Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren

It's been twelve years since tragedy struck the senior class of Long Acre High School. Only a few students survived that fateful night—a group the media dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.

Liv Arias thought she'd never return to Long Acre—until a documentary brings her and the other survivors back home. Suddenly her old flame, Finn Dorsey, is closer than ever, and their attraction is still white-hot. When a searing kiss reignites their passion, Liv realizes this rough-around-the-edges cop might be exactly what she needs…

Liv's words cut off as Finn got closer. The man approaching was nothing like the boy she'd known. The bulky football muscles had streamlined into a harder, leaner package and the look in his deep green eyes held no trace of boyish innocence.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆☆
4.5 stars
M/F Romance
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

Finn and Liv were high school sweethearts back in the day; however, nobody was able to know about them. Finn was conscious of his parents' choices for him and he knew they would never approve of the landscaper's daughter. That didn't stop the teenage hormones or the hurt feelings from coming through.

Years later, Liv is working as a web designer and is asked to come back for a tribute to the shooting. She reconnects with a few of the girls who were in her support group after the shooting. They have seen each other at their worst and know that no matter what, they would be there for each other. When they open and read their high school capsule letters from after the shooting, Liv realizes that she isn't truly living up to what her high school self wanted for her life.

Finn is another story altogether. He had a legacy to live up to – his parents wanted him to date the right woman and go to the right schools, after all, he was a reflection of them. When he comes back for the tribute after the shooting, he also knows that he'll have to leave again after he has his leave time. He has been trying to save others since the day of the shooting. When he sees Liv again, he knows that he has to try to apologize for all of those years ago.

Finn and Liv's relationship is friendly with a hint of lust, at first. I liked how they were able to talk through their own lives – show each other who they had become without dominating the story with history. I thought that they each contributed to their future and can't wait see who gets the next book.

Contemporary Romance isn't my usual genre. This admission will be an odd one – what had me hooked into reading this wasn't the sexy cover or the blurb, and Roni Loren is a new-to-me author. It was the fact that the title was The Ones *WHO* Got Away, rather than *that*. Mad props. I had to read it because of that, and I'm so happy I did.

This novel trapped me from the first paragraph – I read half the book in one sitting, then I read the other half in another sitting, devouring it in a few hours time today. My emotions ran the gamut, sometimes even managing to have me teary-eyed with a smile on my face.

Twelve years ago, tragedy struck Long Acre High School, and this novel is voiced by two of its survivors. Liv and Finn. I won't go too in-depth with the details, because I enjoyed the fact that I didn't know what was coming when I started the book, and I want other readers to experience as it was meant to be read. I'll give my opinion on the dynamic and character building instead.

Liv and Finn have history, predating the tragedy, with the tragedy the final death knell to their relationship. Their dynamic was unbalanced in high school, and it wasn't the right time for them to come together. I could easily empathize with both of their positions, especially with them being seventeen-year-old children.

The novel takes place when they are thirty-year-old, grown adults. Being interviewed for a documentary is the means, to not only draw Liv and Finn back into each other's orbits, but several other survivors as well. In this installment, the reader gets to know three of the females who were directly impacted too.

As the novel traverses the life changes Liv and Finn are going through, as they make strides to live instead of merely survive, their relationship strengthens at the same time.

The tragedy is written with compassion yet realistic enough that the darkness could have become too much for some readers – triggering, if you will. But the levity Liv and Finn, and their fellow classmates, bring into the novel, lightens the feel with humor and support.

The scorching tension between Liv and Finn was addictive, alongside their witty repartee. Push-pull romance, with tension-filled buildup, delivering a satisfying and well-earned conclusion.

There were no frustrating miscommunications, no acting out of character, no knee-jerk reactions without communicating, or doing stupid things to get unnecessary attention. The plot drove the story forward, the romance developing organically, without any bells and whistles to fill plot holes that didn't exist. A solid romance with true emotion, narrated by mature adults who acted their age, especially emotionally. Those are the main reasons contemporary romance and Erica don't necessarily get along very often – the author returned my faith in the genre, with mature characters who didn't act like children. Thank you for that, Roni Loren.

There were the moments I wore a grin while reading, even when the darker, more difficult emotions were causing me to sniffle. It was the perfect balance, tugging my heartstrings and tickling my funny bone simultaneously.

The side cast was an enjoyable addition, one I'm sure will be explored in future books. (fingers crossed) What I appreciated the most was the sense of unity when it came to the women. It could have been written another way, with less maturity, where the girls were in competition over a man. Instead, they came together, lending support and a sympathetic ear, and empowered each other to carve out a better life. They didn't tear each other apart, especially over a guy, as if he were some prize who didn't get a voice in who he ultimately wanted to be with. I give mad props to the author for writing empowered women who have each other's backs.

As I said, this is the first book I've read by this new-to-me author, and I look forward to reading more in the future. I highly recommend to fans of the author and the genre, and I can't wait to get my hands on book two in this series.

Wow, what a really brilliant book to start off my 2018. This is such a strong, and deeply moving story with a wonderful romance growing from the tragedy. I highly recommend it to you – and cannot wait for the next installment about this very engaging group of survivors.

Ms. Loren has written one of the most carefully and sensitively crafted books I have read in a long time – it was moving, but not sentimental, it was detailed, but not graphic. I had to stop reading a few times just to take a breath, but mostly I just had to keep reading until I got the ending that I desired. From the initial interview, to the reading of the letters, to the very last page, I was completely engrossed in how these people could and would move forward.

Finn and Liv have such a complicated relationship to work out. We watch them learn more about themselves, and each other, and come to terms with what their future could look like. Beautifully told, passionate, and steamy, love-filled romance.

Thank you, Ms. Loren, and I await the next book with great interest.

Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. She holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental health counselor, but now she writes full time from her cozy office in Dallas, Texas where she puts her characters on the therapy couch instead. She is a two-time RITA Award winner and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1) by Roni Loren to read and review.

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