A thrilling combination of heartwarming romance and chilling suspense wrapped around a riveting ‘whodunit’ mystery that kept me wildly guessing until the very end.
- Related Reads: 2014 Favorite Singles, 2014 Favorites, Romantic Suspense
- Don’t Look Back: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.
But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?
I knew from the moment I heard about this book that I was going to love it! I felt it in my bones, which love to be chilled and rattled by a mystery… shaken by suspense. Add to this nail-biting mix the masterful storytelling of Jennifer L. Armentrout and I undoubtedly knew I would be completely captivated. Consumed. I felt this book both strayed from and felt like the typical JLA style. We definitely have the witty and bold heroine that I always love from her books, but the humor was softer and less pronounced while the suspense swelled. The warmth and chemistry definitely sizzled, sparking that fire between two characters that you feel, believe. No doubt, however, that the primary impetus behind the story was the mystery and the suspense that fueled it page by thrilling page. I was so gripped by everything that was happening to Sam. I had a million theories to what had happened and I felt constantly on edge, as if danger loomed behind me as well. The pacing was perfect, which made it so easy to devour in one sitting, because the truth is that I couldn’t put it down for a single second. I kept telling myself… one more chapter… one more chapter and on and on. It was just that good.
“… it wasn’t okay — it was never going to be okay. I was stuck in this life I didn’t remember, squeezed into the shell of this girl — Samantha Jo Franco — and the more I learned about her, the more I was starting to hate her.”
The first memory Samantha has is of walking. Bloodied and bruised, vision and consciousness blurred, nails bloodstained, her thoughts a dark void. She’s been gone for four days. Missing with her best friend, Cassie. At least that’s what they tell her. There are no memories that take shape in the oblivion of her mind. Nothingness. Thankfully, she’s alive, but Cassie is still missing. Suddenly surrounded by strangers — her family, her friends, her boyfriend — she finds that half don’t even believe that she has amnesia, the other half expect her to snap out of it and get back to her normal self. But when there’s nothing to pull from all that she can be is an empty shell, but one that’s determined to figure out what happened the night she disappeared.
“Everyone wanted me to forget about her, to move on. As if this girl wasn’t missing. Like she never existed in the first place, and as I ran my thumb over her side of the picture, I realized I couldn’t do that. Just like I couldn’t be the person I was before.”
Almost immediately however, she realizes that the person she was before was awful. She was superficial and vicious, hanging out with a group of rich mean girls that ruled the school. Her boyfriend was the IT boy everyone desired, and the boy she was expected to be with forever… a merger made in business heaven. And her and her best friend, Cassie, well, it seemed they were more like frenemies than friends. Sam wanted nothing to do with this life. At all.
Enter Carson Ortiz, her brother’s best friend and son of “the help.” She’s completely drawn to him, but it seems like he can’t stand the sight of her either… at first.
“Fear and popularity go hand in hand… Let’s rule with an iron fist.”
Sam tries to integrate into her old life in hopes of jarring a memory loose. Anything that can help her piece it all together. But the more she’s around her group of friends, the more she realizes that she no longer fits that crowd. When flashes of bloodied scenes unexpectedly seize her and mysterious notes begin to appear, an all-consuming fear takes hold, blurring the boundaries of her lucidity. Sam begins to unravel and lose her already-slipping grasp on sanity. Was she going crazy? Was she imagining things? I felt so anxious right along with her, my heart pounding against my chest as each one of these scenes unfolded. With secrets hidden beneath the surface and motives from so many in abundance, everyone could be a culprit. And as the mystery takes another turn, she begins to question her own culpability.
“My memories were dangerous, but they were also the key to the truth.”
All the while, she begins to get closer to Carson, rather than her boyfriend Del. Carson is warm, understanding and knows more about the real her than anyone else. He makes her feel at home, safe. And in a time clouded by uncertainty, familiarity and attraction are a dangerous combination.
“What I was feeling was wrong. I knew that, because this should be happening with Del and not Carson. But what I was feeling was so startlingly real. Like a splash of vibrant color in a world that was a dark, drab gray.”
But even Carson has secrets he keeps. Secrets that could sever the intensifying connection between them. And before everything comes to a thrilling and unexpected climax, a fury of secrets are revealed that I never came to guess. Overall this is just an exciting, thrilling story that makes your heart pound a little faster as you try to untangle the mystery behind the chilling events that led to Sam’s disappearance and the revelations that became clear after. Jennifer L. Armentrout proves she can dominate any genre as she boldly ticks off the suspense check box on her literary repertoire. I hope we get to see more romantic suspense novels from her in the future!
With a curt nod, she left, and I started to investigate the room. The yearbooks were on my desk, but I avoided them. Part of me wasn’t ready for the weird walk down nonmemory lane. There was an Apple laptop next to several smaller devices. I recognized one as an iPod. A flat-screen TV hung from the wall above the desk. I assumed that was what the remote control belonged to.
I made my way to the closet, throwing open the double doors. It was a walk-in. A tiny part of me was curious. Clothes weren’t a big deal to me. I knew that. Then I saw the racks in the back, and I almost squealed.
Shoes and purses were a big deal.
Could that be a part of the old me, or was it just because I was a girl? I wasn’t sure as I ran my fingers over the dresses. They felt like quality.
Back in my bedroom, I discovered there was a balcony, and I had my own bathroom stocked with products I couldn’t wait to try out. Near the bed, there was a corkboard full of pictures. Huh. I had a lot of friends, and they were…dressed like me. Frowning, I inspected the collage of pictures closer.
In one photo, there were five girls. I was in the middle, and all of us wore the same tube dress in different colors. Oh dear god. Matching dresses? I smirked as my eyes drifted over the images. One was of me and two other girls, smiling on a golf course. In another the same group from the first picture stood together on a dock, posing in front of a boat named Angel in really skimpy bathing suits. Mine was black. I was starting to see a trend.
I ran my hands over my hips and stomach, pleased to discover that the body in that picture was actually mine. There were a few more photos at school, a group of us clustered around an oversize table, surrounded by boys.
I was always smiling in the pictures, but the smile was…off, reminding me how everyone had smiled at me in the hospital. Like a doll’s smile, fake and painted on. But my smile was also cold. Calculating.
And in every picture, the same girl was always beside me. In some, we had our arms around each other or were puckering our lips for the camera. She always wore red—red like fresh blood.
# 1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
★ Don’t miss a post, review or giveaway! Subscribe to Vilma’s Book Blog by email! ★