Note: This ARC was provided by the author via Ardent PRose in exchange for an honest review.
There's no denying that Nicole Williams is one hell of a good storyteller, but if there's one thing in her writing arsenal that I think she wields best, it's her ability to come up with the most heartrending quotable quotes. With her latest standalone, the contemporary romance Tortured, Williams gives readers a second chance love story that highlights how first love can withstand almost anything--years apart, death, and even marriage to another person. This was a bit of a dark and heavy read, so expect some angst. I may as well also forewarn eveyrone that there may be potential triggers for certain readers involving spousal abuse, ranging from physical to emotional, as well as a past that includes abuse at the hands of a parent. The novel does NOT come with any warnings, so best be aware.
Twenty-year-old Brecken Connolly and eighteen-year-old Camryn Gardner were young and in love and were going to marry after Brecken's year-long deployment was over, deciding against marrying before he left because Camryn had yet to graduate from high school. But when her Marine is made a prisoner of war and beheaded on live television, Camryn's world implodes, leaving her heart and dreams of a future with the only man she loves in tatters. For six years, her life was forced to move forward, but when the shocking news that Brecken is indeed alive and is returning to a hero's welcome, Camryn is beyond shocked. The love of her life is coming home...except not to her. It was torture when she thought he was gone, but to have him back but not be his? That could be far worse.
While Camryn may have gone on to marry one of the guys who happened to be both her and Brecken's friend, I doubt that she ever truly stopped mourning the loss of Brecken. Even though he was never really executed by his captors, she did lose six years with him, and that resulted in her making choices that left her a prisoner of a different sort. Do I agree with those choices? No, but keeping in mind her circumstances, I get why she felt as if she had no other choice. Did she have other options? Certainly, but fear is a funny thing. It messes with your head, especially when it's a result of the abuse you've had to suffer through. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty, but then as far as she was concerned, once Brecken was believed to be dead, she had nowhere else to go, so there you go.
There's a point in the story where Brecken does his own figuring out with regards to Camryn's son, Keenan, and I've read reviews that stated that when Camryn reveals her secret close to the end of the book, Brecken is surprised and these readers were confused. Actually, if you re-read that part where Brecken asks Camryn about Keenan, his assumption is very different from what you would expect, and yes, maybe that part is slightly muddled, but if you continue reading, there's a hint of a feeling of betrayal on his end because of the timing of it all. Now, should Camryn have said something much earlier? In cases like these that I've read in other books, I felt exactly the same as I did here; yes, she should have spoken up because this is something that should've never been kept mum.
The one thing I most applauded in this book was the portrayal of Brecken. He was a wounded war hero who stayed alive and survived amidst everything he had to go through because of one reason and one reason alone--the girl he loved. It was frickin' swoon-worthy and even after he found out Camryn was both a wife and a mother, it was as clear as day that he loved her and would do anything for her. And in the spirit of full disclosure to those who are wary about cheating of any sort in a story--yes, there is cheating here. I'm not as bothered by cheating in fiction, depending on the circumstances. That doesn't excuse the act of cheating, but this is fiction and not real life. I'd have given this five-plus stars had it not been the lack of a trigger warning, so instead, Tortured receives five stars. ♥
09 April 2017 08 April 2017 (early release)
Date Read: 08 April 2017
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