Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

New Adult

REVIEW:  A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

REVIEW: A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

22913988

Dear Ms. Andrews:

Ah, star-crossed love. I adore romances in which “forbidden” isn’t just a buzzword in the title.

After rumspringa rebelliousness left three teenagers dead, Issac’s family left their Amish community in Ohio to begin a new one with a much stricter Ordnung. (Regulations about every aspect of life, down to the exact size of bands on hats.) In his previous life Isaac could use a mirror, take a shower, and occasionally get to eat at MacDonalds. (There was even buggy parking.) But in the new Minnesota community, anything with the slightest tinge of “worldliness” is frowned upon. The atmosphere reminded me of the movie “Office Space,” in which a restaurant employee was chided for wearing no more than the required amount of decoration — even just abiding by the actual rules isn’t enough, you have to go above and beyond.

For most youngies — young adults who have yet to officially join the church — having a chance to enjoy some free time with the opposite sex is a bright spot in their hard-working lives. But at 18, even with pressure from his family to settle down, Isaac can’t seem to get interested in courting.

Isaac glanced at Mary Lantz again. She was pretty enough–more than enough, with her kind smile and her big blue eyes that were darker than her brother’s. There was nothing wrong with Mary. But Isaac was beginning to think there was something very wrong with him.

The problem is, Isaac is far, far more interested in Mary’s brother David, who’s teaching him woodworking. The growth of this unspeakable attraction is shown deliciously in many small touches and glances. At one point, David sneaks Isaac into the “English” world to watch a movie, and gives him jeans to wear, with an unfamiliar and forbidden zipper.

‘Do you want me to do it for you?’ David asked.
Isaac could only jerk his head in a nod. He held his breath as David reached down and ever so gently zipped the fly of Isaac’s English jeans. He did up the button at the top, his knuckles brushing against Isaac’s trembling belly. They were standing so close that Isaac could see the flecks of grey in Davids eyes…

But once the first move is made, they quickly move past kisses into an explicit sexual relationship. I found this a little unconvincing; David seems awfully sophisticated and commanding for a virgin, even one four years older than his lover, and with some experience in the outside world. (And he better not be lying, since they know nothing about safe sex!) The emotionalism of the sex scenes sometimes felt overdone, but the tenderness is palpable, focusing on their blissful freedom to be themselves and to adore each other’s bodies. The worry about discovery and hellfire taints everything, of course, as does the increasing yearning for the ability to share their lives completely. Suspense mounts as David insists that once he joins the church, he’ll be able to put these feelings aside and be at peace.

The story is rich with descriptive details that immerse the reader in the unfamiliar environment, and also with moments that highlight the emotional realities of this kind of life — for example, when Isaac inadvertently mentions his excommunicated older brother’s name at the dinner table, and his youngest brother asks, “Who’s Aaron?”

It was like a physical blow to to Isaac’s gut, the realization that of course Joseph didn’t even know of Aaron’s existence. Katie watched them all with big eyes brimming with tears. She’d only been a baby. Had Isaac and Ephraim really never talked about Aaron with them? He wasn’t even sure if Nathan knew his name, but judging by the tension in his frame, Isaac thought he did.

‘No one,’ Father answered.

And that was that.

I’ve never read an Amish romance before, unless you count Sunshine and Shadow, but I have the impression they tend to be idealized portraits. This is very much the opposite, which made me slightly uncomfortable; I felt there should be a little more balance when describing a religious community. The acknowledgments thank “the ex-Amish who so generously shared their stories” but it would have seemed respectful to have a little insight into why some people would want to stay, other than fear of the modern world and the pain of losing their families.

