Intensely passionate, intimate, emotional and simply breathtaking.
Every single word… every single moment… every ounce of soul-deep pain coursed through my heart and became my own as I experienced this powerful story. It’s a visceral experience in emotion crafted in the uniquely beautiful way that only A.L. Jackson can deliver.
Jared Holt believes he doesn’t deserve to love or be loved. He destroys everything he touches. Haunted by the mistake that shattered his life, he’s fled from the memory of that pain.
Jared doesn’t know why he’s compelled to return, but finds himself drawn back to the place where it all began. The exact place where it ended. When he runs into his childhood best friend, Aleena’s older brother Christopher, he agrees to share Christopher and Aleena’s apartment while he looks for a place of his own.
Aleena is no longer the little girl Jared remembers from his past and evokes feelings in him he never wanted to feel again. Terrified of destroying her, he fights to keep her away. But her touch is something he can’t resist—the touch that sealed his fate.
Their pasts are intertwined and their futures uncertain. The only truths they know are the secrets they whisper in the night.
Every time I finish a book by A.L. Jackson, I have to actively work to try and get myself together… to recover from the emotional experience of her stories. Somehow she’s able to reach inside me and touch my heart and soul with the kind of story that never lets me go. Her stories are so piercing, so powerful, that to say I felt every moment is a severe understatement. It’s moving beyond feeling, into being. She’s able to make her character’s pain, be my pain. Their heartbreak, be my own. And the hope she inevitably pervades to dull the ache of a shattered heart, and in this case , even a shattered soul, is the hope that I desperately grasp onto as I experience her stories viscerally. This might be her best work to date. The story is infused with a spectrum of emotions resulting from heartache, hopelessness, guilt, tragedy and a first love that has yearned to be realized over the course of many years. Come To Me Quietly is a story about finding a way to live through the kind of pain that breaks you, about finding a reason to live and trusting that love can heal even the most tortured souls.
“Uncontrolled chaos. That’s exactly how they described me. The desert sky goes on forever, an ocean of the deepest blue. The city rises like a beacon in the distance. Because I am drawn… There is nothing here for me. I know it. I’ve already destroyed it all. I destroy everything I touch.”
Jared Holt lives in agony. He’s been gone from home for six years trying to numb the pain, trying to forget the actions that ruined everything. He sins are inked all over his body, reminding him that he doesn’t deserve happiness. Doesn’t deserve to feel. Women. Drugs. It’s all been a means to an end. A way to avoid feeling. In his mind, his penance is life long, meaning the only life he deserves is an empty one bereft of all love, family and forgiveness. He finds himself riding back to Phoenix without explanation, back to the place that beckons him… the same place where his life fell apart. When he unexpectedly runs into his childhood best friend, Christopher, he begins to flirt with the most perilous of circumstances, facing the very people that are able to trigger the most profound pain. Nonetheless, an unexpected sense of contentment arises at seeing his friend and his younger sister, Aleena (who is now 20 years old).
Christopher, Aly and Jared were inseparable as kids. Jared particularly looked after Aly, never leaving her behind, always protecting her. They were close. Their families were close. And the bond they nurtured over time seemed unbreakable. But one day everything changed and Jared was not the same… none of them were. An unspeakable tragedy sent him away and kept him afar for six years. When Jared left, Aleena’s heart shattered and nothing was ever the same.
“Jared Holt… the name was enough to knock the breath from my lungs… When I looked back now, I wondered how it was possible for a heart to be broken at fourteen. But my heart had, because it’d broken for him… My feelings for Jared had haunted me, left this hollowed-out place deep inside me. I’d held on to that remnant of pain for so long, until it faded and transformed and became this mystery that inhabited the deepest recesses of my mind. A shadow of a memory. The mention of his name ignited it, basking it in light and bringing it to life again.”
So when Aly finds out that Christopher invited Jared to stay at their apartment, everything that was once dormant blazed to life once more. When she sees him for the first time in so many years, she can hardly take a breath. He’s the most beautiful man she’s ever seen. Every part of his muscular body is covered in tattoos, his sharp blue eyes intense. Aly worked to reconcile the memories of her Jared with the gorgeous man before her, inked in the very pain that flowed beneath his skin. But the joy and desire that surged quickly abated when he pushed her away.
“I was smart enough to recognize when I was on dangerous ground. Everything about him was dangerous. Just as dangerous as he was beautiful. I’d witnessed firsthand the destruction that was Jared Holt.”
Despite the rocky re-acquaintance, their friendship began to emerge again as Jared awoke feelings in Aly she hadn’t felt before and Aly, in turn, provided some much needed comfort to Jared. Jared had been alone for so long, and suddenly she was there again… caring about him, worrying about him. Before long, Jared and Aly began seeing each other behind closed doors, re-connecting in the safety of the darkness… simply talking, sharing, feeling.
“Why he felt the need to sneak into my room, I didn’t really know. But it was like he got it, too. The time we spent together felt like something that was our own, a secret shared between friends as the trust between us grew. I’d come to expect him just as much as he seemed to expect me, and a slow trust had begun to build between us. We’d talk for hours about nothing and everything. I’d glide along the banks of his sadness, dipping my toes to test the water, but without ever diving into the torrent where I knew Jared continued to drown.”
Their relationship is tumultuous. We realize Aly has loved him since the beginning, but did he feel the same? What does he feel now? Despite his warning to not get attached, she desires him. Desires his love. Desires to ease his guilt… his pain. But as the pain within him ebbs and flows, recedes and spikes, his behavior vacillates as he turns from hot to cold one moment to the next. Aly can’t make sense of how he feels as she tries to hold on to any piece he’s willing to give her. She’s so afraid he’ll run again.
“You think I can’t feel this? How badly you want the things I can’t give you? That’s why it makes me sick that I’m doing this, because I already warned you… you can’t fix me, and you can’t say or do something that will change my mind or fill up the void in my soul.”
Both Jared and Aleena harbor painful secrets that threaten to create a rift between them. This is a story about tragedy, forgiveness and acceptance, about finding the will and the courage to move beyond a past defined by pain. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s absolutely beautiful, each word infused with so much emotion. It’s powerful and brilliant and perfectly written to wring out every ounce of feeling. Words do not suffice in conveying how much this story touched me, as A.L. Jackson’s books inevitably always do. There’s a reason she is one of my favorite authors and it’s stories like these that will forever stay with me, rising above the rest as the shining beacon to the power rhetoric can wield.
“Our eyes met, almost hesitantly, the reflection like this illusion of us that went on forever. Infinite. Something like torment filled his eyes. He buried his nose in my hair behind my ear and whispered his praise. “Aleena.”
And I loved him.
I loved him with everything that I had.”
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About A.L. Jackson
She first found a love for writing during her days as a young mother and college student. She filled the journals she carried with short stories and poems used as an emotional outlet for the difficulties and joys she found in day-to-day life.
Years later, she shared a short story she’d been working on with her two closest friends and, with their encouragement, this story became her first full length novel. A.L. now spends her days writing in Southern Arizona where she lives with her husband and three children.
Look for Come to Me Softly, book two in the Closer To You Series, coming July 1, 2014