Left DrowningLeft Drowning by Jessica Park

Publisher: Skyscape (July 16, 2013)

Format: Paperback ARC

Reviewed by: Judith

Score: 9/10

Caveat: This will be a (mostly) spoiler free review but not a SWOON free review. Be prepared for a lot of swooning, a lot of squeeing, and a lot of OMGOMGOMG CHRISing cause the hero? Chris Shepherd?  Sex on a stick, ladies. Watch out: there’s a new hottie in town.

Plot: [from the publisher] What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

Review: Want a book that grabs you from page one? That just sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go? Then on July 16th, stop whatever you are doing & buy this book. Left Drowning grabbed me the night before a long flight, twisted its sexy little hooks into me, and it was impossible to put down. No joke, a stewardess had to wrestle my Kindle from me at take off cause I was not powering down this book for anything.

Left Drowning is at its most basic a love story but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s a story of discovery, redemption, healing, and ultimately finding a belief in something bigger than we are  – a higher power, fate, whatever you want to call it. When we first meet Blythe she is still reeling from the loss of her parents four years before. Sloppy drunk and friendless, she chances upon the four Shepherd siblings and with their help starts down the path to healing.  But the Shepherds are not without their own faults.  Each of the siblings is uniquely and tragically damaged so watching them befriend and help Blythe heal is an amazing thing. These broken people all giving each other hope and providing a lifeline when life is at its most difficult is hard to read about yet so beautifully and sweetly done. This is where Jessica Park truly excels. She is the undisputed master of writing about family and the interpersonal relationships that make up family. Each of the Shepherd kids is fleshed out so well that you will find yourself wishing they would come be your friends. They are funny, irreverent, blindly loyal, and idiosyncratic in the ways that only real people can be.  And Chris, the eldest, can add HOTTEST MALE ON THE PLANET to that list.  I’m not gonna lie: he is one of the sexiest heroes I’ve come across in NA! Long hair, green eyes, smokin’ bod…But above and beyond the sex appeal, he has a huge capacity to love and protect others. His tragic flaw? He can’t let himself love or be protected in return. This makes for some truly difficult reading since his relationship with Blythe is the driving force of the book.  It will simultaneously enliven and gut you whenever both are on the page since we are given a chance to see how good they could be together but are constantly left questioning if they will in fact end up together.

In the end, it’s the familial bond that will warm your heart and the sexual tension between Blythe and Chris that will make you go up in flames. When you mix one part heart-warming, feel good redemption story with one part sexy and steamy you have one fabulous book full of unforgettable characters.   In the end, I’m giving this a 9/10. 

Based on the following criteria: 

How much did I like the heroine: 9. Blythe was difficult to like at first since she kept wallowing in the past but as soon as she decides to straighten herself out, well, she just sky rockets in my eyes. She starts running, studying, partying less. It’s an awesome transformation. While she does lean a bit heavily on Chris and his family to pull herself around, in the end, she stands on her own two feet all alone and it’s amazing to watch this girl turn into a mature woman.

How much did I like the hero:  10. Ladies, I kid you not. Chris Shepherd has got it going on. Sensitive, real, protective, gorgeous, rich, dreamy, sexy, damaged…he’s every man you ever wanted rolled up into one delicious package. What’s best though is we’re meeting him before he’s an adult so he’s still full of flaws and still oh so naughty. He has a potty mouth in bed and a crooked half smile out of it. I dare anyone to read about him and not sizzle.

How believable is the plot: 9.  Girl parties and drinks to forget her past until finally she stumbles upon some people who force her to want to live life sober.  It’s such a simple plot but in Jessica Park’s hands it’s magical.  The only thing I was a little hesitant to believe is a supernatural element of the story that appears at the end. However it fits in the narrative and completes the story very well.

How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Jessica Park wowed me in this one. She writes gorgeously with insanely brilliant character development and an attention to personality tics that is amazing. The book flows so naturally that you probably won’t realize that half the book is over when you reach the mid-way mark. Everything about the prose is effortless and she writes some of the steamiest love scenes in NA. I’m still fanning myself when I think about them a week after! Yowza!

How much did I want to keep reading: 9. Chris was so hot and cold throughout this book that I had to get to the end to see if he ever got up the nerve to let himself love Blythe.  That is one of the driving forces behind the book and the tension of it is incredible.

Final Score: 9/10. This is a beautifully written and nuanced story of healing. The characters are extremely well written and the drama is tense. My one warning is that it is an EXTREMELY MATURE book. Very intense adult situations happen and you better be ready for them or you will be shocked (or titillated as the case may be!) I can’t recommend this one highly enough. It really surprised me in the best possible way.

****Disclaimer: I got this book for free from the author. I swear I didn’t bribe her in any way, or get paid for my review. And we might not be legit enough to need this disclaimer but after working at a law firm for many years it’s better safe than sorry!****


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