Being honest sucks.
This is definitely going to be one of the most painful reviews I have ever written :'(
Let me start out by saying that I absolutely adored the first book, Sempre, and still stand by the fact that it is one of my all-time favorite books. For me, it was a 5-star read. It was different, unique, thrilling, sexy. It made my heart race, kept me connected and took me on a reading journey unlike any other I’d ever been on. Needless to say, Sempre: Redemption was one of my most highly anticipated book releases of the year and I could not wait to find out what happened next for Carmine and Haven.
Unfortunately though, this book didn’t really work for me.
While I will keep this as spoiler free as I can while I explain why — the only thing I’m going to have to mention is something that happens very early on at 12% in the book because that event is the major reason why I was not happy with the direction of this story.
Before I get into the bad though, I will say that I loved the first 12% of this book. From the opening line, my heart was right back in the story. I’d missed these characters so much and it was so good to be back with Carmine and Haven and see them together even in the midst of their rather dangerous new situation.
“I did it because I love you, Haven, and you didn’t force me to fucking love you. I did that shit all on my own. And I don’t regret any of it.”
With Carmine essentially now one of Salvatore’s pawns, he was trapped and no longer in control of his life, soon to be forced to relocate to Chicago and work for Sal full-time….
“Run away with me,” he continued, leaning down to softly kiss her lips.“We can disappear before the sun comes up.”…
“We can’t run away.”
He sighed. “It’s a nice dream, though, isn’t it?”
I couldn’t wait to see how he and Haven would handle this new obstacle together. I mean, just think of how what an interesting story it would be to see them try and continue their relationship in the midst of all of this hellish craziness while Carmine was forced to participate in the Mafia lifestyle. I couldn’t wait to watch them draw on each other for strength, to help each other through it……… but, no.
This was not where the story was going. AT ALL.
Carmine left. Without telling Haven. Just fucking left. (this is that moment at 12% I was talking about)
Ok, so… I was still “with” the story at that point… I figured maybe either he would realize the monumental error of his way or she would go after him and give him a piece of her mind for leaving like that and show him that they really could make it work and just that someway, they’d find their way back to each other after maybe like 50 – 60, or even 100 pages or so….. right????
The reunion wasn’t until 72%.
THEY SPENT 60% OF THE BOOK APART!!!!! 🙁
Before I go any further, I’d like to explain the reason why I was so shocked by this separation. If you read the book’s blurb, it totally gives the impression that this is a romance (just like the first book was) with a couple working on their relationship (which this book was decidedly not). Here’s the opening line from the blurb — “In this thrilling and sexy follow-up to Sempre, two young lovers struggle to keep their relationship intact after they become deeply enmeshed in the dangerous mafia-run crime ring they once tried to overthrow.” …… Okay, maybe it’s just me but, based on that line, I was expecting a story where they actually struggled to keep their relationship intact, not one where they spent 60% of the book with absolutely no contact with each other (of their own choice I might add — there could have been secret meetings or secret messages and such… even the separation could have been turned into something sexy and thrilling but instead Carmine and Haven chose to completely remain away from each other).
So here’s more of an explanation into my feelings…. As a reader, I don’t really care how painful a hardship a couple has to go through, but I want to see them do it together. I was frustrated because what I loved most about Sempre and about Carmine & Haven was THEM — them together.
I might just be overly romantic at heart but I genuinely believe in couples working through things together. I do understand when separation needs to happen but if it does, then I want it to be either where a situation outside their control tears them apart and they do everything in their power to get back to each other or where they do get separated but then realize their mistake after not toooooo long and one of them makes an epic come back to set the other straight. Or something like that, y’know?
I really struggled with the fact that they spent the majority of the book apart and while I could understand the need for them to grow individually, 60% of separation was just too much in a 530 page book. I didn’t really care that much about two people dealing with stuff separately… my connection was to THEM as a couple, not to them individually (like, I wouldn’t be that interested in reading a book just about Haven, for example). I am a romance reader. The first book was a romance — in fact, it was a beautiful romance. This one though was more like a Mafia book with a light sprinkling of romance.
I’ll be honest and say that by the half way mark, I was struggling not to put the book down. Really, it just felt too long. See, technically I love the world that the author had created — it was fascinating, dangerous and had so many stories to tell, but in order for me to be able to stay interested in the Mafia side of the story, I needed it to have been balanced out by a ton of romance (like, if Haven had gone with him to Chicago for example) – either that or, in my opinion, it should have been shorter.
For the record though, even though they are separated and not technically “a couple” for most of the book, neither of them sleep with anyone else – thank God!! Haven does go on one date (ugh!!) but that’s it.
In the interest of fairness though, I’d like to point out that a lot of my issues with this book were definitely personal pet peeves. I didn’t describe things further because I didn’t want to give spoilers but there were other things that bothered me too. However… it’s entirely possible that these things might not bother you at all. I’m just very strongly romantic at heart — I love seeing couples together and facing the world together so separation with no contact between the main characters is a plot element that is usually very hard for me to be okay with… and that’s just personal.
However, despite the fact that I did not like the direction of the storyline, I still loved certain parts of this book. It’s a very well put together story with so many intricate layers to it. I absolutely loved the writing — it had the same smart, engaging and very unique tone to it that I associate so strongly with Sempre.
Another positive thing is something I said when I read Sempre and I’ll happily say it again now — this story would make a phenomenal movie!!!! I mean really!!! Sempre already has a movie deal so I really hope the movie gods hurry it up because I really felt like I could see the whole story playing out in front of me while I was reading it. I could easily see this as being the “next big Blockbuster” movie hit. Easily!!
I’ll also say that in the scenes where Carmine & Haven were together though, I loved the story. With the way this book ends, their story is fully wrapped up along with a beautiful epilogue set ten years into future.
I think the bottom line is that I loved Sempre and while I’ll admit that this book didn’t work for me, I still love the characters and I loved Sempre enough to still keep loving the overall story. I think that Carmine and Haven will always have a special place in my heart.
“You love me.”
“I do,” he said. “No matter what. Sempre.”
Overall rating: 3 – 3.5 stars (but 4.5 for the first 12% of the book + for the ending)
Gosh. That’s painful to write.
Did I mention that being honest sucks?? 🙁