Friday, 18 March 2016

'Never Tear Us Apart', by Monica Murphy

Title: Never Tear Us Apart (Never Tear Us Apart #1)
Author(s): Monica Murphy
Release Date: 5th January 2016
Publisher: Headline Eternal
Genre: NA, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Publisher

Perfect for readers of Colleen Hoover, Jay Crownover, and K. A. Tucker, the first novel in this darkly sexy New Adult contemporary series from New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy kicks off an emotionally powerful two-part tale of forbidden love.

Eight years can disappear in an instant... But their connection runs deeper than ever.

One look at Katie Watts, and Ethan is fifteen again - the boy who risked everything to save a terrified girl from her twisted kidnapper. Now Katie is grown-up - beautiful, composed and telling her story to the world. Ethan was once her guardian angel - and he wants to be sure that she's still safe.

When they reconnect, it's as different people - but Ethan wants Katie every bit as much as she wants him. Yet all he can do is savour every moment they're together until she uncovers who he really is. Because her kidnapper - a convicted serial killer - is also Ethan's father.


This is not a conventional love story.

If that was not already made clear from the synopsis, the book starts with an author's note that directly states 'this book deals with the rape of a child', so any potential reader is given plenty of opportunity to not pick up the book if that is a topic that disturbs them. I've seen books revolving around elements of that nature or including them in some way without any kind of warning, so seeing that this one immediately offers that information from the beginning allows for some level of preparation before digging in.

In the rare occasions that I read romance, a big part of what attracts me to a book in the genre is how 'unusual' the story seems. Not that I am against the contemporary, 'normal' romance plots, but if there is something in the couple's history that makes them unique I am immediately compelled to read that book.

With 'Never Tear Us Apart', the synopsis jumped out at me from the middle of a very long list of releases. A woman falling in love with the son of her kidnapper/rapist? Now that's a dynamic I was dying to read!

That being said, I was somewhat confused while reading the first 100 pages of the book, because the plot was not evolving the way I was assuming it would from my reading of that synopsis. I had thought that the protagonist, Katie, had never found out that Ethan was the murderer's son when he saved her, but once he immediately tells her he's his father I felt 'cheated', because that was the main aspect that had made me want to read the book. Either it be poor wording on the synopsis or just my own misunderstanding of it (possibly because 'Ethan' is not his birth name but the synopsis uses it when addressing his younger self, and the only clue to that change is the line 'when they reconnect, it's as different people'), I didn't enjoy the beginning as much as I should because it took that long for the plot to be made clear to me: Katie knows that her savior (Will) was the kidnapper's son. What she doesn't know is that Ethan is Will.

That confusion out of the way, I managed to start feeling more attached to their story. Both Katie and Ethan's points of view are explored, and their story is also told through flashbacks to the days and aftermath of Katie's abduction. While those flashbacks offer necessary information for the reader to understand both of these characters, I felt like at points they were interrupting the flow of the story, especially from the halfway point. This can turn into a double edged sword, because either the reader becomes frustrated, stops reading or skips the flashbacks altogether (missing that very important context), or they feel compelled to read faster and get back to the main story line.

Having (luckily) never gone through the ordeal that Katie has experienced, she still manages to be a very relatable character. I personally have felt the same way as she does regarding trust issues in relationships and regarding men altogether, so I can say how truthful that portrayal is. Readers from all points of the spectrum -from having had only positive relationships to going through traumatic experiences- will surely find a way to connect with Katie and Ethan, both incredibly round characters.

While it may seem at first that Katie will be the most interesting character to read about, Ethan definitely came out of nowhere with his development. Growing up in the shadow of a serial killer (and having suffered at his hands as well), he has reinvented himself to step away from it. At the back of his mind there is always the disturbing thought that his father's blood also runs through his veins, and therefore he has the potential to become just like him. That parallel is achieved brilliantly throughout the book in very subtle ways, and his internal struggle became one of my favorite aspects of the book.

When it comes to their relationship with each other, that's when some mixed feelings come to play. The entire plot of the book sits on the fact that Katie does not recognize Ethan at any point, as this story takes place eight years after her abduction. From his description, it does not seem like he has changed all that much other than the obvious puberty growth spurt, the removal of piercings, a different hair colour and the use of glasses. Some suspension of disbelief is therefore required to go along with this ignorance from her part, especially taking into consideration that she thinks about Will quite a lot throughout her relationship with Ethan, without ever starting to bridge that gap between the two.

Katie also seems to be a magnet for 'douchebag' males, because not only does she get kidnapped and raped as a child, but throughout the book a group of men also try to steal her purse and another starts getting physically violent at a club. These moments seem only inserted in the plot so Ethan can swoop in and be the hero, but at the same time that's a parallel that is important to their relationship, so then again, mixed feelings are something that can arise from this reading.

In the end, regardless of how conflicted I felt regarding some plot and characterization choices, I really, really enjoyed this book! Katie and Ethan are two incredibly broken people who can only find comfort and love in each other, and you will find yourself rooting for them to work from the get go, because they certainly deserve some happiness after everything that life has thrown their way.

If the tender subject matter does not trigger you, this is an amazing read about how people that have known nothing but pain and suffering also deserve their happy ending. With an end that will leave you hanging and desperate for the sequel, this is a love story that steps away from stereotypes and explores some raw issues in a very blunt, yet faithful way. If you decide to give it a chance, make room in your heart for these characters, because they will latch on immediately and you wont be able to let them go!

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