Note: This ARC was provided by Enticing Journey Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.
I'd even told Cameron I loved him. That was a huge step, but I wasn't completely sure if it was true. I didn't know if I was capable of love. I thought I was, he meant everything to me, but that made me feel guilty. My love destroyed people. It pushed them away. Whenever I loved someone they fucking died on me. I shouldn't have said it. Even if I meant it, Cameron didn't deserve my love. He deserved so much more.
They grew up together and fell in love at fourteen, but instead of making all their dreams come true together, Dylan Roberts and Cameron O'Neil were pulled apart. While Cam went on to pursue his goals of becoming a renowned chef with his own Michelin-starred restaurant, Dylan has spent the last decade wading through a nightmarish limbo of sorts, spiraling even further into addiction. Sixteen years after they last saw each other, Dyl and Cam find one another again. So much time has passed and they're both trying to to reconcile the memories they have of the boys they once were to the men they are now. But it's Cam who finds himself struggling to learn what happened to his best friend--his first love--in the sixteen years since tragedy forced Dylan to leave. He wants nothing more than to help Dyl and to keep him in his life, but the reality of Dylan's addiction has Cameron wondering if he's actually helping or enabling him. Dylan knows he isn't worthy to be by Cam's side, fearful that, just like everyone else before him, Cam will leave. Will Cam realize that Dylan is beyond saving and abandon him, or will he inspire Dyl to believe in the possibility of a life not mired by his past and addiction, and maybe, Cam will love him enough to stay?
The title Counting Daisies comes from a coping mechanism taught by Dylan's grandmother, to count daisies whenever he was afraid so that with each additional daisy, his worries will lessen, and by the end, every dark thought and feeling will be replaced by something better and brighter. This was a second chance romance with a lot of drama and angst but also with several humorous moments to help alleviate the heavier feel of the story. Dylan is addicted to heroine and it's a habit that he's tried and failed to break from once before, unable to fully let go of what he believes the substance can do for him. It's as if he's replaced counting daisies with shooting the drug into his veins, both turning out to be Dylan's way of coping but not really dealing with his issues or whatever may be currently bothering him. He believes the kind of life he used to fantasize about will never be in reach, but Cam has made his own set of dreams come true and both of them believed they would share their future together. You feel for Dyl as he struggles to rein in his addiction and for Cam as he tries to be everything Dyl needs and wants. They say that you never, ever forget your first love and in the case of the two, it was true but they had to fight for it.
All love stories have conflicts and struggles, but what Cameron and Dylan had to face was far darker and more complicated. There were no easy solutions and as individuals and as a couple, they were always going to be a work in progress. There was an honesty to the story these characters told. It never felt contrived or put together for nothing more than to wring out an emotional reception from readers. Cam and Dyl's love story and life stories did evoke both subtle and slightly stronger reactions from me. This was such a hauntingly touching read, one that had me contemplating what I would do if I were in either man's shoes. I adored Cam and Dylan and I also found myself quite intrigued about the love-hate thing going on between Paul and Derek, and now I've got my fingers crossed that we get their story told next in the series. Counting Daisies may be my first Nicola Haken read--but not the first one I've owned since I bought Broken when it went on sale recently, and after having read this series starter, it's moved up on my to-be-read list--but it definitely will be my last. I'm curious to see where she'll take the series next, if it'll be as heavy a read as this or if it'll be lighter. Whichever it turns out to be, I will be waiting. Five-plus stars. ♥
Date Read: 05 August 2016
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