Friday, April 17, 2015

Shadow Heart (Broken Bottle #1) by Pamela Taeuffer

Release Date: February 26, 2014
Publisher: Open Heart Press
Series: Broken Bottle series, Book 1
Author Website:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Dark secrets were found in many families, and Nicky's family was no different. Adapting to her father's condition, she and her sister adapted to the volatile ways of their home. Nicky became obsessed with her job of leaving home and attending Stanford, pushing aside all other distractions - especially boys. To help her application to Stanford look more enticing, she put together a business plan for the local baseball team to have a cheer squad. She worked hard to perfect the cheers, connect with the fans and hit each of the goals she'd put into the plan.

What she didn't count on was a popular player, Ryan Tilton. He kept his distance from her, guarding his own dark secrets and his feelings for her as much as she hid her own awakened desires. As they struggled with their respective demons, life kept bringing them into the path of the other. Nicky must make several decisions despite her confusion. Can she maintain a relationship with anyone and achieve her goal of attending Stanford? Will letting go destroy everything including her level of control on her life?

To be honest I might not have given this book a second glance if I hadn't received a promotional email from NetGalley. The romance genre wasn't always one I delved into, but I decided to take a chance to step out of my reading comfort zone and give them a chance when I read that the books were inspired by actual events from the author's life. From the very beginning scene, there was a raw grittiness to the memories of what the main character, Nicky, and her sister, Jenise, went through as children living in a home where alcohol reigned supreme. Not every scene was filled with the turbulence of home life as Nicky navigated the world while carrying the weight of her father's "condition" and wanting to achieve her lifelong goal of leaving the town behind by attending Stanford.

Written in first person point-of-view, the book followed Nicky through the strange, double-sided childhood that she and her sister endured before her junior year of high school. It was easy to understand how she could be such a conflicted character when it came to the way in which the world really worked. Her father was a severe alcoholic that didn't think twice about enforcing his version of discipline when he was drunk. Her mother struggled to work in order to provide for the family, protect her daughters when she was home, and find a way to endure her own hell with the man she married. Since you can't have a romance novel without romance, in walked Ryan Tilton, the ruggedly handsome baseball player, and Jerry, the boy she'd known for her entire childhood. Each of these guys made a dent in her walled-off heart, but Nicky struggled to choose between them. I think that stemmed from the duality of her home life as well because she tried to push them away whenever they attempted to break through the walls she put up around her heart.

A steady pace pushed the story from event to event, making this novel a fairly quick read. Though this was a romance novel, there wasn't an overabundance of sexual scenes. Many times the characters found themselves in compromising positions, but the author didn't cross the boundary into a sex scene. That allowed Nicky to retain her steadfast control on when, where and to whom she would delve into that world. Due to the father's battle with alcohol, or liquid candy as Nicky referred to it, domestic violence was commonplace in their home. Some of these scenes were very hard to read and I wanted to get through them as soon as I possibly could. Not only did these moments make the story darker, but they left lasting marks on the lives of everyone involved and led some down a dark path.

Overall, the book was pretty enjoyable despite the darker scenes that were sprinkled throughout it. The author did a good job balancing the cold, dark truth about growing up with a parent who fought with alcoholism and keeping comedic, light moments in between to lighten the book. At some points the dialogue between Nicky and Ryan seemed a little off to me, mostly from Ryan's side. I could understand why Nicky said and did the things she did, but things he said sometimes distracted me from the story itself. I was glad to read the book and definitely glad I stepped out of my comfort zone. If you're looking for coming of age story with a dash of romance or a book which explores how someone with a dysfunctial childhood finds her footing in the world, this is one series that does those two things and more.

Shadow Heart (Broken Bottle #1) by Pamela Taeuffer is currently available in either paperback or digital (Kindle) formats. It can be found at many online retailers including Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon. Below is a link to the book's page at Amazon.
Shadow Heart (Broken Bottle #1) by Pamela Taeuffer

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