Thursday, April 7, 2016

~*★Review★*~ Forgetting August (Lost & Found #1) by J.L. Berg


Forgetting August by JL Berg
Date of Publication: April 5, 2016


Blurb


She can forgive, but can she forget?

Some days, Everly still thinks she sees him. In the food court at the mall, or in a car speeding past as the light changes. It only lasts a second, but when it happens, she slips back to a time when she was ruled-and nearly ruined-by August Kincaid. And it doesn't matter that she's moved on, that she's about to marry another man. In those moments the only thing she can do to regain control is take a deep breath and remind herself that August can't hurt her-because he's in a coma. Except that he's not anymore.
August is awake. With no memories, he sets out to solve the mystery of his lost life. He unearths a photograph of a beautiful redhead named Everly and knows instinctively that she's the key. But when he finds her, the August she describes is more monster than man.
Tortured by the thought of having hurt her, August wants only to become the man Everly deserves. As the new August emerges, Everly glimpses the person she first fell in love with. But can she trust that this August is real? When the final secret of their shared past is revealed, one of them will make a choice that changes their future forever . . .

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Exclusive Excerpt

Chapter One

Everly

I saw him again today.
It was at the mall this time.
He was wearing a grey suit and it was just seconds this time before he disappeared around a corner and my life returned to normal once more.
It had been two years and yet I still saw him. Everywhere.
The day after that fateful night, I saw him in our neighborhood walking a dog. Months later, he was next to me at a stoplight when I went out for groceries. Two weeks ago when Ryan got down on one knee and placed a dazzling diamond ring on my left hand, I swear I saw his face the minute I said yes.
He was like a ghost—my own personal poltergeist.
I knew it wasn't really him. My therapist had reminded me of that simple fact over a thousand times, but that didn't stop my heart from skipping a beat or my lungs deflating of air every time I saw someone that looked like him pass in my direction.
It could be the color of a person's hair or the way someone laughed that set my body on edge.
Today, it was simply a suit.
Tailored, dark grey with a small pinstripe. The style had been his favorite, and even though the man who wore it looked nothing like him, I still found myself frozen in the middle of the food court.
Still as ice, unable to move.
Because life really didn't move on from a person such as August Kincaid.
No, you simply learned to adapt and above all, you survived.
And that was what I had been doing for the last two years.
Surviving.
"Hey, you went blank again. Are you okay?" Sarah asked.
I looked around, and the world suddenly shifted back into focus. Children cried and
begged for ice cream, teenagers laughed and flirted as they walked by us. The smell of cinnamon rolls and cheap Chinese food mixed and mingled, as people pushed and shoved their way around to get in ridiculously long lines. Life went on around me as I returned to the land of the living.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I assured her. Concern was written all over her beautiful, trim face. Her hand lifted briefly as if she were going to offer a hug, but quickly decided against it.
"Okay," she answered, defeat clearly written all over her face. She knew I wouldn't talk about it.
I never did.
There were certain things that just didn't need to be shared.
Specific memories of my past were one of them.
She already knew I was a nutcase yet for some reason became my friend despite this. I guess we had that specific trait in common. We'd met in the waiting room at my therapist's office. She was a recovering purger, or at least that's what she called it. Since the time Sarah was barely old enough to vote, she'd been suffering from a variety of eating disorders. She attributed her illnesses to a dance mentor who'd never thought she was thin enough to be a ballerina.
"When all you want to do is be the Swan Princess in Swan Lake, you make sacrifices," she'd told me that day in the office very matter-of-factly. Sarah was at peace with her issues. She'd gone through years of counseling and this year would finally be the swan princess she always dreamed of being—fully in control of what she considered her "livable flaws."
Me?
