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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Forever Freed by Laura Kaye

A heart can break, even one that no longer beats.

I stalk my new neighbors, a single mother and her child, drawn by the irresistible scent of their joy and love. I crave their blood, starved for some healing respite from my ancient grief. Now to lure them into my grasp.

But they surprise me. Little Olivia accepts me without fear or reservation--talking, smiling, offering innocent affection that tugs at my long-lost humanity. Her mother, Samantha, seeks me out when she should stay away, offering sweet friendship, and calling to the forgotten man within me. They lure me instead.

Ah, Dio, Lucien, run and spare them while you can...




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I found this book to be very slow starting, and thus hard to get into. Through most of the first half things were moving along, not much was happening but the writing was engaging enough to keep me reading, though not always enough to hold my attention. I even put it down for a few months at around 35% or so because it just wasn't doing it for me and there were other things I was anxious to read. I have really enjoyed all of Laura Kaye's other books that I've read, and several people whose opinion I trust seemed to really love this book, so I eventually gave it another chance and made myself finish it. And really, until about the halfway point, or a little past it, I was having to make myself continue with it because it was just...dull. Not bad, just dull. Then finally at a little past the halfway point, something big finally happens, and from there on out the book became quite a page turner.



Lucien is your typical tortured, woe-is-me, I'm-a-monster, I-hate-my-existence type of vampire. He lives largely as a hermit, occupying himself to some extent with his various renovation projects, but mostly living in the past, perpetually mourning the wife and daughter that were taken from him when he was callously turned and then abandoned by an unknown vampire. I have never been a fan of this sort of vampire, and every time I come across one I groan, and usually end up wanting to put a stake through his heart to put him out of his misery. Lucien was much the same way, at least at first, though as his relationship with Sam progresses he slowly starts to redeem himself. Still, he persists in his maudlin cowardice way too long, and as much as I mostly liked him and could cheer for his transformation by the end, I still also wanted to smack him for being such a putz almost to the very end.

Samantha is a single mother, fairly independent, and definitely of the once bitten, twice shy type when it comes to romance. She's had a bit of a rough life, and experienced some painful losses, but she's come through it a fairly well-adjusted and optimistic young woman. Beyond all that? Well, she's really a fairly ordinary character. While she does show a surprising amount of strength and determination in the latter part of the book that definitely sets her apart, for most of the story she's really rather plain. Pleasant, nice, enough quirks to keep her moderately interesting I suppose, but overall she's a fairly forgettable character until the tigress inside of her starts to show her stripes in the last half.

For anyone who's read Twilight and its sequels, their influence is clearly visible in this book. While it's by no means a copycat book, for the characters, situation, and general story are quite different in many respects, still there is a definite Twilight feel to it, especially in the beginning. The feeling diminishes the further you get into the book, but there are still many parallels strewn throughout which had me rolling my eyes a time or two. The book is original enough in so many ways that I think Kaye would have done well to tone down the overt Twilight-y stuff and let her book stand more fully on its own.

Besides that influence, which I felt was too heavy-handed in many places, I also felt that the book could have done with a fair bit of tightening. While the writing is quite good throughout, still there are many things that weren't really necessary to the story and which made it drag on far too long in many places and should have been cut. This is particularly true in the first half of the book, which as I've noted above dragged a lot for me. While I'd agree that the slow progression of their romance was nice, and more realistic in many ways, it still could have been tightened and condensed to help the overall flow I think. Likewise, I felt the ending drug on too long. The main confrontations were over, the big decisions had been made and committed to, but instead of getting a nice "they rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after" kind of scene to wrap things up, it keeps going for another chapter or two I think. Also, when they're dealing with the immediate fallout of the big confrontation the story spins in circles for far too long before finally making progress and moving past it. I get that the decisions that had to be made weren't ones to be made lightly, but the deciding, and the agonizing over the decision went on for far too long in my opinion, and the whole section would have benefited from a bit more editing.

For those who love angsty, guilt-ridden, self-hating main characters, you'll probably love this book. Kaye does take a fresh approach to the whole vampire mythos, giving it a few unique touches of her own while also staying close enough to tradition to keep from being too outlandish. I think her youth as an author really shows in this book, and honestly I'd recommend pretty much any of her other books more than this one. Still, this isn't a horrible book in the final accounting, and the last half does go a long way toward making up for the slow first half, but it does have its share of problems. 3 stars to a book that I really wanted to like far more than I actually did.

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