Series: Once and Forever #2
Published by Smashwords Edition on July 5th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Sara has a kick-ass life—loyal friends, a house in San Francisco, and an amazing job as a virtual assistant. It's perfect…except that Sara doesn’t actually exist. She’s just a borrowed name that Andi Clark hides behind. Using a fake identity lets Andi stay safely shielded behind the screen of her computer and concealed from the real world. With her history, pretending to be someone she’s not is the only way Andi can make up for the mistakes of her past. Not exactly ideal, but hey, no one’s life is perfect.
Hayden Bennett’s life is pretty damn perfect. He’s married to a beautiful woman, lives in a luxury apartment, and is prepped to take over the multi-million dollar company his father built. Perfect...except that his wife is madly in love with someone else, his career is meaningless, and he’s forgotten how to live, let alone be happy. But when Hayden hires a new virtual assistant named Sara, her sharp wit and intelligence leaves him wanting something more. Something real. Something incredible.
Two people need to wake up to understand how perfect they are...for each other. If they can't, any chance either of them have of finding a happily ever after will be virtually impossible.
This highly-anticipated sequel to DARKER WATER is Hayden and Andi's story, and this is how their fairytale begins:
Once upon a time there was a woman who made the mistake of trusting the wrong man. And that mistake led to another. And another and another, each more damaging than the last. But the woman was as ignorant of her mistakes as she was of the damage they caused. Until she was punished for them.
Around the same time, but in a totally separate part of the city, lived a noble man and his beautiful wife. Though their castle was the envy of all, its empty halls echoed of loneliness and regret. For the man had lived his entire life asleep, and both of them remained silent of who they truly were and what they truly wanted.
And then one day, the woman entered the man's life and forced him to awaken...
I was new to Lauren’s work when I picked up Darker Water in anticipation of Virtually Impossible. I fell in love with her writing, and I couldn’t wait to get Hayden’s story after the brief glimpse we got of him. I love the premise of this series, love stories inspired by fairytales and legends. This particular one is loosely based on sleeping beauty, but this is no Disney version.
“And I’ll say it again: My life sucks. But only for the last…say…twenty-three years of it or so. If I’d known how it was all going to turn out, I would’ve never left the womb.”
Hayden and Andi are two characters who have closed themselves off, both using different mechanisms to keep a wall around their hearts, which also keeps them from living. Andi is such a strong heroine. She’s constantly trying to do what’s best for those around her, making up for the sins of her past. She takes on enormous amounts of responsibility and guilt, punishing herself. Hayden is also living with regret, trying to live a life set out for him by his father. He carries many burdens for those he loves, nobly sacrificing his happiness in the process. He is strong and successful without being a condescending jerk.
“He could keep his secrets, and I’d keep mine. After all, our relationship would be a temporary, purely professional one.”
The relationship between these two builds gradually. There is no easy fix to letting someone in after years of protecting themselves from the outside world. There are obstacles, that on the surface, make any relationship between them seem like an impossibility. I loved seeing how these two evolved past their fears and insecurities, so that when they finally did come together, it was based on so much more than the superficial. It was real and true and beautiful.
“This was more than just two people wanting a physical connection. This was two people who’d already connected mentally, emotionally, and who were about to express it physically.”
I love how Lauren writes snarky, funny banter. I laughed out loud several times. This is not an instant-lust story. Nor is it a standard boy meets girl. This is something so much more. This is two people, closed off, never expecting to have a full life, learning to live again. A man who was strong despite being broken by those who were supposed to protect him and a woman who made a bad choice, and was determined to pay for it no matter what the cost.
“I get that you’re afraid of getting hurt. And sometimes it does hurt. But it also feels amazing. It’s worth any amount of pain to have those moments that take your breath away. That make you lose yourself and all your baggage and just be…happy.”