Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

Title: Keepsake
Series: True North #3
Author: Sarina Bowen
Release date: October 25, 2016
Rating: 4 stars


There's a first time for everything.

Lark Wainwright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for much more than farm labor.

Even the safest place in the world felt more elusive after you’d visited some of the ugliest ones.

I didn't know what to expect with Keepsake other than the fact that I would get more quality time in with the lovable Shipley family on the farm. And that was enough for me. Zach has always been quite the mystery so far. We know that he's had an unconventional upbringing (to say the least), and he's a virgin. He's that one in the corner, quietly observing but not giving too much away. But he's fiercely loyal, and works harder than anyone, no questions asked. I was ready to discover what made this unique man tick. I was certainly not disappointed. If you're looking for:

A) an alpha
B) an asshole
C) a manwhore
D) all of the above

Then you're out of luck. He's one of the good guys. Just good, down to his soul. Zack was wonderfully unique and one of the most genuine and solid characters I've come across. It was really fascinating to peel away all of his many layers. What I loved so much about him was his ability to see the world as a place of opportunities. He has a lack of bitterness or anger, or even resentment over the fact that he was abused as a child. In fact, his exit from the religious cult where he grew up is thought of with sadness, but mainly just a sense of relief that he was able to have a life without the constant fear that he once endured. He maintained much of his innocence of the modern world because of being sheltered, but he's intelligent enough to know that he's not limited to the stricture and regulations put on him in his younger years. Everything was deemed a sin, even hugging and reading books.

When Zach found his way to the Shipley farm four years ago, after helping on a neighboring farm, he found himself a home and a family in every sense that matters. He was accepted with open arms, and he's still learning and adjusting to the real world.

When he meets May Shipley's best friend Lark, he's immediately taken with her. But he holds his feelings close to his chest and she walks right out of his life again into terrifying circumstances that will change her terribly. The once adventurous, brave girl has returned with a heavy burden and painful memories. She's holding the pieces of herself together by a thin thread. Smiling, while inside...she's anything but. She's barely surviving.

I would smile and act normal for as long as it took. Until acting normal seemed normal again, and the dragons in my heart forgot to blow their fire.

Frequent nightmares and fear are chipping away at the person she once was, but she doesn't know how to move on, to recover. Like Zach, she focuses on taking care of others and she doesn't want to upset her parents or the Shipleys by admitting how deeply she had sunk into anxiety. But as you probably know, feelings can't be pushed down in our deepest recesses forever. Sooner or later, they escape more powerful than ever.

Zach was absolutely beautiful in his care for her. In the bunk house they shared, he became her rock. There through every desperate cry in the dark. Willing to be her silent shoulder to lean on. The connection these two had was as real as you can get. They had a lot in common. Both sought out refuge on the Shipley farm after having their lives turned upside down. They were both survivors, but not embittered over their experiences.

When her horrible experience was fully revealed I hurt so much for everything she suffered. She was completely broken by it and not surprisingly so. I really appreciated the fact that Sarina Bowen addressed Lark's issues with honesty and respect. They weren't treated lightly or healed simply because she found a wonderful man who told her everything was all right. Life doesn't work that way. For every victory over her trauma that tormented her, she had to choose to work for it. And Zach was patiently waiting for the day she was free of her ghosts and in a healthy place.

These two had an amazing passion, Zach's lack of sexual experience didn't make him unsure of himself or insensitive to what she needed. And you could feel with every breath he took, his devotion to her, and his desire to make her his.

When I looked into her big-eyed gaze I saw my own desperation reflected back at me. The need we had for each other was bottomless.

I loved this book so much. I feel like both of them grew and became better people together, but also learned to stand on their own two feet and find the courage to make a better life for themselves. My only reasoning for taking off a star was the fact that the book could be slow paced in parts and took me longer than usual to read through. In no way am I saying that it was boring, yet there was something that prevented a fast flow for me. All in all, the story was beautifully written as always, and I really loved the journey Zach and Lark brought me on.

A lot of bitter things happened to you this year, but without them we wouldn’t be sitting right here.”

This is the third installment to the True North series, but can be read as a standalone. A must read!


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