Blog Tour & Giveaway: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen ~ Read Brittany's 4 Star Review, and Enter to #Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
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• What did Tristan do that he desperately needs forgiveness for?
• Can I root for the budding relationship between Aimee and Tristan, knowing she has a fiancée waiting for her somewhere?
• Could any romance built under these circumstances thrive when reality inevitably comes crashing down on them again?
These are just a few of the questions I had before diving in to Withering Hope. I was more than ready to get these answers and begin what, from reading the synopsis, seemed like a frightening adventure, hopefully with heaps of romantic/sexual tension and angst. Bring it on.
I was pleased to see the author jump right into the action from the first few pages. I love a good backstory as much as the next girl, but it's great when a story can suck you in straight away and really get things going. I was surprised to discover that Tristan and Aimee actually knew each other prior to their disastrous flight, albeit not well. Even more interesting (or might eventually prove to be) was that Tristan knows Aimee's fiancée, Chris, since he is the pilot for his company's private jet. Maybe I should have assumed as such from the blurb, but, for some reason, I was expecting complete strangers going in.
From Aimee's admission, we learn that Tristan is closed off, a very private person. Their stilted relationship makes early encounters awkward, but there's no room for that in their predicament. Being stranded in the rainforest, with only each other to depend on for comfort and survival, forces them to become familiar pretty quickly. It's not long until they're working together, trying to make the best of their dire situation. Aimee and Tristan both turn out to be quite resourceful. As much as they need to depend on each other, though, Aimee still has a hard time getting Tristan to talk much, or open up to her. Turns out, he has his own reasons for keeping some emotional diatance, and I loved him even more for it. Slowly, but surely, Aimee breaks down Tristan's defenses, and a friendship begins to form... or is it more?
I thought the bond between us here in the rainforest was one of friendship. But maybe it's more. Maybe I feel more than I think for this man who's not only the strongest person I've met, but who also seems more determined to keep me alive than himself.
Now, let me say something about myself. I have a slight (read: major) rainforest phobia. Every time I visit the aquarium, I'm a mess in the rainforest exhibit. I walk quickly, with my head tilted down, shoulders at my ears, just waiting for something to fall on my head. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful. I want to love it, I do, which is why I always force myself inside. But it's also super creepy for me. With all the hanging vines and creepy crawlies, the strange animal noises and angrily squawking birds. No, thank you. So... to say I was mildly creeped out by reading about Aimee and Tristan's encounters in this book would be an accurate statement. But bravo to the author for creating such a vivid visual, at least! Even if I did want to break out in hives at the first mention of snakes and multi-legged insects crawling on Aimee's fingers. *cringe*
I absutely loved Aimee and Tristan. They were both well developed characters, both strong and complex. The way they handled the obstacles they faced after the crash was admirable, and I was sad to say goodbye to them at the end. Some of the romantic dialogue between the two came off a bit sappy at times, but other times it worked really well. I suppose it was nice to have a good dose of sweet when surrounded by so much struggle. I think the way their romance unfolded was handled well, and I couldn't fault them for finding such a connection when faced with what they had to live through daily while stranded in the rainforest. It's hard not to root for a couple to find happiness when they're in a life or death situation, surrounded by predators, illnesses, and the constant risk of injury or death. It was a beautiful thing to experience them finding solace in each other.
Without warning, he puts his arms around me in a tender embrace. From the plethora of feelings striking me in this moment-- heat, guilt, confusion-- most powerful is the feeling that I belong here in his arms.
Afrer reading Withering Hope, I've become a fan of Layla Hagen, and I can't wait to read more from her. This is the first time I've had the pleasure of reading her work, and what a great read it was. Her writing is beautiful, and the pacing of the story made for a book that was very difficult to put down. Withering Hope was a highly entertaining story, one that was filled with its fair share of both heart-stopping and heartwarming moments. And the ending of the epilogue? Way to rip my heart into a million pieces! If you're a fan of books like On The Island, and stories of finding love in unlikely places, in the most dire of situations, then I highly recommend this one.
Maybe it's true what they say, that without darkness, you can never truly appreciate the light.
My name is Layla Hagen and I am a New Adult Contemporary Romance author.
I fell in love with books when I was nine years old, and my love affair with stories continues even now, many years later.
I write romantic stories and can’t wait to share them with the world.
And I drink coffee. Lots of it, in case the photo didn’t make it obvious enough
Connect with Layla:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter
“Did you ever try to find your mom?” Danny asked me. She’d insisted on coming downstairs for lunch the next day.
“Sip slow,” I told her, handing her a cup of chicken broth.
“No. I never tried to find her.”
“Do you ever think about it?” she asked, taking a couple crackers out of the box I set on the table.
“No. She took off on me. I don’t want to force my way into someone’s life who doesn’t want me there.”
She made an, “Mmm,” sound, nodding and staring into her mug.
