There are some authors who consistently deliver stories that are so exquisitely moving, that diving once again into one of their books is an emotional high like no other for me, and A.L. Jackson is one such author. No one has made my heart clench, shatter, hurt, made me ugly-cry as she has done time after time, and yet I am never quite prepared for the unpredictable journey she ends up taking me on. After having read every single book by this author, I knew this story would be outstanding, but I had no idea it would be so up my alley that I would end up reading it in one sitting, utterly captivated by the characters, the fairytale romance, the depth of emotion that is present in every single word. Ms Jackson has gifted us with another true gem of a book, one that will get so deep under your skin, you’ll never want it to end.
“Beneath the anger, I recognized the boy I’d known so long ago. I was pretty sure it was Jared who didn’t know himself.”
This is the story about a troubled young man who comes back to his home town after six long years of absence, drawn to the place where his life irrevocably changed, but also terrified of confronting the old demons that have kept him away. Jared is a broken man, trapped by guilt and self-hatred for one tragic event that changed the course of his life and the life of all his loved ones. He has convinced himself that he destroys everything he touches and anyone he allows himself to love, believing that the burden of his past sins is the very reason he is not entitled to find happiness. Jared is volatile, inherently destructive, but his heart aches for what he has lost and for the happy boy he once used to be.
“I’d known him my entire life. I found him in almost every memory I had.”
When Jared left his old life behind, he never realised he would also change one little girl’s life forever. The younger sister of Jared’s best friend, and a permanent fixture in his childhood, Aly had nursed a crush on him from the moment her young heart learned how to love, a crush which eventually evolved into such deep emotions that made her heart freeze in time from the moment he suddenly departed from their lives. Jared’s return is equally confusing as it is exhilarating for young Aly, his renewed presence in her daily life awakening every crevice of the heart she had been saving for him.
“I can’t remember a day in my life when I didn’t love you.”
What starts as a friendship born out of a shared past and endless happy memories together, slowly grows into a secret romance where they bare their souls to each other, find comfort and peace in each other’s arms, but cannot see their future further than the next day.
“I’d glide along the banks of his sadness, dipping my toes to test the water but without ever diving into the torrent where I knew Jared continued to drown.”
Jared fights his feelings for Aly at every turn, believing that depriving himself of happiness is his penance for his past wrongs, but once his heart stops listening to his irrational mind, their love takes flight and he is unable to stay away from her. But six years of self-flagellation and seeing no purpose in the life he gets to live have made Jared a man incapable of embracing happiness, and soon his destructive tendencies bleed into the only thing he has ever truly cherished in his life.
“… her soul burned so bright she couldn’t see the blackness in mine.”
The delicious agony of every mouth-watering scene between these two characters is addictive, making this one of the most real yet fairytale-like romances I have had the pleasure of reading. The development of these characters is flawlessly thorough, their every facet embedding them deeper and deeper into our hearts. I am a sucker for enduring romances, for love stories that weather time and distance, and the story of Aly and Jared will forever hold a special place in my heart. But their story is not over – it might not have ended on a cliffhanger, but it most definitely continues in an upcoming instalment. And I simply cannot wait for it!
“Hearts have a way of finding their way home.”