Tuesday, August 21, 2018

From Here to You by Jamie McGuire

Discover a new series from the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Beautiful Disaster.

As Darby Dixon sits in a tiny Texas church bathroom on her wedding day holding a positive pregnancy test, she realizes that marrying her fiancé would be the worst decision of her life. She’s never been very good at standing up for herself, but she’ll sure as hell stand up for her baby. With very little cash and a ton of courage, she flees town to take a new name and start a new life.

As a Marine, Scott “Trex” Trexler worked in the most treacherous, corrupt, war-torn places on earth. With his new top-secret security job, he finally has a chance to return to the one place he’s felt at peace: Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The moment Trex checks in at the hotel where she’s working, Darby knows he’s dangerous. He may want her to think he’s another hotshot firefighter, along with all the others battling the nearby mountain blaze, but something doesn’t add up. No way will she get involved with another man she can’t fully trust – and Trex clearly isn’t telling her everything. As Darby’s ex gets closer and closer to finding her, both she and Trex will soon find out that what you don’t know can hurt you.

Wicked Reads’ Note to Readers:
This book deals with domestic violence. For more information as to potential triggers, see Erica’s review below.

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Book 1
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

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

So, I love McGuire's Beautiful series, with the Maddox brothers. So, I was very excited to see that McGuire was starting a new series.

This is Trex and Darby's story. Right from the start, Darby is in trouble. She knows that marrying her fiancé is going to be a mistake. She runs with just her wedding dress and a few hundred dollars that her best friend gives her. She winds up in Colorado and gets a job in a hotel.

Trex is starting a new job. He's security for a top-secret facility. He has known that he would find his partner sometime in his life and would know the moment he laid eyes on her. When he sees Darby, he knows she's supposed to be with him.

I think for me, this had great potential. However, it just didn't deliver for me. The relationship between Trex and Darby was an insta-love and with Trex's belief, it was just a little too hinky for me.

However, I did like the mystery aspect of Trex's job and I hope that we get to see more of this. I am also hoping that each of the secondary characters gets their own story because they were awesome. While I wasn't super impressed with the start of this series, I do want to see where it goes. There's a definite mystery in this series and I want to figure it out.

This may be the start of a new series, but we get to see quite a lot of the Maddox clan through the story – which for a fan is great news... I won't say more!

This is a story which starts with Darby on her wedding day, making the bravest choice in the world, to leave her abusive fiancé at the altar – no romantic picture of a runaway bride in the film sense, but rather one who fears for the survival of her just discovered to be on the way baby. No family to support her, and no funds to cushion the way.

So when Trex fixates on her and determines that she is his one and only, it is in some ways an answer to a prayer – but I did find his persistence, coupled with his dishonesty, difficult to reconcile with someone who truly cares. He, too, had had an abusive childhood, but somehow his karmic attitude to having found her was a little too superficial. We do learn more about what he does, who he is, and why he is honourable, but more by getting to know his friends than him directly. One of my favourite books by Thomas Hardy The Well-Beloved has a similar idea of "the one" and I liked the idea a lot, I just think that his lack of honesty and trust in her feelings made it just a little too uncomfortable for me.

I liked the stories in the hotel, and Stavros and his family are really good to Darby, and great foils to the chaos going on around with the fires, and the mysterious goings on up the mountain. I will watch with interest to see where this goes in future installments and hope that the rest of Trex's team who deserve happily ever afters get them, and some of the Alpine team too.

I absolutely adored this book! I read the Maddox Brothers books back when they very first came out (and LOVED them) and I haven’t read a Jamie McGuire book since – I’m definitely going back to rectify that after reading this one! I was completely obsessed from page one and read the entire book in one sitting.

Darby Dixon wound up in an abusive relationship and almost wound up marrying the man, until a positive pregnancy test finally gave her the courage to leave. Literally leaving her fiancé at the altar, Darby flees to Colorado Springs and winds up finding work at a small hotel – where the owner also allows her to live. It’s a bit hectic in said hotel as there is a wildfire not too far out and all of the fire fighters are lodging at the hotel. Trex is a former Marine and has recently taken a job at a local complex where there are top-secret experiments happening. Trex has always known that he’d just know the love of his life when he saw her and the moment he lays eyes on Darby, he knows it’s her.

Darby and Trex’s story is really the sweetest, Trex is the kindest man while also being just the right amount of alpha-awesomeness. When Darby’s abusive ex shows back up, Trex doesn’t leave her side, even when she forces him away. The ending of this book has so many twists and turns – I’d say dedicate a few hours to reading once you start it because you absolutely won’t be able to put it down. I can’t wait for book two!

Sparks fly when a runaway bride and a secretive government contractor meet in a Colorado hotel. Several plot strands weave through this romance as Darby restarts her life away from an abusive ex and she starts a new job running a hotel front desk during a busy forest fire season.

Darby had my sympathy the moment she ran away from her wedding. And she earned my respect when she started to rebuild her life. She is proud and brave and capable. Despite her problems, Derby is a Jesus-loving, rainbows and sunshine girl and there are a few too many moments when she is irritatingly perfect.

