain, cruelty and abuse and lived in hell so that they could continue a normal life.
“I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to let her get to me. I’m not okay with this,” I said pointing to my head, “but what choice do I have? I’ll deal with it. So please don’t cry.”
The unfairness of it all was just so poignant. It was literally just random acts of cruelty for no other reason that one woman’s hatred of another human being. Pure evil.
I think every person is different. I’m not sure I personally agreed with Emma’s rationalization for why she stayed but at the same time I certainly could understand and sympathize with it. The truth is what she did was incredibly brave and selfless. Too brave, too selfless perhaps… but still worthy of being recognized for what it was.
But please don’t think this book is all pain and sadness. Evan was just this wonderful ray of light in her life. There was no insta-love here, but rather a quiet, slow-building love that had me smiling despite how horrible her situation was. Evan was just perfect. A gorgeous, kind hearted, endearing guy who so clearly thought the world of Emma. I couldn’t help but hope that they could find a way to be together.
“That’s what was bothering so much about Evan Mathews. He knew I existed. He was determined to pull me out of the shadows, and I couldn’t get away from him. He wasn’t deterred by my one word answers or abrupt responses. He wasn’t supposed to be paying attention to me, and I was trying, without success, to ignore him. But he was getting to me, and I think he knew it.”
There was this constant push and pull between them. Emma was terrified to start anything with him because of her need to keep her home life a secret but he was just so completely into her and willing to not push her to reveal more than she was willing to. He was patient, persistent, charming and into her enough to let her set the pace and rules for their relationship – almost as if he could sense that there was a reason for the distance she kept placing between them.
“I don’t know how to fit you in my world without hurting you too.” The truth in my words revealed more than he’d ever know.
“Don’t worry about hurting me,” he said calmly. “I like being a part of your world, and I understand that its more complicated than you’re willing to share with me. But I’ll respect that for now.”
But he didn’t stop trying to figure her out. My heart was so happy for the little moments of joy they found but at the same time it was filled with dread because I knew that it would inevitably get worse before it got better.
“We were engaged in a very intimate dance of touching without touching, knowing without saying, and feeling without expressing. We were friends walking a ledge, a very thin ledge – and I was too caught up in my heightened awareness of his existence to realize how close the ledge was to crumbling beneath my feet.”
I went through some frustration part way through the book with Drew. Why could she let him in but not Evan? I mean, I understood – she didn’t care about him in the same way so it didn’t matter but it still hurt. A lot. I hated him on principle and I hated seeing his name on the page. And when that whole issues was resolved, I just breathed this huge sigh of relief and was so happy to see how they actually talked through their issues so functionally. It definitely made me forgive and forget the heartache.
“I knew in that moment, I would never love anyone in my life the way I loved Evan Mathews.”
I really can’t tell you how much I loved Evan. Everything about him… they way he understood without needing to be told, the way he kept coming back for her, the way he would always find a way to bring some happiness into her life… I just really loved him.
“Even if you won’t, or can’t, tell me – I know. I do have to tell you that I can’t ever sit in a hospital waiting room again.”
“I fell -” I tried to explain.
“Don’t,” Evan urged. “I know. Without you or Sara telling me, I know. So, even if you can’t tell me the truth, don’t lie. Don’t defend them like it’s okay. Because it’s not. I won’t let them do that to you again.”
I knew there was a giant cliffhanger at the end as I got closer and closer to the end of the book, the dread and anticipation built… they were so happy, so close to a shot at real permanent happiness and when it hit… ho boy! My heart was in my throat!!! It was brutal. And I am so beyond grateful that I have the next two book sitting here ready to go because there is absolutely no way I’m stopping now. I need to know what happens next!
You should also know that while some of the scenes are definitely not easy to read but you should know that they not overly graphic. It’s not that kind of book.
I love Rebecca Donovan’s writing style. The descriptions and flow of the story just suck you right in. Despite the book being over 450 pages, I read it in one sitting and was unable to put it down. It’s the kind of story that makes you care deeply about the characters and just *need* to know what happens next.
Tammara Webber’s quote on the cover couldn’t have said it better:
“When hope is a fragile thread, love is a miracle.”
Rating: 4.5 stars
SERIES READING ORDER
This is a completed trilogy.