Some call me a party girl. People see me as happy, full of life, with absolutely no cares in the world. They see what I want them to see. But no one knows me – really knows me. Not even Noah Reese. Mr. Perfect is always watching me, most likely judging every single imperfect thing I do. But, if Noah wants to keep an eye on me, that’s just fine. I definitely don’t mind. I just hope he doesn’t have any plans to save me from my new-found life of self-destruction because in order to save me, he will have to see me…
And I’m never going to let that happen.
Perfect. That’s me. That’s the only acceptable way to be, according to my father. Perfect grades. Perfect manners. Perfect athlete. Perfect SAT scores. Perfect college. And recently, I was accepted into the perfect med school. My future has already been mapped out for me and there’s nothing that can change that. Not even Tatum O’Connell. That girl is out of control, yet for some reason, I can’t seem to keep my distance from her. I watch her closely, hoping that one day she’ll let me in, but watching her lead her life down the dangerous path she’s on right now isn’t easy…
I have a feeling I’m about to find myself swept away by the hurricane that is Tatum O’Connell.
“Two fleeting souls,
Too slowly drawn,
Impatient fate calls.
The jolting collide intertwines their lives
And splinters their walls.”
“Catalyst” – Noah Reese
“I would rather have one night with you, than to live the rest of my life with the possibility of never being able to experience loving another person the way that I love you.”
There are authors whose writing is so clearly a direct reflection of the steadily joyous outlook on life that runs through their veins, and after three instalments of this marvellous series, I am convinced that L.B. Simmons’ books are akin to happy pills. This is a story that excited me, elated me, made me hope it would never end, but it also crushed me and made me hide my head under a pillow, unable to take any more of my own heartbreak. This is a bright new direction for the series that promises to keep us on our toes with each new instalment.
Life has been pretty rotten to young Tatum O’Connell, her childhood having been what true nightmares are made of. Growing up with a disturbed mother and having had no one to save her from the horrors of her abuse, have shaped Tatum into a self-sufficient young woman who relies on no one in life, but who is inherently lonely at the best of times. Her latest boyfriend is neglectful and inconsiderate, but she chooses to keep him in her life, preferring his predictable carelessness over the prospect of being alone. She is still a lost little girl who defies the world around her by never committing to anything in her life, secretly hoping that people would stop wanting to “fix” her and aching for someone to finally want her for who she is, flaws and all.
“Broken hopes and expectations can leave very, very broken people. So after a while, you learn not to aim so high because when people fail you, you land hard and there’s only so many times a person can be shattered before they’re beyond repair.”
Noah is everything Tatum is not – collected, focussed, motivated. Or that is the mask he wears every single day of his life for the whole world to see. He has long forgotten what he wants out of life because he’s always had someone telling him what his future would be. A loveless childhood with a tyrant of a father has turned Noah into someone who is constantly pushing himself to meet set expectations, knowing all too well that no level of excellence would ever satisfy his father’s unachievable goals. When Noah meets Tatum, her chaotic and self-destructive existence equally fascinates him as well as frustrates him, seeing her rebellious act for the cry for help that it really is.
“Her eyes betray the sorrow that consumes her. What caused this pain?”
When the repercussions of Tatum’s latest tantrum cause her to have to spend a whole summer working closely alongside Noah, they are forced to get to know each other better and slowly reach past each other’s defences. The more they find out about one another, the more protective they become of each other’s wellbeing, and soon their hearts are hopelessly beating in sync. Loving and wanting each other desperately is easy, it comes naturally to both of them, but acknowledging those feelings openly is the hard part. The invisible thread to their pasts constantly pulls them in opposite directions, testing their resolve and forcing them to acknowledge the prospect of a future that is bound to make them miserable, unless they seize the happiness that life is finally offering them.
“I’m tired of denying myself the only thing in my life that I’ve ever really wanted. And I want you. Every part of you, flaws and all.”
It’s a story of courage, resilience, grabbing life by the horns instead of sitting on the sidelines, and it is a story about finding the kind of love that makes you brave enough to take control of your own destiny. This is a huge departure for this author in every possible way – it’s a fresh new style, fresh new feel to the story, and brand new direction for the series. Ms Simmons has taken numerous risks with the storyline, delving into much deeper characterisation of the key players, adding complex psychological layers to them that have made this story a real treat to sink our teeth into. The secondary characters play a vital role in the overall picture as well, some “old friends” making recurring appearances and aiding Tatum and Noah on their path to freedom from the shackles of their pasts. The general “feel” of the book might be slightly darker and edgier than its prequels, but the overwhelming air of wholesome goodness is ever-present and it’s like watching a favourite romantic movie for the umpteenth time – you just know you’ll be smiling in the end.
I wish some parts of the plotline had been given more airtime, I wish some secondary characters’ actions had made more sense to me, I wish Tatum’s relationship with her brother had given me more comfort in the end, but ultimately none of my wishes take away from the stunning story that this book truly is. It put my poor heart through the wringer, making me care for the characters, invested in their journey from start to finish. Just when I thought no one could come close to Blake and Alex in my heart, Ms Simmons gave us Noah and Tatum…
“I have absolutely no fight left in me when it comes to you. I have no walls, no defense, no safety net, no plan. I just am when I’m with you.”
✤ ✤ ✤
Mending Hearts – Reading Order and Purchase Links
✤ ✤ ✤
L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.