Trex is a more difficult character. He is a sexy, former Marine but his love at first sight obsession with Darby feels slightly stalkerish. After one meeting, Trex is convinced that Darby is the dream woman he has been waiting his whole life for. I found Trex’s obsession with Darby a tiny bit creepy – especially as she has already run away from a controlling ex.

I feel like there is too much going on in this book. We get Darby and her baby and her history. We get Trex, his reunited Marine Corps team, and their secret jobs. We’ve got a hotel full of hotshot firefighters and an out of control wildfire. We also get into the hotel owner’s family drama, a jealous co-worker, Trex’s difficult relationship with his parents, the threat from Darby’s ex… Anyways. There is so much going on here and several of these plot strands are awkwardly dropped before the end. For the most part, I liked the characters and relationships in this story but I was a little bit overwhelmed by everything going on around them.

I was hooked from page one when a victim of domestic abuse is ready to set foot down the aisle to be married to her abuser. The runaway bride takes off with precious cargo in her belly, with only the bridal gown on her back. This resonated with me for varying reasons.

Darby flees to Colorado Springs, and that was yet another tie linking me to the novel itself, as I visit there and Estes Park every summer, along with Pikes Peak – I even laughed when Trex suggested a trip to Mt. Rushmore for fireworks, because that was a trip we took with all the same destinations. This connected me to the story, investing me in what happened next.

The little hotel, run by a tight-knit family, with all the firefighters added a warm and fuzzy, feel-good, lighthearted vibe to a story that could have gotten too dark due to fear of Darby’s abuser showing up. The side cast of characters were individuals and captivating.

The start of the novel had me clicking and clicking, then stumbling slightly over Trex’s narration at first. It felt like a lot of information bombarding me, with something far too close to insta-love for my liking.

Darby just escaped an abusive relationship with a military man, while trying to put her life back together from literally nothing, while worrying about the baby in her belly and how she was going to survive. While I think Trex had a good heart at the beginning, his tenaciousness felt too much to me, like give the girl a break for five seconds to get her head on straight, especially when hormones make it difficult to recognize real emotions from rampant mood swings. So what should have felt like warm and fuzzy support felt like yet another version of smothering manipulation. I felt the friendship and need for comfort and support from Darby, but never any true romantic feelings on her end, but plenty of fear and worry for what was happening in the blink of an eye.

Trex pressured Darby on every page, to the point it was taxing to read for me – triggering, if you will. I knew exactly how Darby felt – let the woman breathe. On Trex’s end, it felt more like obsession than love, with his ‘I’ve waited my whole life for you, knowing you were the one from first sight.’ While romantic for most readers, from the standpoint of a survivor of domestic violence, that is beyond creepy as I’m sure her abuser thought/felt the same thing. This was Trex’s immediate thoughts on Darby. Immediate.

Trex needed to get to know Darby, not just love the idea of her he built up inside his head over decades and the outside package. While I’m sure many readers will swoon over Trex and his unflinching tenacity, and I’m sure many will say I’m taking this too seriously… I left my ex, taking nothing I’d built over my entire adult life, if a man approached me that same day and pressured me day after day, I would have gotten a restraining order. Then to continually lie and gaslight Darby by saying she has trust issues… I actually wanted Darby with Zeke, because it felt more organic, natural, more getting to know you with real friendship, not pressure to be romancy from word-one.

Why 3 Stars?

A book that was resonating with me suddenly went south for me, because it hit just about every single one of my pet peeves. The editor in me sat back and stopped reading, noting where the author should have been reeled in. Less is more. Adding layers of irrational, immature, manufactured conflict lessens the experience.

Insta-love. Fated to nearly paranormal levels for Trex, while Darby was obviously reluctant. It felt pressuring, like the guy in the friend-zone who keeps buying you gifts and being helpful, but it’s all phony manipulation to get you to love the fake side they are showing, just as what they love about you isn’t real, only an ideal. It’s false friendship, showing you the best parts of them while hiding/lying/evading – once you’re hooked, you’re stuck with someone not as advertised. FYI: this is called ‘LOVE BOMBING’ and it’s a form of manipulation predicating abuse.

Every time Trex is caught in a lie, he brings up/thinks how Darby has trust issues. While I know trust issues are a real thing, this is anything but. This is actually called gaslighting, where you make the other person feel as if they are the problem instead of recognizing your responsibility in the problem. Like admitting you lied, instead of turning it around on your victim by saying they have trust issues.