Well, I guess we all had issues that lingered. Some had visible flaws they could see in the mirror, touch with their hands…measure on a scale. Others, like me, had memories that woke us from sleep and haunted our waking hours, making normal, well—different.
I doubted there would ever be any glorious end of the rainbow moment that would somehow magically cure me of all my flaws.
But, I was working on it and Ryan had made a world of difference in my once bleak outlook on life. Now I saw possibilities where there once was only darkness. He brought hope to my sadness and light to my life. There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't thankful for his persistence in seeking me out.
I'd been a hard one to nail down, or so he told me.
"So, are you ready?" she asked, grabbing my hand and moving away from the frozen yogurt and fried food.
"As I'll ever be," I sighed, taking one last longing look at the exit.
"Oh come on. Most girls are excited to do this. Hell, I've been excited for this day for weeks!"
"Then say you're me," I begged, as we turned the corner and my eyes spotted the brightly lit sign at the end of the walkway. I could feel the groan already forming, the deep rumbling sound vibrating through my lungs as it made its way up to express my displeasure.
"Everly Adams. You will not ruin this for me! This is your day and you will enjoy it!" "I thought my day was several months from now," I joked.
"As the blushing bride-to-be, you will have lots of days between now and then. Get used
to the attention."
I groaned again, looking at the floor-to-ceiling windows that displayed more tulle and
sequins than I'd seen in my entire life. "We should have eloped."
"This is horrid, Sarah," I whined, shuffling out of the dressing room in a gown that could only be described as a cross between the Little Mermaid and that scary Alfred Hitchcock movie with all the birds.
"It's beautiful! And so fashion forward," she practically squealed, clapping her hands together like a happy toddler who had just been given a lollipop for supper. "Look at the way the fabric gathers together, making it look like tiny feathers at the bottom of the skirt. So dramatic."
"That," I said, pointing to my calves," is also where my legs are supposed to be able to move back and forth. It's called walking. I look ridiculous!"
"Walking is so overrated. Besides, how much walking are you planning to do in this thing?" She rolled her eyes, kneeling down to play with the skirt some more. It resulted in the tulle or whatever the puffy stuff was called doubling in size.
"There, perfect."
"I'm not wearing this," I said firmly, trying to look anywhere but at the three different mirrors all reflecting my ridiculous reflection. "Pick another one. And for the love of God, pick something less…well, less you!"
I once again attempted to walk back into the dressing room, doing more of a waddle than a walk. Once there, I was joined by an attendant to assist me. There was no way I could get out of this monstrosity by myself.
"Your tattoo is lovely. Quite unique," the bridal attendant said, as she stood behind me and removed the clamps that held the dress in place. My thin, boy-like frame never did fit into sample sizes well. The lack of hips and boobs kept me in sizes most women would die to wear, but the lack of aforementioned body parts sometimes sucked. A lot.
Especially when trying on wedding dresses. Or anything remotely feminine. I felt more like a pre-pubescent boy trying on drag than a beautiful, curvy woman.
"Thank you," I answered awkwardly, as my hand instinctively reached behind my shoulder to touch the piece of me that I rarely shared with others. The walls of mirrors put my body completely on display, highlighting every rough curve and jutted angle, exposing the harsh black lines of the branch as it wove up my back and around my shoulder.
"Why doesn't the bird fly away? She's free," she said absently, her head cocked to the side as she stared at the birdcage etched on my right shoulder. It was intricate and beautiful as it hung on the barren branch, the door swung wide open for the world to peer in on the tiny bird inside.
"Maybe she's not ready yet," I answered quietly, looking away.
"Okay, I've got another one, Everly! And I promise, you're going to love it!" Sarah's singsong voice seemed to break the spell hovering above us, giving us both a startle. The attendant straightened, turning quickly as I retreated into the corner to grab the satin robe. I'd just fastened it around my waist when she opened the door to let Sarah in.
