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At fifteen I fell in love. His name was Jake Stephens and he took the abandoned, lonely girl I had been and made me whole. His love was a pure and unconditional love that made every day better than the last…a fairy tale of my very own.

But this story isn’t about Jake. It’s about Abel Madden; the man I meet after the fairy tale goes to hell. A cocky, arrogant man who says what he wants, does as he pleases, and makes no excuses for it. He irritates me—downright pisses me off at times—but he also brings me back to life.

My name is Sidney Ellis and this is my story of finding love twice—the first when I needed it most and the second when I never saw it coming.


BOOK REVIEW: Collecting the Pieces

L.A. Fiore

RATING:

“All the pieces make a life.”

There is something truly priceless about a book that hooks me in on the very first page, but when I then find myself relishing its prose just as much as the story it tells, I can’t help but do a little cartwheel in my mind from knowing that I’ve found a little gem I’ll want to tell everyone about. A new author to me, L.A. Fiore inspires with the level of emotion that is present in her every sentence, telling a poignant but uplifting tale of new beginnings that is unexpected, meaningful, heartbreakingly beautiful in its directness. I was smitten, moved, even got choked up on occasion, and would recommend this book to anyone seeking a great story to make them feel…all the feels.

I was no longer the lonely and empty girl I had been, and all because one person showed me kindness and love.

Abandoned by her birth parents as a newborn baby and raised in a group home for the first ten years of her young life, Sidney Ellis grew up not knowing tenderness or affection of any kind, secretly wishing someone would want her one day. The first time Sidney allows herself to hope that her life would change for the better is when she finds herself fostered to a family shortly after her tenth birthday, but her dream of being part of a loving household is quickly forgotten when she realises that neglect and abuse can come in many shapes and forms.

I had wished that someone would see me; never in my wildest dreams would I have dared to wish for it to be someone like him.

Five years later, on her first day of high school, Sidney meets the boy who would later become her first love. We watch them fall madly in love with one another, enter adulthood together, move away, get married—giving Sidney the kind of family she’s always dreamed of—but one cruel twist of fate is all it takes for Sidney to lose everything in the blink of an eye, leaving her with nothing more than memories to assuage her broken heart.

Even with the passing of time, the pain hadn’t eased. People say the sorrow eventually fades, the good memories replacing the bad ones. That wasn’t the case for me. I had learned to live with the pain, an almost welcomed companion, but I was ready to start somewhere fresh.

However, this is not the end of our heroine’s story. Far from it. Because when one door closes, another one opens, and when one story ends, another one often begins. Moving from her home in New Jersey to a friendly little town in Wyoming is exactly the kind of fresh start that Sidney has needed for the past three years—a place far away from daily reminders of all she once had and then tragically lost—so when the right opportunity arises to trade busy highways for long, winding dirt roads, and a house in the suburbs for a quaint little log cabin in the woods, that is exactly what she does—with her best friend in tow. With a new job, a new home, and new friends to keep her busy, love is the last thing Sidney is set on finding there, but from the moment she meets a cocky, rugged mountain man who appears to be all kinds of wrong for her, she cannot stop fantasising about him.

I knew we were like night and day—came from such different worlds—but for the first time in my life, I let myself believe in the dream.

Abel Madden is a loner. A successful small business owner and unapologetic bachelor, Abel has never had any desire to settle down or have a family of his own, but he finds himself incapable of staying away from the new, young veterinarian in town. He teases her, provokes her, flirts with her any chance he gets, and even though Abel knows he is not the kind of man a woman like Sidney deserves or needs, he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame.

“Never needed anyone, never wanted anyone, and then you walked into my life”

The author expertly describes the bewildering, contradictory feelings of attraction in both her leading characters, their hesitancy to give their hearts away just as powerful as the gravitational attraction sizzling between them, and she does this particularly well when giving us insight into the heroine’s mind and heart.

I tried … to understand what it was about him that interested me. Sure he was sexy as sin, but that wasn’t what stirred me. Why him? A man whom I shared nothing in common with…

I felt a slightly weaker connection to the hero in the story, his somewhat formulaic characteristics of a cocky, arrogant, dirty-talking, alpha male being too overwhelming for me at times, and feeling almost foreign to the story itself. They left me wishing his edges were a little softer, his speech mannerisms a little less pronounced, his entire presence a little less ‘felt’ and in line with the rest of the characters, and for someone who likes her heroes very much on the ‘alpha side’, this lack of connection to Abel’s character left me baffled and unfulfilled on occasion.

“I’d be an even bigger dick than I already f*cking am if I returned that kindness with a no-strings f*ck no matter how f*cking fantastic that f*ck would be.”

But to me, this was Sidney’s story from beginning to end and my focus remained on her. Her life before meeting Abel had taught her to appreciate every bit of happiness that came her way, and even though she’d had to overcome great loss, we watch her bravely put her heart on the line again, hoping she’d find happiness once more. She has learnt the difference between a young love—a love that shaped her as a person, taught her what it meant to love and be loved unreservedly—and a love born at a time when she is strong enough to give herself over completely to a man knowing all too well that she could end up heartbroken. That very distinction is what cemented my connection to the heroine and made this book impossible to put down.

“I like how I feel when I’m near him, like who I am with him, and I’ll take what I can get from him because I’m finally finding happy.”

L.A. Fiore pens a compelling tale of a young woman who is given two chances in life to find love, both of them extraordinary in their own right, but each one of them a reflection of the woman she is at the time. There is a heartfelt message at the heart of this book: pain does not define a person, nor does it pave the path we are meant to walk on in life. Everything we experience during the course of our lives shapes us, molds us, makes us who we are, and the past is there to give us the strength to keep changing, not hold us frozen in time and place. This sweet, sexy, moving story hit just the right spot for the hopeless romantic in me.

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“I never had a family, never thought I needed one. Until you.”

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