Review: Running In Place (#2, Mending Hearts) by L.B. Simmons

My Thoughts

Achingly honest and deeply heartfelt.  
A story of pain and survival… of two broken souls finding hope in each other despite the darkness that consumes them.

4halfstars

Synopsis

running in place coverTatum O’Connell:
Some call me a party girl. People see me as happy, full of life, with absolutely no cares in the world. They see what I want them to see. But no one knows me – really knows me. Not even Noah Reese. Mr. Perfect is always watching me, most likely judging every single imperfect thing I do. But, if Noah wants to keep an eye on me, that’s just fine. I definitely don’t mind. I just hope he doesn’t have any plans to save me from my new-found life of self-destruction because in order to save me, he will have to see me…
And I’m never going to let that happen.

Noah Reese:
Perfect. That’s me. That’s the only acceptable way to be, according to my father. Perfect grades. Perfect manners. Perfect athlete. Perfect SAT scores. Perfect college. And recently, I was accepted into the perfect med school. My future has already been mapped out for me and there’s nothing that can change that. Not even Tatum O’Connell. That girl is out of control, yet for some reason, I can’t seem to keep my distance from her. I watch her closely, hoping that one day she’ll let me in, but watching her lead her life down the dangerous path she’s on right now isn’t easy…
I have a feeling I’m about to find myself swept away by the hurricane that is Tatum O’Connell.

“Two fleeting souls, 
Unknowingly tethered.
Too slowly drawn,
Impatient fate calls. 
The jolting collide intertwines their lives
And splinters their walls.”
“Catalyst” – Noah Reese

My Review

“Broken hopes and expectations can leave very, very broken people. So after a while, you learn not to aim so high because when people fail you, you land hard and there’s only so many times a person can be shattered beyond repair.”

The first thing that struck me about this book is just how honest it came across. I felt it full of heart, unadulterated by verbosity, with power, pain and heartache lacing each deceptively simple word. This story stirred so many feelings within me. Author L.B. Simmons takes us to some dark places to better understand her character’s motivations, allowing us to expressly feel the extent of their brokenness.  This is the first book I’ve read by L.B. Simmons and I was really impressed by the authenticity of the storytelling. It was gripping and engaging from beginning to end. She was able to deliver a really poignant story, full of  heartache, courage, love and even joy.

“If you don’t let it out, eventually you’ll suffocate your soul.”

Tatum O’Connell had a childhood full of tragedy, abuse and disappointment. After the crushing loss of her father, she was left with a mother who despised her and blamed her for his death. Her brother left home too and from that point on she was alone with her grief, scarred inside and out. She grew up desperately missing her father and feeling as if she had no one to count on, no one who loved her. Memories of her past consume her as her mother’s hateful words relentlessly pound her thoughts.

“The anger overwhelms me. It festers inside my soul, inside my mind, its darkness spreading throughout my entire being. I hate her. I hate myself.”

Although Tatum is most definitely a survivor, she’s unable to see her strength. Everyone she’s cared for has abandoned her, and so she’s built a self-destructive life that’s bereft of any real love, without much responsibility, downing drink after drink and holding on to a horrible boyfriend who barely pays her any attention. And although her past is forever present, she’s not been able to face her pain and let go of it in order to heal.

Working at her brother’s bar, Tatum is often around Mr. Perfect, Noah Reese. He always seems to watch her and when they’re around each other, it’s as if two opposite forces collide. Noah is the complete opposite of Tatum. Always in control, focused, never an emotional outburst of any kind. When they are unexpectedly thrust together over the course of one summer, they discover they are more alike then they ever would have imagined.  Noah has become numb over the years, his calm exterior a deceptive mask that hides the fury dormant within. His cruel father has dictated every detail of his life since his mother died. Noah has trained himself to feel nothing, want nothing. He has no freedom. When Tatum disrupts his life like a tornado, he’s suddenly swept in a maelstrom of emotion. He feels too much, too deeply. Although she’s always intrigued him, it’s the sorrow behind her eyes he’s driven to fix. The more Noah gets to know her, the more he realizes how broken she is, but also how much beauty lies hidden inside.

“You may not believe this but it’s the truth. You deserve to be treasured. You should be with someone who respects you, who makes you a better person, and most of all, who makes you happy.”

Noah makes Tatum feel beautiful and cared for. She finds herself opening up to him, needing him and ultimately loving him.  For Noah, Tatum ignites the smoldering fire within, pushing him to feel, to question, to desire. His perfectly built exterior begins to crumble as he dares to imagine a life of his own choosing… free to pursue what he wants and stay with whom he loves.

“I guess you’ve tapped into the emotions and feelings that I’ve been holding back for so long. They just erupt when I’m around you. The anger, the need to protect, the desire… they flood my system and I lose all control.”

Together, they challenge each other, love each other — flaws and all. As their relationship intensifies however, the reality of their issues holds them back and they both have decisions to make about their future. They are both at a crossroads and their choices will impact their life in a very permanent way.

“Reaching toward him, I run my fingertips down his cheek and then trail them gently across his lips as a single tear runs down my face. “I would rather have one night with you, than to live the rest of my life with the possibility of never being able to experience loving another person the way that I love you.”

It’s really a beautiful, touching story about finding the courage to let go. A well developed cast of supporting characters from the previous books help our protagonists in their journey. And although I struggled with the way some of the relationships came to a close, I really loved characters like Harlow, Blake and Alex. L.B. Simmons also includes some very moving notes/lyrics at the beginning of each chapter, which I felt was an ingenious choice in helping to enhance the impact of the story every step of the way. Overall, I was left feeling happy and hopeful and I strongly urge you to read this book. It’s absolutely one of my favorite standalones of the year!

“We both have our share of trauma-filled pasts, but these moments when it’s just us – no worries or pain or guilt – my eyes have no choice but to release the overflow of pure joy that fills my heart.”

addseriestogoodreads

Reading Order and Purchase Links

Click on the cover image to purchase from Amazon.
Each of these books can be read as a standalone.

         running in place cover running in place cover running in place cover

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