Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book Spotlight on The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren (Review & GIVEAWAY)

A tragic event from the past still weighs heavily on a group of survivors on the anniversary of an act that changed their lives irrevocably in this emotionally intense romance of second chances.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren, along with my impressions of it, then count down the days until this book releases on January 2nd.  In honor of this first installment in The Ones Who Got Away series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win one of three copies of this book too!

It's been twelve years since tragedy struck the senior class of Long Acre High School. Only a few students survived that fateful night—a group the media dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.
Liv Arias thought she'd never return to Long Acre—until a documentary brings her and the other survivors back home. Suddenly her old flame, Finn Dorsey, is closer than ever, and their attraction is still white-hot. When a searing kiss reignites their passion, Liv realizes this rough-around-the-edges cop might be exactly what she needs...
Liv's words cut off as Finn got closer. The man approaching was nothing like the boy she'd known. The bulky football muscles had streamlined into a harder, leaner package and the look in his deep green eyes held no trace of boyish innocence.


The boards of the restaurant’s back deck creaked somewhere behind Liv. She didn’t need to turn and look to know it was him. Her senses seemed attuned to his presence. She kept her eyes on the water, letting her greeting drift between them. “Hello, Finn.”
The quiet tenor of his voice hit her harder than she’d expected, the volume too close to how it used to sound against her ear in those stolen make-out sessions. Funny how even after all the years and the men who’d cruised through her life since, that voice still sounded so bone-deep familiar. She didn’t turn to face him, not trusting her expression to stay neutral. “I guess it turns out I have time for that drink after all.” She lifted her glass. “But I’ll warn you, I’m a few drinks in and all out of energy for polite chitchat.”
“Good. I don’t chitchat.”
He stepped a little closer, his scent drifting her way—some combination of cedar and mint. Like a man who chewed gum while chopping wood. The thought made her want to giggle.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Liv scrunched her nose. “You mean, am I drunk?”
She wasn’t sure what the answer was on that one. Probably a little. She doubted she could be this close to him without anxiety bubbling up otherwise.
“No. You ran out of the gym today. I mean, are you okay?”
Was she? She hated that question. That was the question she’d probably heard most since that night—and then again when her mom passed from cancer two months later. That was what everyone always wanted to know. Are you okay?
But people asked, wanting her to say, Yes, I’m fine. I’m going to pull up my bootstraps and not make you uncomfortable with my messy feelings. No one wanted the real answer. But she got the sense Finn did. After all, he’d probably gotten asked that question just as much as she had. She released a breath. “Today sucked.”
She took a sip of her drink, the sweet liquid cool on her dry throat. “Being in the school got to me, but I’m okay now. Just a little panic attack—shitty but brief. Drinks and friends helped distract me.”
She could hear him shift behind her, skin against fabric, maybe tucking his hands in his pockets or crossing his arms. “Distraction’s good.”
She finally stole a glance at him, but he was shrouded in shadows, just a broad-shouldered silhouette. “You could’ve joined us. You didn’t have to eat alone.”
“Y’all looked involved in something,” he said, the gruff drawl in his voice making her think of steamy-windowed moments in the back of his car. She used to tease him that the more turned on he got, the more his country-boy accent showed. “You were reading papers. Seemed kind of intense.”
“Oh, that.” She turned back to the water, her shoulders curving inward and the sexy memories icing over. “We were opening this time capsule thing we did a long time ago. It’s probably good you didn’t come over and hear that part.”
“Time capsule?”
She picked at a splinter in the wood railing. “Just something we did that summer after everything happened—promises we made to the Class of 2005 about our futures. Kincaid decided we should open the letters inside tonight to see what our teenage selves hoped we’d become. I decided we should get drunk after.”
He made a throaty sound—like a laugh that didn’t quite make it out—and moved closer. He settled next to her along the wooden rail, his gaze fixed on the dark water. “Sounds like a solid plan to me.”
“I thought so.” She rattled the ice cubes in her glass and dared a peek at him. But all she got was his familiar profile, the slight bump in his nose from when he’d broken it sophomore year, and the unfamiliar scruff as he took a sip from his drink. It was hard for her not to stare and catalog all the little differences, all the changes time and experience had given him. The harder angles. The dark mess of hair that looked at least two haircuts past neat. Expression that didn’t reveal a thing. He was still Finn somewhere in there, but gone was the boy with the wide smile and the playful attitude. There was a sharpness to him now, jagged edges. Like if she met him in a dark alley, she’d have trouble determining if he was friend or foe.
He lifted his drink in agreement and turned, his green eyes gray in the darkness. “That was my plan, too. Minus the time-capsule part.”
“Ha. Lucky you.” She shifted her stance and accidentally bumped her shoulder against his, sending a tendril of awareness down her arm. She wet her lips, ignoring the shiver. “Now you’ll never know if you lived up to teen Finn’s expectations.”
He was quiet for a moment, and she wondered if he was having the same push and pull inside as she was. On one hand, this felt comfortable. They’d always talked easily with each other. But at the same time, they were strangers now. Strangers who had this big, breathing beast between them.
He took a long swig from his drink. “Teen Finn didn’t have expectations. He just wanted to play football, not work for his dad, and get the hell away from here.”
“Guess you lived up to that last part at least. I was convinced you’d changed your name and moved to a foreign country.”
His jaw flexed. “Something like that.”