“What about you?” I asked. “Have you talked to your mom?”
Danny was taken away. Her mom wanted her, but she couldn’t take care of her. When we were with Striker, she’d make wishes on stars and dandelion fuzz and birthday candles for her mom to take her back home, but her mom never got her shit together.
“A couple years ago,” Danny said, “Striker told me she overdosed.”
I put down the glass of water I’d poured her a bit too hard, with a thunk that echoed. “She’s dead?”
“That’s what he said.”
I watched her take a sip of her broth, hesitant to say what I was thinking. But it was Danny, and she’d have already thought it, too. “Was he lying?”
She shook her head. “I looked it up online at the library. Found her obituary. It didn’t mention a daughter.”
I sank into the chair beside her and took her hand. “You know what sucked the worst about my mom leaving me? She didn’t want to know me anymore. I mean, it was fucking shitty of her to abandon her kid, but after that, when I was alone at night in the dark I thought about how she didn’t know I liked to draw.”
“You lived to draw,” Danny said, squeezing my hand.
“Yeah, and she had no idea. She didn’t know that when she left the lady next door made me sleep on an old dog bed infested with fleas and sprayed me off with the hose instead of letting me shower.”
“How can people be so cruel? You were a little kid.”
“We were both little kids, Dan. People are fucking animals. They take care of their own and screw everyone else.”
“Not everybody,” she said.
I thought about Mike. “No, I guess not everybody. Most people.”
“I thought my mom wanted me,” she said. “I thought she’d try to get me back. When they took me away, she cried and promised she’d do everything she had to so we’d be together again.” She looked up at me with watery blue eyes. “She lied. She never tried to get me back.”
The pained expression on her face gripped me inside and twisted. I hated her mom. I hated Striker. I hated my own mom. How could they all do this to us? Then it hit me. I promised to go back for her, and I never did. Just like her mom.
I leaned forward, pressing her hand against my chest and my lips to her temple. “I want you, Danielle. I want you in my life. I always have. I was selfish and caught up in setting things right first, but I never forgot about you.”
She turned to me and stroked my cheek. Her eyes roamed my face, her sorrow of past memories gone. She watched her fingertips grazed my lips and lifted her eyes to mine, asking permission.
My heart drummed. I took her hand away and cupped her face, bringing her close enough to feel her breath on my cheek. I ran the tip of my nose up and down the ridge of hers before tilting her head and securing my lips against hers.
It was like breathing in life. Like I’d only been keeping myself alive with air in my lungs, food and water, but this—Danny in my arms with our lips seeking and discovering—this was really being alive.
The tip of her tongue edged along my bottom lip and started a fire in my gut. I dropped my hands from her face and wrapped my arms around her, pulling her onto my lap. Our tongues darted in and out, shy and bold at the same time, learning the feel of each other. How could Danny—my Danny—still have part of her for me to discover?
The thought sent my mind south of her navel. Danny wasn’t the girl she used to be. If I were honest, I’d admit to myself that I’d noticed it when we were teenagers. She’d gotten hips and breasts and a firm, round ass. By the time she was fourteen, it was hard to look at her like she was the same little girl anymore. I never thought of her as a sister. Maybe if we’d lived in a house that was like an actual family instead of an abusive nightmare.
Sitting here with her ass pressed against my crotch and her lips and tongue slick and hot against mine, I was so fucking happy I’d never thought of her as my sister, or I’d be in for some serious guilt. There was no way I was turning back from being this close to her.
I wanted more.
I wanted closer.
I wanted inside her.
She parted her lips from mine, panting, and looked at me with hazy eyes. The last thing I wanted was to pressure her, scare her. “Should we stop?” I asked, hearing the deep rasp of lust in my voice.
She gazed into my eyes for a moment before shaking her head and falling back into our kiss.
I stood, picking her up in my arms, and carried her upstairs. In the bedroom, I laid her down on the bed and straddled her, sitting on my knees with my hands on either side of her head. “I need you to tell me if you don’t want to do this,” I said. “Or if you want me to stop.”
She gave me a sinful smile and looked up at me with those lusty, hooded eyes. “I’ve wanted this for as long as I knew what sex was, Tyler.” She ran her hands up my thighs. “I wanted this to take away what I didn’t want. To replace it with you. Someone who cared. Someone safe.”
Kelli Maine is the erotic romance author of USA Today Bestseller and #1 Nook book, Taken, and the Give & Take series, along with the Dolls & Doms novellas and Chains. She lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, Kelli enjoys watching reality T.V., getting lost in random Wikipedia pages and searching online ads for vintage muscle cars.
Favorite Author: Diana Gabaldon
Favorite Food: Japanese
Favorite Superhero: Spiderman
Favorite Place I've Been: Yucatan Peninsula
Writing Must Haves: Coffee and chocolate
Plotter or Pantser: Proud Pantser
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