THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY (Book #1)

AUTHOR:  Roni Loren

GENRE:  Contemporary Romance

RELEASE DATE:  January 2, 2018

Available @ AMAZON

REVIEWER:  Pistol Annie

RATING:  4 Stars

BOOK BLURB:

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.

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…

This is the first book written by Roni Loren that I’ve read.  Intrigued by the blurb, I decided to take a chance on a new-to-me-author.  And where better to start than with the first book in her new series, The Ones Who Got Away.

The subject matter meets today’s headlines head-on with a mass school shooting at its center.  I didn’t have any idea what lie ahead in this story, but was pleasantly surprised with both the top-notch writing style and the respectful manner in which the storyline was handled.

It’s like it’s all just sitting there, waiting to remind me how we can never really escape it. How the ones who got away never really get away.

Olivia Arias and Finn Dorsey relay the saga in third-person dual points of view introducing five survivors from that tragic night.  Readers are provided insight into the aftereffects on each person and their inability to escape the memories.  Attention grabbing characters with diverse backgrounds are well-drawn in a tantalizing storyline with an edge.

School shootings seem to hit the hardest — youngsters — innocents whose lives are ahead of them, but suddenly are wiped away by a anger-colored bullet.  It’s not an easy subject to read, but sometimes words speak volumes, and listening can point us towards important lessons.  In the positive column is the fact that this author chose not to dwell on the horrors of that one specific night, but more on the character-driven story of respecting the lost, recovering and moving on, and how each of these individuals deal in their own way.

Olivia and Finn have not seen each other since that terrifying night of senior year.  In high school they kept their teenage lust a secret.  And there were reasons why –

His family is affluent, and Finn was the popular school jock.  His dad made it clear what he expected of Finn.  Liv, on the other hand, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and her dad was his family’s gardener.  Even so, opposites attract when everything else is against them.  But after the overwhelming pain and horrors of prom night, Finn literally disappeared . . . until twelve years later when he shows up unexpectedly at the reunion.

An FBI Agent now, who has been undercover for over two years, Finn is an interesting character on several levels.  Focusing on his job to keep the ghosts at bay, he has never really lived life any other way.  It’s his way of dealing with the past.  I found him to be very easy to like and although his guilt-ridden wobbling and need to save the world grated on my nerves more than once, his character was a strong addition to the story.  He’s a good guy.

As a former high school Goth girl who became a wild party girl in college, Liv makes a complex heroine.  She is now a successful web designer with a talent for photography, who works long hours and entertains a very low-key lifestyle.  Her way of dealing with the past made me feel sad for her and disappointed that she had missed out on so many opportunities because of it.

Together Liv and Finn are better, happier and more relaxed.   They have fun and let themselves laugh and live outside the boundaries they have sought as comfort zones.  And yes, the chemistry leads to a very active and steamy sexual relationship, but it’s not over-the-top.  Their wit and zany banter adds lots of humor and kept the angst between them at a moderate level.  Much less than I would have expected after so many years with the past nipping at their heels.  Kudos to the author for pulling that off with great writing skills.

The unusual comradery between Liv and three other female survivors, Rebecca, Kincaid and Taryn, is a highlight to this plotline.  The author did a fabulous job keeping it light with girl-talk for the most part.  I appreciated and enjoyed the show of support with uplifting banter and fun that their exchanges added to the story.

I’m purposely keeping it light on the details.   If you’ve read many of my reviews, you know I’m not a fan of retelling the story.  I believe each reader deserves a clean read and the chance to draw their very own conclusions without spoilers.

There were a couple of minor slip-ups, in my opinion, that didn’t really have much impact on my rating but I’ll mention anyway.  Finn never crossed paths with or mentioned any of his former high school guy friends — not in conversation, not at the school or hotel or in their hometown.  Being a relatively small setting, I found this a bit odd.  Not a major deal breaker, but I did question why.

And I felt that some additional background and insight into their earlier past relationship could have solidified the believability of their renewed romance.  Other than a little hint of teenage make-out sessions hidden from the world, readers really don’t get much here in that regard.  Emotions are raw and perilously close to the surface and communication isn’t always effective between them.  There’s an insta-love feel to this second chance – and an uncertain footing for a soul deep and lasting happily-ever-after.  I had to stretch to get there myself.

Loren has written a respectful and engaging page-turner rolled into a second chance reconnection for an interesting circle of friends and lovers.

Rebecca, the wounded valedictorian and Finn’s prom date that night, will have her story told next in The One You Can’t Forget with a release date in June 2018.

 

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