Review: Darker Water by Lauren Stewart (Once and Forever #1)

His unshaven cheek scraped my skin when I turned my head to find his lips. He rested on one elbow and his hand snaked behind my neck, controlling the angle of my head and forcing my mouth open for his tongue. He tastes so male—so Carson. Honest, no holds barred, putting everything he was into this amazing collision that had started out as a simple kiss. One that wasn’t supposed to be happening because neither of us were supposed be in this place at this moment. But we were, and I wouldn’t have given it up for anything.

Don’t you hate it when you have more books that are waiting to be read and not enough time to read them all? I bought Darker Water when it went on sale on Kobo quite some time ago. I had already read a lot of positive things about it on Goodreads and fairy tale-inspired modern-day love stories have a soft spot, not just for me but for countless other readers as well. But it took me signing up to be part of a blog tour for the release of the much awaited second book in the Once and Forever series for me to belatedly read this Lauren Stewart-penned series starter. It may be more than a year and a half since it was originally released but I don’t think it’s too late for me—or anyone else for that matter—to fall madly in love with this fantastic read, one that elicited numerous smiles, laughter, and tears from me.

After her latest relationship ends with her boyfriend’s admission that he intends to marry the woman he’s been cheating on her with, twenty-three-year-old artist Laney Temple is convinced that she’s cursed. Every relationship she’s been in since she was a teenager has ended with tears and her heart seemingly far more broken than those of any of her exes. Could she be starting with princes only to have them become frogs after their time with her? Five months later and no longer a believer in love and all the sappy things that come along with it, Laney refuses to be in any sort of committed relationship with any man, even if that man comes in the tempting and refreshingly honest form of Carson Bennett. He makes it perfectly clear what he it is wants from her and what Laney can and shouldn’t expect from him. 

At twenty-five, Carson has never portrayed himself to be some prince, although he does have a reputation for being quite charming. When Laney catches his eye in a coffee shop, he approaches her, not with some cheesy pick-up line, but with his own brand of blunt honesty. He isn’t promising hearts and flowers but he does promise to not lie and to satisfy her in bed. But Carson quickly realizes that Laney isn’t like all the other women he’s met before. She doesn’t expect to be wooed, her heart not ready to be emotionally saddled by another relationship. Her trust and respect are what need to be won over, and surprisingly, Carson finds himself attached to her and their times together. These two become the closest of friends, but unfamiliar stirrings of an unknown emotion could threaten their new normal.

You know how stories have at least one twist that’s meant to throw you off-guard, sometimes meant to check if you’ve been paying attention to the story all along? In the case of this novel, author Lauren Stewart gives us a series of surprises, some delightfully different from the norm, others darker and gut-wrenching. This entire tale of an unexpected friendship, a blossoming love that neither one wants to openly acknowledge, and the acceptance that you are so much more than you believe yourself to be and may be worthy of kept me on my toes because it didn’t seem to follow some well-worn pattern that stories that have some similarity may have followed before. I love the risks that the author took with this book, because anything out of the ordinary is always a risk, and I feel each was a worthwhile one.

I so loved Carson and Laney. They were fun to get to know and falling in love with both of them was as inevitable as the two of them falling in love with each other. I didn’t feel this impatience at them getting to the whole falling part because the journey it took for them to get to that point was what made me see that this was nothing like anything they had ever experienced before. There were also supporting characters that were notable for them being exactly that—support for either Carson and Laney or both, bringing color to their story and helping the two see things from different perspectives. Lauren Stewart has already announced that there’s a novella about Carson and Laney coming soon, and my fingers are crossed that it’s what I think it’s about. Darker Water is one of my 2016 favorite reads. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 05 July 2016

Learn more about Lauren Stewart.

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