Pressing the boundaries of both the psyche and the heart, Sam and Holden embark on a dangerous journey that will test the limits of love.
Sam Wintry’s life used to be almost perfect. She was engaged to her childhood best friend and high school sweetheart, Tyler Marks, planning an amazing cross-country honeymoon during her college break. But after a hit-and-run leaves her in ruin, she begins seeing Tyler’s fractured, ghostly presence, and her family believes she’s losing her mind. Not until she completes their journey, stopping along the way to scatter Tyler’s remains, will Tyler be able cross over. Only…is Sam ready for him to leave her?
When the black sheep of the Marks’ family, Holden Marks, returns to check on Tyler’s case, Sam convinces him to give her his brother’s ashes. Despite their shaky history, she needs him…plus, he owes it to Sam and his brother. What she doesn’t count on is Holden’s relentlessness to go on the trip.
On the road, Holden realizes just how unhinged Sam has become. Dealing with her psychosis forces him to confront his dark past, making it harder to keep secrets hidden that should remain buried. Especially from Sam, the only woman he’s ever loved. And as Sam starts to unravel the truth, she begins to question if the brother she’s unwillingly falling for again is in an even darker place than her.
I’ve been in a book funk lately and since none of the recently released books were appealing to me at the moment, I dug deep into my TBR list and found this little gem. The blurb really grabbed my attention: a mentally disturbed heroine who had not one but two guys in love with her, plus…they’re brothers?! Add in a ghost, a road trip, a mystery, and a lovely second chance romance and I pretty much decided that this would be my next read. Both the plot and writing were compelling and kept my attention from the very beginning to the very end and the sexual tension between the hero and heroine crackled in the air. I did, however, have some issues, like the timeline switching back and forth between past and present I wasn’t too fond of, and the ending along with the suspense aspect was a little anticlimactic but when taken as a whole, this story is a solid NA romance that I’m glad I picked up.
Sam Wintry had the perfect life: she was engaged to her childhood best friend and sweetheart Tyler Marks, settled in college, and getting ready for the road trip of her life with Tyler. All that changed when he’s killed in a hit and run and Sam’s left shattered and barely able to pick up the pieces. All her life she’s relied on Tyler: first as friends, and then when they were together, as a couple and now with him gone, she struggles with self-identity. In fact, her mind is so fragile she believes she can see Tyler’s ghost lingering on Earth and hear his voice. Her parents, friends, and doctor all are convinced she’s mentally unstable and put her on meds to stabilize her, but Sam knows she’s not crazy. She’s not lying. And she can see Tyler. See that her fiancé valued the road trip they were supposed to go on. In an impulsive gesture, Sam decides to go on the road trip and scatter his ashes at major checkpoints Tyler would’ve liked. Her plan goes off without a hitch, except for one thing. Holden Marks is back, and he’s here to stay and go with Sam no matter what.
Holden is Tyler’s older brother and the black sheep of the family. What’s gradually revealed is that Sam and Holden had a past before she was involved with Tyler, a past that includes infatuation, love, and heartbreak. For years, Sam and Holden’s relationship is strained but with Sam going on a road trip with his brother’s ashes, Holden insists on going with her to honor him, to protect her, and to solve the mystery he’s been trying to do for a while now: find the bastard responsible for the hit and run.
There is absolutely NO cheating or a love triangle. The relationship timeline between the three goes in the order of: Sam + Holden, Sam + Tyler, and then Sam + Holden again. Never did I feel like the age gap between Sam and Holden was inappropriate nor did I ever think Tyler was second place. Sam loved both of the Marks boys, but in very, very different ways and at different times of her life. Tyler was a true love. But Holden was her first love. And from early on, it was very obvious to me who she belonged with and who she had the deeper connection to.
The first couple of chapters alternated between past and present and since I’m not a fan of that kind of book setup, I was a little disconnected with the story at that time but it didn’t make me lose interest in the overall plot. There is a secondary suspense element weaved into the story and when it all came to light towards the end I was slightly disappointed with how easily all the ends were wrapped up, considering how hard the protagonists were wanting Tyler’s case to be solved for a while now.
This is a book that kept me on my toes and led me down memory lane with all the aspects of teenage life. It’s both a love after loss romance and a second chance romance, two of my favorite kind of love stories combined in one. With so many NA romances out there, it’s really refreshing to read one that’s slightly different from the norm.
The Darkest Part is the first book in the Living Heartwood series but a standalone. There is a slight paranormal aspect as the heroine ‘sees’ her dead fiance’s ghost but other than that this is very much a contemporary story.
Rating: 3.5-4 stars!