Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: Sugar & Gold by Emma Scott

Title: Sugar & Gold
Series: Dreamcatcher #2
Author: Emma Scott
Release date: June 13, 2017
Cliffhanger: No
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

***A new adult STANDALONE from the author of Full Tilt and The Butterfly Project***

Nikolai Alexei Young was born with a special gift…one he’d do anything to lose. The heart and soul of every person he comes into contact with is an open book to his heightened senses. Colorful emotions, whispers of thoughts, the sour tastes of old memories…He feels them all. The sci-fi books would call him an empath. For Nikolai, his ability has made him an exile. He roams the U.S. alone, avoiding the glut of life in big cities, and using his innate talents to win money in underground poker games. Just enough to keep going, one town to the next. He has no hope that his life can be anything else, until he meets her…

At nineteen, Fiona Starling was trapped in an ugly, desperate situation until she freed herself the only way she knew how. Now three years later, living outside Savannah, Georgia, she is rebuilding her life on her own terms; seizing every moment and saving every penny so that she might fulfill her dream of moving to the raw wilderness of Costa Rica. But behind her carefree smile beats the heart of a lonely young woman haunted by her past, until a chance encounter with a tattooed stranger changes everything…

Fiona takes Nikolai under her roof for three sultry nights, waiting out the rain of a summer storm. She grows more and more fascinated by this brooding stranger with whom she shares an intense physical connection—a connection so strong, she wonders if there is something between them beyond lust and passion. Nikolai is shocked to discover that Fiona calms the raging turmoil in his heart. She alone silences the din of other people’s lives, and envelops him in the sweet beauty of her inner self. Every moment he’s with her—every touch of her skin—brings him closer to the peace that’s been eluding him his entire life.

But Fiona harbors secrets that she is too terrified to reveal. After Nikolai confesses his unique ability, she is caught between wanting to believe him and fearing he’ll eventually unearth her own dark past. When the unthinkable happens, Fiona’s plans come crashing down, and Nikolai discovers his hated ability might be the only thing that can save the woman he loves.

Sugar & Gold is a new adult romance with shades of the paranormal and is the second book in the Dreamcatcher novels, a series of interconnected STANDALONES. It is NOT necessary to have read How to Save a Life (Dreamcatcher #1) first in order to follow the story, but characters will appear across all novels. Intended for readers 18 and up.

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It's hard to believe I've only been reading Emma Scott's books for a year now, but in that time I have discovered the of the beauty and grace of her writing. Her skill at easily drawing out my emotions for her characters has quickly made her one of my top auto-read authors. It doesn't matter what genre or subject matter she decides to explore, I'll be first to add it to my TBR.

That being said, sometimes I just can't shut off my inquisitive mind when reading, and in this case, that prevented it from being a big winner for me like they have been in the past. There were too many times I kept stopping to question the validity of different aspects of the plot. In other cases, I just wanted more of an explanation or closure. But judging my the overall excitement for this book, I know that I'm in the minority with my pickiness this time so please don't let me scare you off from checking this unique story out.

Fiona Starling is twenty-three, but only now is she getting her first taste of independence and freedom. After surviving childhood lacking in love, she reached adulthood vulnerable to the manipulative man who swept her into his web of lies. It took her years to escape the abuse at his hands, but his words still have the power to mark her every single day. His taunts and insults are a constant soundtrack to her psyche, tearing into her self-worth until she can forcibly turn down the noise.

I believed Steve had rescued me; only to find out he was carrying me off to a colder winter. A different kind of prison altogether.

Everyone has a dream. Hers is a simple one: finding peace. And Costa Rica is her plan to finally break free from the chains that still bind her.

Nikolai is a tortured man, struggling to just find some semblance of peace himself. Unlike Fiona, it isn't just one person who invades his head, it's him against the world. Every person he comes in contact with transmits emotions and sometimes even thoughts through a color and image aura he's named the ken, that only he can see. His unwanted ability to read people leads him to a lonely life on the road playing poker for a living and trying to limit human contact for his own sanity. Up until now, the only momentary escape he can find is the pain at the end of a tattoo needle. But his canvas is almost completely covered, and he's not sure how he can manage without that small comfort when it's gone.

Then he meets Fiona, and during their one night of passion something inexplicable falls into place.

It was her voice that echoed in the hollowed out place inside me that belonged to everyone but me. But she was there now and she filled it up with all that was her and I felt whole for the first time in my life.

Fiona is the first person he's met who radiates kindness, care, and compassion. The only ugliness surrounding her is the one that haunts her, and he wishes with everything he has that he can take it all away for her. When they're together, the buzz of their intense attraction is only a bonus. The real prize is the comfort and the quiet they both give each other. Though neither has any experience with a healthy relationship, and she doesn't want to alter her plans to leave the country they're both willing to try.

Fiona… My shield. Protecting me and giving me rest. And I lay beneath her, strong and unwavering. A foundation she could rely on.

Until one devastating event knocks their lives off course in a way neither could have anticipated. I have to say, the direction that the story went took me completely off guard. To be 100% honest, I didn't love this twist. I felt as if there were too many details that didn't seem at all plausible.

The main characters were sweet together, the secondary characters endearing and supportive friends. I did enjoy this couple, and the PNR element was one that I was really interested to read about. But the nagging plot points were rearing their head.

Issues aside, what I loved most about this book was Fiona's journey to self-empowerment. Spousal emotional abuse is an important topic to be educated about, and I feel as if it was very delicately and respectfully addressed. Fiona came out stronger in the end, realizing that she alone was relinquishing her power to him, and she had to make the choice to own it and take it back.

While this wasn't a huge five star win for me, I know that many others loved it wholeheartedly, so I urge everyone to give this a chance if it sounds like something they would enjoy. It was an original story with a miraculous kind of love that had the strength to heal two very broken people.

*Though Sugar & Gold is connected to How to Save a Life with recurring characters, this is a complete STANDALONE. I did not read HTSAL and had no issues whatsoever.


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