There were parts of the narrative that feel a little too pat, particularly towards the end, but they’re always well set-up. For example, a early scene in which Isaac describes Amish life to a conveniently curious quilt-buyer is interspersed with his uncomfortable realizations about how attractive the man is. Overall this is a very well-realized, touching story, with plenty of heat. (It is also well produced, with nothing that screams “self-published.”) As with many New Adult books, the end leaves plenty of unanswered questions and there will be a sequel, but there’s no relationship cliffhanger, thank goodness. B

Sincerely,
Willaful

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen

REVIEW: The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen

TYWHA

Dear Ms. Bowen:

Jane read your first book in the Ivy Years Series, The Year We Fell Down, and really enjoyed it. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant to read it because generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of “issue” books. I like my romance straightforward with the issues coming internally, rather than externally. But why I ever question Jane when she directly says to me, “I’m sure you’ll like these books” is beyond me. So this weekend I opened The Year We Fell Down and gobbled it up in giant bites. Of course, I immediately bought and gorged on book two, The Year We Hid Away, which I think I enjoyed even more that The Year We Fell Down.

Shannon Ellison is fleeing her life. The daughter of a well known former NHL star, and current hockey coach who is now accused of molesting multiple young boys, she wants nothing more than to escape the relentless news reporters and ooglers who chase her family and have made her a prisoner in her own home. She honestly doesn’t know if her dad is guilty. He was a pretty horrible father, always cold and critical. All she wants is to escape her family. She does this by legally changing her name to Scarlet Crowley and fleeing to Harkness College where she hopes no one will recognize her. Her senior year in high school was awful. She became an outcast, despite being a well recruited, extremely talented hockey player. She lost friends, and her position on the squad. Now, she just wants to start over.

She arrives at college, immediately informs the hockey coach that she can’t play for her, and tries to get on with her life. She enrolls in a Stats class and meets Bridger McCauley. He’s gorgeous, a former hockey player and seems really friendly. Bridger also has a secret. Since his dad’s death, his mother has become an addict. The last time he was home, he found drug paraphernalia on the dining room table, and he promptly removed his seven year old sister, Lucy from the home. He’s been hiding her in his dorm room ever since. He has no family in the area and is unwilling to tell his secret to anyone. He knows his best friend Adam’s mom would take Lucy in, but she’s just started college (the first thing she’s really ever done just for herself) and he doesn’t want to impose upon her generosity and kindness. No, he’s determined he’ll care for Lucy. She’s his responsibility. But he knows that if Social Services finds out about his mom or that he has Lucy, they’ll remove her from his care. He’s bound and determined that won’t happen.

Bridger catches Scarlet staring at him in Stats class. They strike up a cautious friendship, with him offering to help her with Stats and her offering to help him through Music Theory. They’re absolutely attracted to each other, but neither can take that next step because of their secrets. But the more time they spend together, the more tempting they become to each other. Once they finally do act on that attraction, they want nothing more than to be with each other, but Bridger really can’t build a life outside of caring for Lucy and Scarlet is terrified of her secret coming out. When Bridger finally confesses to Scarlet what is going on, she’s touched and impressed with his deep and abiding love for his sister and she begins to help them. But she knows the longer she’s with Bridger, the more likely he is to find out her secret. And she knows that if it comes out, she could risk both losing him, and negatively impacting whether he can keep custody of Lucy. But when Scarlet’s father’s attorneys and the States Attorney begin chasing down Scarlet to testify, she knows her secret will come out. Will the fragile relationship she and Bridger have been building be strong enough to withstand the storm?

I’ve been reading New Adult books for a while now, and so many of them are filled with what I’d call “pseudo-angst” or angst that feels manufactured, rather than a genuine plot point that propels the story forward. But both Scarlet and Bridger had true issues. Tough ones that informed their priorities and provide a true tension to their love story. I felt like the story had a few loose threads that I’d have liked to see you build upon, most specifically Scarlet’s love for music, which seemed so big at the beginning of the story and then was somewhat left by the wayside once the action began. But overall, the story is extremely well plotted. The characters both grow and change throughout, and it’s got a really fascinating hook to it. As usual, Jane was right. The Year We Hid Away was right up my alley and definitely one of a few New Adult books that I’ve read recently that truly resonates. Final grade: B+

Kind regards,

Kati

 

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle