review

Review | Want You by Jen Frederick

Want You

by Jen Frederick

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SYNOPSIS

Bitsy

I might be only nineteen, but I know what I want. It’s Leka Moore. I don’t care that he took me in when he was barely more than a kid himself. I don’t care that he raised me. I don’t care everyone thinks being with him is wrong. I know we belong together, and the only person I need to convince is him.

Leka

I found her in the corner of a dark alley. If I hadn’t taken her with me, she would’ve died that night—or maybe worse. Before I knew it, she became the light in my dark life, the haven from the madness. I watched her grow up. I tried to teach her right from wrong. Now that she’s an adult, I’m feeling things that no good man should ever feel. But then…I’ve never been a good man. I have a chance at redemption by saving her from the greatest danger of all—me.


REVIEW

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Trigger warning:
Rape, rape and more rape.

I won’t hesitate here: I did not enjoy this story.

I love a good dark romance. I understand violence and degradation happen, because they’re recurring themes and features within the genre. Rape, sad to say, is still an ongoing issue in society and because it is such a dark, harrowing topic oftentimes it is featured in dark romance to dehumanise and demonise the antagonist.

But this? Kind of went too far.

Every woman, but three (including the female protagonist) either fell into: being a whore, prostitution, raped beyond belief, degraded, etc. Not one woman possessed a feeling of self-worth or agency, including Bitsy, to become the voice for every female character.

Poverty, hunger and homelessness will push humans towards making questionable actions and saying horrible things; police brutality and corruption happens everywhere around the world, but the way these topics were approached and handled was done with nonchalance.

Bitsy’s maturity levels are nonexistent. While she refuses to grow up, Leka is forced into it, too fast, too messily, to compensate for Bitsy’s inability to be an adult for two seconds.

I wouldn’t consider their “romance” romance, but rather a dysfunctional, toxic codependency with an emotionally stunted dynamic that even Dr. Phil couldn’t analyse. Bitsy harbours an unhealthy obsession and attachment towards Leka, who’s essentially a combination of father figure, older brother, perfect saviour and strange partner.

She’s initially nothing more than a girl Leka saves, making this coming-of-age narrative turn into some kind of forbidden romance. In the beginning, she’s some sweet, little girl who’s attached towards her saviour. But the minute she turns nineteen, Bitsy becomes this sudden, uncontrollable sexual fiend who enters a never ending push-pull game with Leka.

In no way does a smooth transition happen between teenage Bitsy and adult Bitsy. It is odd. Rough around the edges. And her sudden transformation feels a combination of expected and unexpected.

I also hate every male character, including Leka, who possesses no redeemable qualities whatsoever. I don’t care that he maintains a virgin status at 26. I don’t care that he cares about Bitsy. He is an awful human being with zero compassion for everyone around him until poor little Bitsy is threatened by some madman who, by the way, doesn’t seem to care about the danger surrounding her.

I’m disappointed that this story didn’t work me, because the synopsis was intriguing. I expected Want You to focus on Bitsy and Leka’s relationship as adults, with flashbacks weaved throughout to solidify their relationship, and create this connection between the reader and the characters. Instead, the story explored them as children/teenagers more so than as adults. I understand the decision to do this, as it does show that the main characters have history, but the time they have as adults is fairly limited.

 

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | The Girl and Her Ren by Pepper Winters

The Girl and Her Ren

by Pepper Winters


SYNOPSIS

REN
Ren didn’t know the meaning of love until he took Della for his own.
To begin with he hated her, but as the months bled into years, he learned the opposite of hate, dedicating his life to giving her everything.
Every sacrifice, every gift, he gave wholeheartedly.
But then love turned to lust and ruined everything.

DELLA
I was stupid to write my secrets down, but I’d been stupid before so it was nothing new.
I couldn’t blame him, hate him, fix him.
I tried to move on without him.
But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to delete the secrets I’d written.
Until something happened.
Until he came back and read my stupid secrets.
And nothing was the same after that.


REVIEW

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What do you do when you write down all your secrets and the one person who should never read them does?