With her latest release Ms. Loren has brought the heartbreak, the feelings of guilt and of loss, to life as readers are introduced to an unlikely group of friends whose bond was formed through tragedy.  In a tale that started out under a cloud of sadness on the anniversary of a school shooting, readers find unexpected joy and an affirmation of life through the power of one couple’s love.  From the first page to the last readers get put through the wringer, alongside a couple still trying to recover years later, in an unforgettable tale that’s only just begun.

Olivia Arias was the daughter of a gardener, too poor to be the girlfriend of the golden boy of the high school.  At least that’s what everyone thought.  The truth was very different though as they found a close connection, a star-crossed love that they kept secret from a judgmental world.  Their clandestine romance came to a head on that night of tragedy and changed both of them irrevocably.  Years of feeling lost, of trying to live up to other’s expectations, has brought all of them back home though and her back into Finn Dorsey’s arms.  The years since that tragedy were hard on Liv as she tried to bury the pain through acts that only made her hurt more before settling down in a career that’s safe but far from satisfying.  She made a life for herself but was far from living as she buried everything that made her Olivia Arias.  Seeing Finn brings her back to life, has her embracing long ago dreams, and has her finally dealing with her past to make a future for she desperately wants Finn to be a part of.  Liv’s an immensely appealing heroine, strong-willed and supportive of her friends. She owns up to her rocky past but doesn’t want to make any more missteps in fear of disappointing her father.  Those fears, as well as feeling an obligation to those who died, has her desperate to live a life of success but it’s a life that’s slowly draining her.  Seeing her back home showed us a more carefree side, showed us someone embracing life to the fullest without fear.  With Finn she once again became that edgy and artsy Liv and it had me cheering as she finally grabbed on to living with both hands, putting everything on the line for love.

Finn Dorsey came from a family of wealth and big expectations.  Though he was attracted to the gardener’s daughter, could be himself around her, his father had his own plans for his life which had him keeping Liv his dirty little secret. Even with the events of that tragic night she was still his secret, a secret that is finally revealed years later as the survivors of that night come home.  The years have changed Finn, hardened him through his undercover work with the FBI. Anger is now his constant companion and it’s put his career in jeopardy. Returning home is supposed to help him heal, help him deal with his past and humanize him after all the darkness of his last assignment.  What starts out as a plan to heal both of their wounded souls soon takes a sensual turn as he and Liv grow closer together and discover that it’s only in each other’s arms that they’re truly living.  Finn’s guilt over his treatment of Liv all those years ago is palpable and is just one of the wrongs he’s desperate to right.  He feels responsible for putting her in the gunman’s sights and is now determined to keep her safe...even from his blackened heart.  I ached for Finn, admired him for his honorable nature and for pushing Liv out of her complacency, and was rooting for him to push his own past aside to embrace a future with Liv.  It’s the other wrong that he’s desperate to right, that of the identity of the group who sold the guns to those teen murderers long ago, that’s a roadblock to his HEA though and it’s a mystery that permeates the series as one crumb here leads us into the next installment.

Ms. Loren has beautifully balanced tragedy with romance in this series starter. The heartbreak and feelings of loss are achingly depicted here, the emotional baggage each character carries drew me to each of them and has me longing to see them healed.  The emotional healing of Liv and Finn is part of their steamy romance as are their numerous scorching encounters that were playful while making me blush.  So many romances involve big misunderstandings but this couple talked through everything in a mature way that made their relationship even more believable and the story’s conclusion even more rewarding. Alongside this immensely likable main couple were a cast of equally appealing secondary characters who are carrying their own emotional baggage. An unexpected friendship resulted from that tragedy as Liv found a connection with other survivors who were once complete opposites and who are now tight-knit friends.  There’s the protective Taryn, whose sister was killed that night, the outspoken Kincaid, and good girl Rebecca who was Finn’s date on that tragic night.  I loved the interactions between these women, their blatant support for each other amidst their playful banter.  Though they were once seen as opposites it’s clear that their connection is now strong.  The brief glimpses of these characters, the tragic backgrounds depicted, and the foreboding and mysterious comments scattered throughout this story has me intrigued for more.  With this series starter Ms. Loren shows once again why she’s a go-to author for me as her talent with words and emotions leaps off the pages while giving readers the HEAs they’re longing for!

My rating for this is an A.

*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. She holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental health counselor, but now she writes full time from her cozy office in Dallas, Texas where she puts her characters on the therapy couch instead. She is a two-time RITA Award winner and a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.



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1 comment:

  1. I LOVE Roni Loren's stories! Thanks for the thoughtful review.