I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book. Wow. I don't even know how to feel. I am emotionally overwhelmed. And I mean that in the best way possible. This was like any other NA book I've ever read. The story, it's characters. Captivating. It holds you from the page and doesn't let go until the end. And then. You're left reeling. What was it that I just read? How can something so tragic be so beautiful? Well, it was.
“Why do you put up with me?”
“Because there’s nothing else I’d rather do.”
Amy has never been touched. Much less, by a man. The human touch is completely foreign to her. That is just the way she was raised. Making friends? Not too important as getting straight A's. She's gone this long without wanting to be touched. Until Dane. She meets him one random day and she finds herself craving the human touch in ways she never thought possible. But Dane also has a past. He is homeless. Has been since a young teen. And he wants Amy. He doesn't feel good enough for her, yet he is compelled to be the man he knows she deserves. As these two lives cross paths. Nothing is the same. Their lives are forever changed.
"She was his forever. Love meant accepting him however he came to her, with pleasure or with win. With buoyant smiles or dark,jagged secrets"
Your heart completely goes out to Amy and Dane. Because of their different life circumstances, neither one know love or emotions. Or how it feels to be needed by another. Until they meet. Their connection is felt from the very first page. You feel their fear, the want to avoid, and yet their yearning. These characters are real. Raw. Genuine. They are not perfect. And I loved them anyway. Love often goes where it is unheard of. It goes where there is darkness. The love between Amy and Dane went there. It saved them. From their selves. From the monotony of life that they lived. They learned that not only are they capable of love, but they deserve love too. They deserve to love and be loved despite what life handed them.
I enjoyed the writing style of this story. It grabs you and doesn't let you go. I literally felt like I was in a book coma by the end. I didn't want to let go of the characters who's world I was engrossed in. Giving away the complete story line would do the reader an injustice, so I won't go there. What I can and will say is that How To Say Goodbye goes where NA doesn't always go. It's painful, yet beautiful. Your heart is completely torn for two beautifully broken individuals. While this is a completed story, I am hoping that the author decides to expand on Amy and Dane. Their love is so deep. This NA has a realness factor. I think that is why I felt so emotionally attached to it. I recommend this to any fan of the NA genre looking for characters that will break your heart, yet make you fall in love with at the same time.
He smiled with the barest hint of irony. “Guess you have better things to do than build a sand castle.”
She hated how his words echoed her thoughts, how they put him down. Didn’t he know how much she would give to be like him? Relaxed. Confident. God, she didn’t want to be afraid anymore.
“I’ve got time.”
He pointed behind the castle. “There’s an enchanted forest right there.”
She knelt down. “Here?”
“No, over. A few inches to the left. Don’t you see it?”
He was…teasing her. It took her a second to understand just because it had never happened before. Not that she could remember.
She looked down to hide her smile. “I think I’ve got it now.”
He grinned. “Then get building, Cornell.”
Her first attempt was more like a molehill with a pointed top. By her second she’d learned to pack the sand more tightly, earning a brief nod from him. After that she worked steadily, forming the little conical pine trees in varying sizes. A vision sketched in her mind, of lush trees and woodland creatures, of fancy and imagination.
Kneeling in her oh-so-practical shoes was impossible, so she took them off. Her skirt hiked up her thighs as she scooted around the forest. Sand squeezed between the mesh of her stockings.
She hoped it would never come out.
When he finished carving arched windows, he stood back and dusted the sand from his palms. She trailed a finger down the last tree—this was how he’d feel, gritty and soft—before standing up to join him.
He was tall. His height shouldn’t have been a surprise; she was often the shortest one in the room. But she’d been equal to him on the ground, both of them dirty and eager in the sand. Now he was the tall, handsome stranger, and she the shy girl who hardly spoke.
She’d aced fluid mechanics, for God’s sake, so why should this matter? It didn’t, it didn’t. But her heart double-timed when she asked, “What do you think of the forest?”
With mock solemnity he studied the trees. They lined up neatly in rows like a Christmas tree farm she’d passed once in rural New York.
“It’s pretty,” he said, repeating her words. Then he smiled, almost shy. “Very pretty. Do you want to grab some dinner?”
Her breath caught. Had he just asked her out? It had sounded like that. Exactly like that. Her heart beat a rapid pace.
Daylight traced tiny lines radiating from his eyes, from the corners of his mouth. A smattering of blond hair covered the tanned skin of his chest, highlighting lean muscles beneath. Even the tips of his eyelashes were bleached, every part of him touched by the sun. A golden boy, a rippling-surface stereotype, while hidden depths lurked beneath. What would it take to dive under? In that moment she wanted to find out. Right then she wanted to drown.
But she’d had a lifetime of treading water, of survival. Only one answer made sense.
“I’m sorry.” Her voice sounded hoarse with disuse, as if she hadn’t spoken in years instead of seconds. “I’m not going to be here long. In Florida.”
She kicked herself. He hadn’t asked her to marry him, for God’s sake. He’d only wanted a date, and she should be able to do that. If she were more normal, she could have.
Fleeting emotions flickered across his face. Disappointment first, followed by others she couldn’t understand. But resignation—that one she recognized like an old friend.
“All right. Take care then.” His voice rang with finality. They would part now. She wouldn’t see him again, because she didn’t know how to be close to another human being. No textbook had ever taught her. No monthly phone call had told her how to feel.
Her face heated.
“You too,” she murmured. “I’ll see you around.”
But even that presumed too much. A slight shake of his head said no, she wouldn’t. His lips curved in a cold shadow of his former smile.
“Bye, Cornell.” He crossed the beach, heading for the water.
He walked right past the frothy edge and dived underneath, leaving only ripples in his wake. His head came up once for air, and again, and again, growing smaller, farther away.
She waited for hours. Or seconds, really. She stood with sand caked to her hands and her knees, feeling abraded and raw. Every other time in her life, she’d pretended not to want this. Friends and laughter. Easy camaraderie. Touch. Standing on the cooling sand, her stomach grumbling with hunger, she could no longer pretend.
Amber Lin writes edgy romance with damaged hearts, redemptive love, and a steamy ever after. Her debut novel, Giving It Up, received The Romance Review’s Top Pick, Night Owl Top Pick, and 5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies. RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars, calling it “truly extraordinary.” Since then, she has gone on to write erotic, contemporary, and historical romances. She has been published by Loose Id, Carina Press, and Entangled.
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