"Tell me you love me," Sarah said as she waltzed into the room, holding up a simple ivory colored empire waist gown with a small amount of beading around the neckline and not a single bit of organza or tulle in sight.
"I think I love you," I said, as my eyes widened at the understated elegance of the dress. Simple and understated. Everything I wanted to be.
"Let's try it on," she suggested, handing it to the attendant who motioned for me to come forward.
Nodding, I agreed, knowing it was unnecessary.
It was perfect and as I glanced around the room, I caught a glimpse of that tiny bird on my shoulder. The one too afraid to jump out of her cage and discover the world outside.
Soon, I would be perfect, too.
Or as close as I could be to the word.
***
"You are mine, Everly," he whispered. "Mine and mine alone. I own every part of you, every inch of your body…every breath in your lungs. You. Belong. To. Me."
"Everly," another voice murmured. "Everly, wake up. You fell asleep right at the good part again," Ryan laughed.
My eyes cracked open as the glow of the TV made me turn my head toward the comfort of his warm chest.
"Hey, sleepyhead," he said, pulling me tight against his body. "You'll never know who the winter soldier is now," he joked, his head leaning forward just close enough that I felt the heat of his breath against my neck.
"I saw that plot twist ages ago," I answered, covering a quiet yawn with my palm as I stretched in his arms.
"You always do."
"I can't help it. The story lines are always so obvious."
"And if you had written the story," he said, pulling back slightly with a boyish grin
lighting up his face, "What would you have done differently?"
"I don't know—I'm not a scriptwriter," I answered with a shrug.
"Maybe you should be." His brow arched, challenging me to answer.
"Who's being the obvious one now, Ryan?" I asked with a huff, rising from my
comfortable spot on the couch in order to create some much needed distance. "And seriously? Scriptwriting? Pick something a little less insane next time. When have you ever seen me pick up a pen? Or sit in front of a computer?"
Whenever the subject of where I was going with my life came up, I needed space.
Unfortunately our apartment was only so big, and right now a football field or two didn't seem large enough.
"I don't want to start an argument, Ev, but I just want you to think about it."
"I have been thinking about it," I answered, stepping into the kitchen as the lights flickered on. I pulled open the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water. Roughly twisting the cap off, I upturned the bottle and chugged half the contents in one gulp. Water was definitely not my first beverage of choice, but right now I didn't have the patience for anything else.
"And what have you decided?" he asked cautiously, rising from the couch to take a seat at the kitchen island across from me.
"That I'm still deciding." I held my head high, avoiding his eye contact.
I was not in the wrong here.
He sighed long and slow, and I let the silence settle between us, setting the half-empty
bottle down on the counter in front of me. A quick glint of light caught my attention as I turned my head and I swiveled back around toward my left hand, noticing the way the overhead lights reflected on the small diamond centered in the middle of the thin gold band.
Three weeks ago he'd asked me to marry him and I'd said yes.
Despite everything I'd put him through—the cold indifference and the numerous rebuttals to his advances, he'd loved me. When I'd told him there would always be a part of me unavailable…that I just couldn't share, he'd accepted me. For who I was.
And what I was willing to give him.
"I'll look at the brochures again," I said, offering up an olive branch as I stepped forward and held out the rest of my water bottle. His warm smile returned as his fingers encased mine around the plastic.
"I just want to see you succeed. In whatever you chose, Ev. Hell, you can major in basket weaving for all I care. I just want you to feel like you have a purpose in life beyond working at that coffee shop you refuse to quit."
"I know, and I love you for it," I replied, feeling the deep gaze of his eyes settle on mine. Needing to be closer to him, I walked out of the kitchen and walked into his arms at the counter where he sat.
He pulled me into his large frame, where the world felt safe and measurable again.
"I do make a mean cup of coffee," I said, my lips curving into a smile.
His fingers cupped my chin, tilting it toward his dark brown eyes.
"I know. Why do you think I kept coming back every damn day? It wasn't your charming personality."
