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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
At the end of Drawn, our lovely author left us with a massive cliffhanger. Now she gives us a choice, which hero do you want Etta to end up with? If you choose Aaron, then this is the story for you. If you prefer Damien, then you need Redemption. In Drawn, we follow Etta's relationship with Damien and his obsessive need to keep her close. Now, he's in prison for started a pub brawl that landed several people in the hospital and Etta is trying to rebuild her life and learn to be a mother. She can see know that what she had with Damien wasn't love, it was nothing like the feels she now has for Aaron and when Damien shows up at her doorstep, she wants nothing to do with him.....but will he allow her to make that choice?
While I didn't love Etta in the first novel, here I really connected with her. She is doing her best to move on and build a life with Aaron, though she doesn't want to tie in down in her drama initially. She doesn't have many options left in her life except to try and be the best parent she can and be grateful for all of Aaron's help. He literally swoops in and saves the day, helping her with everything she needs while not pushing for the relationship he really wants. She really shows a lot of growth here, coming to terms with the relationship she had with Damien and realizing that it wasn't really a relationship at all, just an affair with a man who would let her know him as well as she wanted. We also get to see her devotion to Evie, who is the cutest little girl ever. In my head, she was more or less a black-haired version of little Anna in Frozen. I loved watching her stand strong against her pull towards Damien because we know it will never work.
Then we have Aaron, my beautiful sweet Aaron. The man has the patience of a saint, not only waiting for Etta throughout the Damien episode but also waiting during her pregnancy and after Evie is born and just waiting in general for her to make a move. He was prepared to move on with his life and let her go, if it was what she wanted. Thankfully, it's not. This time around, she wants him as much as he wants her and they are magical together. They have that perfect relationship we all dream about, with love and trust and complete devotion to each other. The way he is so head-over-heels for Evie as well just had me falling for him all the more. It takes a strong man to love his enemy's child as his own.
Then we have Damien. I was never a Damien fan, but I almost feel sorry for him here. In Redemption, we see him really put an effort into improving himself and getting well enough to really win Henrietta back. After watching him really put some effort into it, it was very sad to watch him spiral out of control here. I feel like his life in Redemption was the best possible scenario and this was the worst, but the more likely of the two to occur. The odds of Damien getting Jordy (or someone like him) as his cellmate were much higher than him getting Keith (who was in cellmate in Redemption). Without Keith's presence encouraging him to improve, he worsens because a violent prison life is likely to have that effect. Why would he change when his ways make him the top dog in this life? And while fighting to stay safe in jail, he's obsession with Etta only worsens. I don't think I would ever want him to win Etta back because I don't believe that would ever really work, but I would have liked to see him get a happy-ish ending. Maybe not a wife and kids, but just a life solidly on the redemption path. The thing he does at the end broke my heart a little. It doesn't redeem him completely but it's hard not to let it bring out more emotion.
I really think that Redemption was the fairy-tale ending, with everyone getting to ride off into the sunset with their happily ever after (Damien with Etta and Aaron finding love with someone new) and this is the realistic path. Under that logic, I should really like Redemption more because I'm a big (HUGE) fan of the happily ever afters, but I really don't think it would have worked. I don't think Etta would really be capable of forgiving Damien and moving on with a life with him after everything he has done. The way this story works out was a much more depressing ending. Aaron & Etta (and Evie) do get to live happily ever after, but Damien's fate isn't very happy...which is why this gets four bows instead of 5. I kinda felt like that was how this was going to end. Once Damien shows up at Etta's house, this is the only real logical way the story could play out, but I kept that hope alive that maybe it would turn out differently.
In the end, I like this story better than Redemption and even more than Drawn, but it wasn't perfect. I loved the idea that we get to pick who she ends up with and that they aren't just the same story with different endings. I love the idea that different choices set you down different paths. For anyone else out there like me who wants to read both novels, you will get a bit of repeated material at the beginning. The start off the same, with very minor differences, but once you hit the halfway mark, things go drastically different as we see how those choices effect their lives. I also love the idea that the two novels present together with regards to Etta. If you read both, you can clearly see that, whether she admits it or not, her desire for Damien is completely within her control because she gives in to it in Redemption but fights it here. That simple choice, give in or fight, changes everything. I have wholly enjoyed this journey and encourage everyone to give it a shot. How can you not want to read a novel where you have the power to choose who Etta will end up with?!?!
****Thank you to Lilliana Anderson for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review****