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The tables have turned. Now I have the power—and it’s his turn to beg…

Everyone wants to be me.

Maybe it’s the sway of my skirt or the way I flip my hair, but I don’t care. Even though their attention is the last thing I crave, I just can’t stop. I dominate the track, the speed rattles my bones, and the wind and the crowd screams my name.

I’m her. The girl driver. The queen of the race. And I’m surviving—something he thought I’d never do.

They all talk about him. Did you see Jared Trent on T.V? What did you think of his last race, Tate? When is he coming back to town, Tate?

But I refuse to care too much. Because when Jared does come home, I won’t be here.

Tatum Brandt is gone. I’m someone new.


BOOK REVIEW: Aflame

Penelope Douglas

BOOK SERIES: 

RATING:

“Would it have been better if I had never left? Would you still love me if I kept living a lie?”

Ah, the sweet sorrow of seeing one of your most beloved series come to an end! I have to admit, I was a late comer to the Fall Away ‘party’, having discovered this phenomenal group of characters only very recently, but from the moment I dove into their world, I have been utterly bewitched. It all began with Jared and Tate’s tumultuous teenage romance, and in this stunning conclusion to the series, we revisit these characters and watch them fight once again for their happily-ever-after. It’s the kind of scenario no fan of this series really wanted to ever see happening, but every aspect of this story was just as it should be, true to the characters and their personal journeys, thus cementing my love for this author’s consistently perfecting writing style and her uplifting brand of storytelling.

“I love you. I love you so goddamn much. I just…I just need time, some space, to figure out who I am and what I want.”

At twenty years of age, Tate and Jared have their whole lives ahead of them. They have grown up together, overcome their worse fears while finding their ways to one another, and ultimately discovered the kind of love that defines them, shapes their every decision in life. But somewhere along the way, Jared lost himself. Torn between what he believes is expected of him and what his free-spirited nature calls him to do, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the woman he loves more than life itself, hoping that by making the right changes in his future and thus finding himself in the process, he’d give Tate the man she deserves to have at her side.

“I hate feeling like I’m a lost puzzle piece. Where the hell did I fit?”

Two years go by, two years of heartbreak on both sides and endless longing, and when they meet again, they are no longer the kids they once were. They are stronger, more confident in themselves, finally certain of what they want out of life, but their love has not changed at all, regardless of all the resentment obstructing their path towards each other. Having channelled all her anger and pain into her passion for racing cars, Tate is no longer the hesitant little girl who once allowed a bully to make her life miserable—she now thrives in situations that used to intimidate her, drive her to tears, and having to now face each day the man who broke her heart and left her behind only draws out even more the tenacious fighter in her.

“The players might be the same, Jared, but the game has changed.”

But this is not a story of heartbreak, as heartbreaking as Jared and Tate’s separation is to witness. This is the story of two halves of a whole finding their way to one another, of having enough self-awareness to see where their life was inevitably heading and enough courage to make the necessary changes. There is no pointless angst or superfluous drama aimed at putting these characters through the wringer and back. Every aspect of this story is character-driven, their inner battles just as crucial to the development of the story as their occasional confrontations, and we feel their pain, their uncertainty, their desire, their anger, their hope, and their determination. We feel it all and our hearts rejoice in every little dagger that is aimed their way, every heart-clench, every moment of skin-tingling emotion that makes this story so addictive and impossible to put down.

“I left so I could be a man for you. So I could come back to you.”

This story, quite simply, makes sense. It adds a wonderful new layer to a tale that, in hindsight, would have felt incomplete without it, showing us that sometimes one needs to lose their beacon in order to learn to navigate through life as a complete person, without crutches or lifelines, and that no amount of time or distance can erase true love. While in their first book we heard only Tate’s voice, and in the second one only Jared’s, in this book, we hear both, never losing our connection to both these characters and the insight into the emotions driving their every action. Everything about them is different this time around—their maturity levels, their levelheadedness, their willingness to fight for one another—making this chapter in their beautiful story only even more compelling and appreciated.

“I’m a better man, but there’s never been a better woman for me. There’s never been anyone like you.”

But this is not only Tate and Jared’s grand finale—we get to see again all the other couples as well, as their fates remain forever closely intertwined, leaving us with the goofiest grins on our faces. A spectacular ending, a much needed closure, a series that only kept getting better and better, becoming one of the finest examples of the New Adult genre.

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“Everything else may change, but never the way I love you.”

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