Aflame

23437291
4.5 stars

“‘Tatum Brandt is my f***ing food,’ he growled. ‘They all knew it in high school, and not a damn thing has changed.”

At the end of Falling Away, we saw Jared and Tate break up. Many of us were upset by the entire scene. Jared behaved selfishly, not because he left like he needed to, but because of the way he left. I thought, maybe, when I read the scene from his point of view in Aflame it would change my opinion and I’d spend the book rooting for him immediately, to my surprise, it didn’t. Even from his point of view it seems selfish and, as he’s leaving, he realizes he didn’t go about it the right way, but he still walks out the door without trying to fix anything. And he somehow walks out the door with the expectation that Tate will be there for him whenever he decided to come back. The problem is, he says in internal dialogue that he’ll be back at least 5 times, out loud he tells her that he doesn’t know what will happen when he finds what he’s looking for, not once does he say to her that he’ll be back (I reread this scene several times because later in the book he says he told her he’d be back and I was all…uh, no, you didn’t). Like his mother says later in Aflame, Jared is rarely aware of anyone’s feelings but his own. That’s what starts this firestorm, so what comes after, in my opinion, he set in motion.

Jared does not return on his own, his return is not precipitated by Tate or a need/want for her. Tate meanwhile, has decided to try and move on for the second time, after a disastrous attempt at moving on several months after Jared left she decided to focus on other things, not that it’s really working. She’s become someone else, the warm, funny, loving girl with a spitfire attitude Jared used to know has been replaced by a new Tate. She doesn’t feel much anymore. She’s shut down but she has successfully graduated college and gotten into med school and that’s basically what she lives for these days…oh, and racing. They run into each other hours after Jared’s arrival home and the sparks start flying.

“‘The players might be the same, Jared,’ I said untying my scrub pants and letting them fall down my legs, ‘but the game has changed,’ I warned”

“this Tate was on a different level. She was condescending and almost cold. I didn’t know this game.”

I don’t want to get too much into the story, I don’t want to spoil anyone. But there are scenes in this story that are amazing and there are things that took me a bit to get over and understand. I can’t even really talk about what I had a hard time with without spoiling things. But I loved this story in many ways but there were also a few things that made me angry. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t overly angsty. There were several times I wanted to punch Jared in the head and at least once that I wanted to slap Tate. Jared kind of reverted for about half the book into his old bully self and Tate was so, so scared on the inside, understandably,but she let it make her do stupid things.

Jared didn’t seem to be aware of how his actions affected her at all for a long time. Even after he got a come to Jesus from Madoc (loved him in this book even more!) and Jax (also made me love him more) about how things were when he left, how heartbreaking it was for Tate and how it affected everyone else also, he sincerely was shocked that everyone had changed when he’d been gone for two years.

“I was floored by how different he seemed. Madoc never shut up. He could vomit story after story and argue any point at the drop of a hat, but now… I shook my head. He was actually speechless. Or there were things he clearly wasn’t sure how to say.”

“‘But then she stayed distant-she kept pulling away-and it was like slowly the family was breaking. All of us. She wasn’t Tate without you, and without you both, the rest of us had to struggle to keep things together. To feel normal.'”

Reading the flashbacks were painful, both of them made some bad decisions while apart. And we saw Tate broken, more broken than before. But Jared did do what he set out to do. It was hard reading about his confusion about Tate, he was wishy washy and his actions in that part of his life reflected that and this was one of the things I had a problem with. But he became a better man in many ways. He found his calling and it made him stronger, he found that he could stand on his own but he wasn’t 100% happy, he had a Tate sized hole. He soon realizes that he loves her still and doesn’t want to live without her but he will not get her back easily and his actions left scars.

“‘Tate,’ he whispered in my ear, desperate. ‘Would it have been better if I had never left? Would you still love me if I kept living a lie?’ …
I never wanted him miserable. Why was he trying to break my heart all over again? I’d just wanted him to stay. I didn’t understand why he needed to leave me to feel whole. …
‘I know you loved me. I never wanted you unhappy.” I spoke through my shaky breath. ‘But I don’t trust you. You always desert me.'”

“I knew I always forgot the pain he caused too easily. Not anymore.”

One of my favorite scenes is actually between Jax and Tate, you’ll know it when you see it. Jax has grown so much since Falling Away (Thank God, because even at the end of FA, I sill wasn’t 100% sure of him. He did some horrible things to Juliet.) and even though he wasn’t there for Tate in the same way Madoc was, he still was there. He encourage her racing and at a pivotal moment he has a very important conversation with her. Plus, we get to see how much he loves Juliet in this book. It’s beautiful.

Madoc, he is unwavering in his support of Tate. Once Jared seems to get his head on straight, he stands back from the confrontations and just observes but he’s there when Tate needs him. We seem him in a flashback supporting her when she’s breaking down. Madoc was the one who got Tate through more than any one else. He’s funny as ever and he and Fallon are still wonderful together.

Jared, he made me fall in love with him all over again, even after he made me hate him a little more for the first part of the book. He still messed up, he still went about things the wrong way often, but he always loved Tate. I do hate that he kept manipulating her instead of doing the work and I hate that he gave up on her at first, even though she didn’t even know it since she didn’t think he was coming back anyway. In the end, he does manage to redeem himself and learns to treat her better.

“I had spent my life living and feeding off pain. The neglect brought on by my mother’s alcoholism, the blood spilled by my father, and the loss and loneliness I caused myself by denying what was as simple and necessary to me as breathing. I ignored truth and reason, because it was easier to believe that my power defined me rather than admitting I needed anyone. Rather than admitting the reality. That together we were invincible. It had taken me years to learn, but I’d spend the rest of my life making up for it.”

“‘Everything else may change, but never the way I love you,’ I whispered, more to myself than to her.”

And Tate, she learned that the best things are the things you fight for and that she’s okay standing on her own but she’s happier with Jared.

“Like warmth and peace and no matter what changed in my life, the people I met, the things I lost, or where I lived, if I was in his orbit, then I was home.”

In the end this was a great story, Tate and Jared still needed to grow some and each had lessons to learn, Jared more so than Tate. And there are a couple chapters set further down the line that are fabulous and an amazing epilogue. I had so many quotes highlighted that I can’t possibly share them all. I wish I could though because there were several I absolutely loved that I couldn’t fit into this review.

Overall, you should read this series, this book is not a stand alone and you will appreciate all the characters better if you read the four books that come before it. I recommend these books. Hang on and enjoy the ride. 😉

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The Guardian’s Heart

8663576

4 stars

The Guardian’s Heart is a feel good beach read book. It’s not overly angst ridden, there’s just enough conflict to make things interesting and not over the top sweet, but the story line is interesting enough to have your attention. You can make sure your kids aren’t being eaten by sharks while you’re reading without too much annoyance or being pulled completely out of the story.

The characters are fairly fleshed out, I loved Case, Gabbie, and the twins. Case and Gabbie both had their frustrating behavior moments but Case was very supportive of Gabbie through her insecurities and is attractive in both body and soul, and Gabbie did a lot to support Case also. She was amazing with the twins, who were adorable. Gabbie has a pretty good group of friends, barring one who needed slapped, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series. My only complaint is the insta-love, though the explanation of it was cute, it just is really fast.