At age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.
For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.
To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.
“I’m scared I’ll never feel this again with anyone else.”
“I’m scared you will.”
I have a confession to make. I started reading this book at least half a dozen times over the past two months, and every single time I could not get past its very first scene. I am a glutton for angst, I seek and devour stories that make me feel, that move me one way or another, thus leaving a small but memorable trace of themselves in me long after I finish reading them, but I do not enjoy scenarios that hit too close to home, the finality of which leaves me without any hope left, and where the pain I experience while reading those few pages adversely affects my experience of the entire book. I am a diehard fan of Colleen Hoover’s brand of storytelling, her endless imagination and irrefutable skill at penning little masterpieces of ‘mass destruction’ always leaving me speechless and in awe, but I simply could not connect with this story as well as I hoped, and even though I enjoyed it in the end, it did not keep me enthralled as her stories normally do because I failed to connect with the characters on too many levels. And yet, given the very subjective nature of my ‘objections’, I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat as I don’t doubt it for a moment that most readers will love this story with all their hearts.
“I’m so tired of having to give up the only things in life I want.”
The sum of all its heartbreaking puzzle pieces, this is a story like no other I have ever read. Auburn Reed is a young woman in her early twenties whose past six years of her life have slowly crushed her spirit, leaving her unsure of herself, vulnerable, and stuck to the choices she was forced to make. The helplessness of her situation, however, has not completely extinguished that tenacious spark in her that drives her to believe her future could be brighter one day. And it is her resolve to better her life that brings her to the door of an art studio in downtown Dallas with a “help wanted” sign in the window.
Owen Gentry is an artist, a loner, a young man who drowns his demons in the striking art he creates by drawing inspiration from other people’s life stories rather than confronting the reality of his own. But not even the weight of his own self-reproach could ever erase the selflessness of his heart, or his fiercely protective nature. Finding Auburn at his doorstep is something he always hoped for but never dared to believe could happen. We are told their story from two very different perspectives, aware from the very beginning that their perceptions of their fated encounter are nothing alike, but the connection they both feel from the moment they set eyes on one another is the same—visceral, irrefutable, unfaltering.
“I’ve never felt stronger than I feel when I’m with her. I’ve never felt like I had purpose like I feel when I’m with her.”
As they dare to explore the attraction between them, we slowly discover what their lives truly entail and why being together is perhaps something they were never meant to have. They selflessly give their hearts to one another, that love palpable in their every stolen touch, every lingering glance, every playful word, but some loves come at too high a price to bear, and Auburn and Owen’s love might have been ill-fated from the very start.
“I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give me. Because I know that if you walk out that door, then ten years from now . . . twenty years from now . . . we’ll wish we had listened to our hearts when we think back on tonight.”
“That’s what scares me. I’m afraid if I listen to my heart once, I’ll never figure out how to ignore it again.”
Colleen Hoover has created another unforgettable story exploring the human condition and, in this case, how much of themselves a person is willing to sacrifice for the ones they love. Her trademark sense of humour, her familiar literary techniques, the very recognisable tone of her characters, are all there to pull us in and leave us incapable of putting this story down, but I found myself unable to connect with Auburn and Owen as well as I needed to in order to become completely invested in their story. I felt we were offered only snippets of their colourful personalities, as well as of some of the secondary characters, but not enough to make me understand them in their entirety. There was an intensity to this story that was missing in my eyes, especially given its themes, many vital aspects that could have made me feel closer to the characters often only hinted at or brushed over too quickly. The confident straightforwardness with which this author always tells her tales did not fit the story, in my opinion, leaving me wishing for more emotion, more passion, more highs and lows that neither of these characters got to express, especially given the helplessness of the situations they both found themselves in.
A very touching tale of two people whose lives have been intertwined for longer than they realise and whose hearts are forced to battle what their every instinct tells them to feel, this is a story that will greatly please most readers, and even with my own inability to connect with some aspects of it, I have to admit that I could not put it down. There is a great balance to this story that leaves us filled with hope and bittersweet positivity, showing us that for every act of thievery that life inflicts upon us, there is a gift offered in its stead.
“She deserves better. So much better. She deserves me. If only she knew that.”
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