"I thought it was my ass," I laughed, shaking it as his hands closed around each cheek and squeezed.
"Ah yes. The ass of a porn star and the mouth of a mime. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get you to talk to me."
"Such a sweet talker, and besides—I was told to never speak to strange men," I said, quickly hating myself for saying it. My face slipped slightly as my stomach turned, rolling and churning as my mind replayed unwanted memories from my past.
I never, ever want to see you speaking to another man again. Do you understand me, Everly?
The words rolled around in my head as I tried to shake them out. In the last two years of my life, I'd had a thousand moments like this. A glance, a turn of phrase—anything could bring them on. I'd learned to recognize the symptoms and process the reaction quickly.
So quickly that Ryan didn't even seem to notice anymore.
"Well," he said, grinning, his hands slipping underneath my shirt, "I finally did wear you down. And now you're mine."
A weak smile spread across my lips, seconds before his mouth touched mine. No matter how much he loved me.
No matter how much I loved him in return.
I would never, ever belong to another person.
For as long as I lived.
***
The movie had been long forgotten, as had our clothes.
They were strung out all over the apartment, leaving a trail toward the bedroom. Little breadcrumbs of debauchery.
"Hey, it's still early; do you want to order a pizza?" Ryan yelled from the shower as I took a long breath and snuggled deeper into the covers on our bed.
"Does it require me to get out of this bed?" I whined, moving my legs back and forth against the smooth sheets. Ryan always said it looked like I was swimming in bed when I did this.
Growing up, I never had nice sheets. Hell, sometimes there were foster homes that didn't even give me sheets—just a blanket and a dirty bare mattress.
Luxuries like Egyptian cotton sheets were things I would never grow accustomed to, no matter how many times my legs touched them. Every night, I'd sink into bed and run my legs back and forth against the smoothness, loving the way it felt against my skin.
Like Ryan, it brought me peace and made me feel safe—two things I'd struggled with the majority of my life.
"Please, babe. I'm hungry. So very, very hungry," he said, sticking his head out the door of the bathroom. His lips turned downward, making him look years younger. I laughed, unable to resist his boyish charm.
"Okay, okay," I said, stretching one last time, before I rose to grab my robe.
"On second thought, I might need to work off a few more calories first," he said, stepping out of the bathroom in just a towel. His tanned skin was slick and wet from the shower, and I couldn't help but lick my lips as I watched a tiny drop of water skate down his chiseled chest.
Who knew nerds could be so hot?
His gaze turned heated as he stalked forward and I watched the towel drop to the floor. I stepped backward, feeling the edge of the bed hit the backs of my knees.
Our bodies met once more as his hand cupped the back of my head, tilting it upward. "I love you, Everly. I love you so much," he whispered, touching his lips to mine. I moaned into the kiss, feeling every hard inch of him press into me.
Always aware of my needs, he was gentle as he lowered me to the bed. As my head touched the pillow, I heard the sounds of a cell phone ringing throughout the apartment.
Ryan's head dipped forward, shaking back and forth.
"Just ignore it," he said.
I was already pushing at his shoulders, begging him to let me answer it.
"It can't be that important, Ev," he said, his eyes dancing with amusement. "I'm right here."
I rolled my eyes, grabbing my robe as I raced to the living room.
"It could be Sarah," I said. "She had her first rehearsal tonight."
I picked up the phone, not recognizing the number, and paused.
"Babe," Ryan said, standing in the doorway of our room. "Come back to bed. Whatever it is can wait."
I didn't listen. Instead, I answered and heard the words I had begged God to never allow to come true.
"Miss Adams?" a woman said on the other end.
"Yes," I answered.
"This is Doctor Lawrence from St. Marcus Hospital."
My heart began to beat frantically as my hand sought out something solid to hold me up.
I knew it was coming. Like a freight train in the middle of the night, I could see the light off in the distance…I knew what was coming.
Who was coming.
"He's awake."
The phone hit the floor seconds before I did, and then the world went black.