Pepper Winters opened my eyes to dark romance. Now, she opens my heart up to epic love stories that transcend everything possible and imaginable. With her poetic writing and lyrical prose, she weaves a beautifully heart-wrenching, teeth-clenching and mind-numbing story that will leave an imprint on your psyche.

I thought The Boy and His Ribbon was fabulous. But this tale? The Girl and Her Ren is all consuming, thought provoking and brutally honest in its portrayal of true love. It rattled me. Destroyed me. Irrevocably changed me. I wouldn’t trade the heartbreaking, wonderfully written story for anything.

There was nothing to fight against… only something to fight for.

Della and Ren’s love is rich. Its realistically portrayed that only an artist with adeptness and attention can achieve. These are characters you will not only fall in love with, you’ll become best friends, too. You’ll follow their entire journey. From every sweet smile, to every bitter separation, no detail is excluded.

While Della and Ren’s story isn’t always pretty – it is full of bittersweet, raw pain and tender, loving moments – it is real. It is an epic story that will leave you sobbing fat, ugly tears. But, it will also make you smile until your cheeks hurt. You’ll laugh hard until your eyes blur and you’re gasping for breath. Goosebumps will erupt across your skin as you feel every emotion etched into the pages.

“Caring for you was the easiest thing I’ve ever done, Della. Raising you was the best thing I’ve ever achieved. I’m so f**king honoured to have had that privilege.”
Pushing her away a little, I bowed my head to stare hard into her eyes. She needed to hear this and she needed to hear it now.
Before I did what I could never undo.
Before I broke the final filament of my self-control.

Pepper Winters never ceases to amaze me.

She’s grown so much as a writer and story teller, and you can see that in this tale. Her characters remain true to themselves: Della is still stubborn yet selfless and loving; Ren is unapologetically himself, a man who is forever tied to nature and his beloved forests. And the bond these two share is forever.

The Girl and Her Ren is a beautifully tragic tale, brimming with unconditional love and unbreakable connections, that will stay with you forever. If you thought The Boy and His Ribbon was your greatest read, wait until The Girl and Her Ren.

Wild forever and always.

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The Ribbon Duet
The Boy and His Ribbon

The Girl and Her Ren

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | One Small Thing by Erin Watt

One Small Thing

by Erin Watt


SYNOPSIS

Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.


REVIEW

One Small Thing is my first story by Erin Watt. I had good faith that One Small Thing wouldn’t steer me in the opposite direction after hearing many good things about their series, The Royals. Thankfully it didn’t!

It is vastly different from my usual reading pattern as this is more young adult and while the romance was prominent it wasn’t heavy.

Three years ago, Elizabeth “Beth” Jones’ older sister, Rachel was killed in an accident, changing everyone’s lives in different ways. Now she’s trying to live life freely after spending those years suffocating underneath her parents’ over-protective and controlling ways, starting by sneaking out and going to parties outside of town.

Charles “Charlie/Chuck” Donnelley has just been released from juvie after carrying out three years for manslaughter. When he meets the sweet and beautiful Beth, she’s intrigued by this aura of mystery he appears to have. She doesn’t realise that this meeting will have repercussions that will inevitably see her world implode into a million pieces.

One Small Thing is about forgiveness, dealing with loss and family dynamics. It is also so much more, as it touches upon high school bullying, sexual assault and acceptance.

While Beth’s actions seem selfish, they are also understandable, because our formative years often happen while we’re teenagers, where we grow, change and learn who we are as individuals.

Underneath her seeming detached exterior is someone who’s suffering. Beth misses Rachel, the boy she wants is all kinds of wrong, her parents are smothering her and everyone around her seems to be telling her how she should feel.

I have two minor complaints about this story. One, I pretty much hated every secondary character. Everyone had to have an opinion on everything apparently. And some of them were just downright, unapologetic horrible human beings. Two, the end was abrupt and rushed. There wasn’t any closure and rather be shown the conclusion, it was told in several pages.

Otherwise, One Small Thing is a wonderful coming of age young adult story I recommend, especially if you’re wanting something a little different from the usual!


ARC provided by NetGalley and Harlequin Teen

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