Miscommunication. ALL conflict is miscommunication. If you’re so in love, wish to get married, TALK to each other. I don’t mean classified things, but knowing it will blow up in your face, and doing so, just for the sake of it blowing up in your face to add conflict that was missing from a book without conflict… If the characters don’t speak to one another, the reader is left dealing with redundant inner monologuing at ad nauseum and we learn nothing of consequence about our storytellers. Time and time again, I said to myself, “Trex, right here is where you should be truthful.” Darby doesn’t have trust issues – she literally just escaped a madman a heartbeat ago, but you go ahead and keep lying and evading the big and little things that are actually of zero consequence, so we’ll have some irrational, manufactured conflict later on. Darby didn’t have trust issues – Trex did, as he never trusted Darby enough to tell the truth about anything. It becomes tedious and I lost interest, because I knew what was going to happen, just as the narrator does, and when it does happen, it’s like “C’mon! Really?!”

Characters acting out of character, aka character trait lobotomy. Emotional maturity not matching chronological age, career position, or personality traits. Behavior more befitting those who have had zero life experience. Trex was in the USMC, serving in active duty from a leadership position, he then worked for the FBI. Now he is currently working as an independent contractor for the US Government as a security specialist, with a team under his command… the irrational, immature, out of character behavior he displayed at the climax had me shutting my Kindle. After protecting Darby for 80% of the novel, with the threat literally on the premises, he leaves to go help his sister who has called the authorities and is no worse for wear, while leaving a pregnant Darby with her stalker just because she was being irrational due to his lies and hormones. The hotel isn’t a magical safe zone. She has an excuse, he doesn’t. Trex displayed why he should have never been employed for two seconds by the US Government as no one would be safe under his command.

Manufactured conflict in a novel teeming with conflict unexplored. (see above) We have a runaway bride with an abusive, military ex on the loose, WE DID NOT NEED MISCOMMUNICATION AS A CONFLICT. We didn’t need a flirty, desperate acting grown woman to add conflict, giving women everywhere a bad name when we already had a villain of the story.

Sociopaths don’t run in packs, because they tend to cannibalize each other to protect their secrets. Just as people of faith aren’t unintelligent (a thread I felt was explored in the novel with the force of a hammer to the skull. FYI: I’m not a person of faith, but this was too much). All military men are not sociopaths, to where an abusive ex manages to find more of his kind to commit crimes with him. The novel lost all credibility with me, and I realize this is fiction. Shawn managing to rustle up several other sociopaths is several steps too far. All the conflict necessary was available, adding in a jealous sociopathic girl who somehow manages to hook up with the sociopath pack...

I felt everything was displayed in the extreme. All military men are bad. All firefighters are good (my abuser was a fire fighter). All politicians are corrupt or bumbling. All women under the age of elderly are after your man or irrational (the reporter girlfriend, the new reporter, the new hire, all the women shown besides the grandmother). Every male wanted Darby. Religion is for the unintelligent, atheism is for the intelligent. Domestic violence suffers shouldn’t work through their issues, but immediately latch onto the first man who shows all the precursors of future abusive behavior.

As you can see, what was a book I was so readily prepared to hand out five stars veered off course quickly. It meandered, became redundant and tedious, filled with mundane, inane everyday laundry list of daily events. The premise couldn’t support the page-count as it struggled to figure out how to fill in the gap from the middle to the ending. Generally, I DNF a book because I don’t want to give a critical review, but with domestic violence being something so close to me, I had to read it to its conclusion.

Everything went against human nature and our natural responses to stimuli. I felt Darby’s emotions weren’t properly explored, as Trex slapped a bandage over it by tossing money at the problem and telling her he loved her, instead of getting her real help from a therapist while allowing her time to find herself as a person and to grieve the past that no longer exists – the life and people she left behind. It took me years, and Darby wasn’t afforded HOURS after leaving her previous life behind. She traded in one prison for another, and I’m sorry but I found no romance in that. The journey wasn’t explored because the wrong things were focused on during the novel.

To me, the romance read as the initial stages – the draw, the hook, the clenching force – of abuse. As if the beginning and the climax showed the ending of an abusive relationship with the ex, and the rest of the novel showed how women fall victim to it every day via love bombing, gaslighting, control, lying and evasion, and manipulations, buying the I Love Yous handed out far too quickly.

Insta-love is called infatuation. If I ask you why you love someone, and you can’t answer me because all you know is their name and their outside package, it’s NOT love. Lust. Infatuation. Shallow. Vapid. As deep as the skin found beautiful. This isn’t a paranormal fated mates story. What’s to love? Why do you love them? If the answer is how they are the ideal/the fantasy of your forever love, you need therapy, because they’re a person, not someone filling a void in your life. This is exactly how abuse is born, when you discover they are not the ideal/fantasy, but flawed flesh and bone.

Both older and wiser, I expected a novel that read more mature, but their actions belied their ages (I don’t believe Darby’s age was ever said), leaving me feeling as if I read a young adult or new adult novel set in the context of a mature worldview.

Jamie McGuire is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Walking Disaster, the Maddox Brothers series, the Providence trilogy, and the international bestseller Beautiful Disaster, which paved the way for the new-adult genre. She was the first independent author in history to strike a print deal with retail giant Walmart, and her work has been translated into fifty languages. She lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with her husband, Jeff, and their three children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of From Here to You (Crash and Burn #1) by Jamie McGuire to read and review.

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