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Title: Forgetting August
Author: J.L. Berg
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series or Standalone: Series (Lost & Found Duet #1)
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 Stars (Rounded to 5 For Goodreads & Amazon)
Reviewer: Melyssa
What do you do when you’re given a second chance at life? A chance to right the wrongs of the past and pave out a better future?
Forgetting August, my first read by J.L. Berg, examines that and in a way that while the plot device has been used in romance a lot, was put forth here in such a refreshingly unique way that it was impossible to put it down once started.
August Kincaid faces a situation that on paper, seems unbelievable. Out of this world even. After a senseless attack, he spends the next two years in a coma, and in true miracle form, wakes up. This alone gripped me, but what really hooked me was that he woke and didn’t remember a thing about the past leading into the day he woke up. Not his name, who he was, where he lived, nothing. He was a blank slate and the way the author depicted this blank slate, well it tugged at my heartstrings hard.
August did not take long to get under my skin at all. I could easily close my eyes and imagine being put in a situation like this even if at first it seems unbelievable and it marked me. It’s a scary predicament and the worst part is, what he may have left behind in his wake. In this case, Everly.
Her fear of him, over time even what appeared to be her hatred of him made sense to me. Even her moving on to someone far different from August during those years and easing into a life with him, it all made sense to me. Even her going back when she gets the call. In a way, putting what she thought was an end to it. I felt for her through this as well.
What a horrible situation for the both of them. The August she remembers so easily haunting her just as much as he did two years before, and him, breaking down in a hospital bed because of the person he used to be and can’t remember being. Hating that version of himself so much that he disassociates and can’t even admit that it was him. Referring to it as if it happened to someone else.
Gripping. Intense. Heartfelt. All of these things and more is what I pulled from this story.
The road back to one another wasn’t an easy one, but when it finally happens and things seem to even out, it was easy to see what these two shared at one point before everything seemed to turn so dark. It was so incredibly easy to believe in them and want them to finally have the happy ending that due to circumstances in the past, they didn’t get.
This was August’s time to start over, truly start over and be the man that deep down I still, despite what happens here, believe him to be. The way they were in this second chance, was beautiful and at times left my breathless.
But this is a romance and anyone who has ever read a romance knows things can’t always be rosy forever. Which brings us to the darkness (in this case Trent) and the part he plays in tearing it all apart and somehow taking my heart and even Everly’s along with it.
Them separating again broke something inside of me. I didn’t want that for them, not this time. Not when this seemed like the perfect chance for them to capture what they had before, expand on it and make it better. My heart broke for both of them, even though I suppose I should find August as a jerk for not opening up to her in that moment and telling her exactly what was going on. I actually felt for him more because I understood why he did what he did even though I might have done things differently.
Wanting to protect the one you love can cause you to do things you know deep down aren’t the right moves, but that seem the best option at the time.
What kept this story and all of the emotions it stirred in me from being a full 5 star was Ryan and the kind of ping pong nature that Everly had here with him and August. Personally speaking, I wanted that to go differently. I felt for Ryan here more than I wanted to given the nature of my feelings toward August and Everly as a couple and I just thought in the end, he deserved better than that.
So as I move forward, I’m hoping that with the second book I see not only different and better for both Everly and August (separately and together), but also a better end for Ryan as well. So thank you J.L. Berg, for making me feel for every single person in this story and not just the two main characters.
Now for anyone wanting to pick this story up, it ends with a cliff-hanger, and a pretty epic one at that, but as long as you know that going in, and can handle the love triangle nature that lies under the surface here, you’re good to go. It’s my hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
My thanks to the author and all others involved for letting me read this first part of August and Everly’s duet. It was a pleasure and a journey that I’m glad I took.



About JL Berg


Author J.L. Berg is a California native living in the South. She is the author of the self-pubbed Ready series. When she's not writing, you can find her with her nose stuck in a romance book, in a yoga studio, or devouring anything chocolate.

Find JL Berg Online



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