“What do you do when you meet your soul mate? No wait…that’s too easy. What do you do when you meet your soul mate and have to spend a lifetime loving him in secret?
I’ll tell you what you do.
Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn’t exist—that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.
His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.
But then…he ran.
He thought he’d run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.
I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.
My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.
At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.
For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.
But by the end…he loved me.
The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.
And slowly, my secret drove us apart.
Initial thoughts immediately after reading: Original, captivating, thought-provoking, and completely unputdownable.
It’s been a few weeks since I read this duet and I still can’t get Della and Ren’s story out of my mind. I am still reeling from reading their journey, and, honestly, I think I’ll have to pick it up and reread it again. I am still blown away by this heartbreaking story that I know will stay with me for a long time. I don’t think this review will do this book or this series justice, but I will try.
I’m open-minded, especially when it comes to love, but it’s fair to say this story challenged my beliefs at times which I LOVED. I constantly found myself stopping and thinking deeply about the themes, especially the modern day notion of family. What exactly constitutes family? It goes beyond blood, in my opinion, and that is what made this story difficult to read at times. I felt the sibling bond between Della and Ren in their formative years and as their feelings transformed, I was uncomfortable, at first, until I had no choice but to root for them because I felt the deep, intense love they had for one another.
Ren was always her everything, and I could see how easily she could fall in love with him. It was more complex for Ren – he had been her carer since she was a baby and he fought the feelings brewing inside him. I admired him for that, even as it pained me. He was only existing, not living, so cut off from everyone and society and he didn’t want to feel at all, except when it came to his ribbon. He needed control and order whether they were surviving in the woods or forced into shelter during the winter – once he felt in control, he was okay. When she started pushing him, forcing him to confront his feelings, to explore outside those boundaries, he started drowning and that’s when he made choices that ended up hurting both of them.
Man, the feelings were so real. So raw. I felt every single emotion they were both feeling. It pulled my heartstrings, twisted my stomach into knots, and I was like an addict, devouring pages well into the early hours of the night.
Even though it was a morally wrong (I still believe that) I couldn’t stop myself from wanting them to find a way to be together, because it was also so right. This internal dilemma playing through my mind the whole way through this first book only upped the angst factor for me and added to my enjoyment. At the end of the day, the heart wants who it wants and no amount of logical or forced morality can change that.
I loved both mains, but I loved how steadfast Della was, in particular. Even though she was young, she knew from an early age that what she felt for Ren was more than a crush, that it was the real deal, the kind of intense, soul-deep love very few people ever get to experience, and she never stopped fighting for it. I admired her strength and her resilience.
This book was beautifully written and executed. Character and plot development was flawless. I’m in awe of Pepper’s profound understanding of the human psyche and she nailed the emotional journey of both mains. Completely nailed it. I deliberately held off reading my comp copy until the second book was released because I just knew that I would want to delve straight into the rest of the story immediately, and my gut instinct was right.
While this is a different story, it reminded me a little of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. I remember similar conflicted feelings reading that brilliant story and how thought-provoking it was too.
In summary, this was a highly-emotive, angsty, unique romance that is superbly written and one I cannot recommend more highly.
Thank you so much to the author for providing a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own and I’m writing this review voluntarily.
What a fantastic introduction to Pepper Winter’s books, and I definitely look forward to reading more.