Review: Sempre by J. M. Darhower


Title: Sempre (Forever Series #1)

Author: J. M. Darhower
Date of publication: 25 Nov 2013
Genre: Romance / YA / the Mafia

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads blurb

A sexy novel about two seventeen-year-olds—one a victim of human trafficking; the other the son of the man who enslaved her—who fall in love and question everything they ever believed…
Haven Antonelli and Carmine DeMarco grew up under vastly different circumstances. Haven, a second-generation slave, was isolated in the middle of the desert, her days full of hard work and terrifying abuse. Carmine, born into a wealthy Mafia family, lived a life of privilege and excess.

Now, a twist of fate causes their worlds to collide. Entangled in a web of secrets and lies, they learn that while different on the surface, they have more in common than anyone would think.

In a world full of chaos, where money and power rule, Haven and Carmine yearn to break free, but a string of events that began before either of them were born threatens to destroy them instead. Murder and betrayal are a way of life, and nothing comes without a price—especially not freedom. But how much will they have to sacrifice? Can they escape their pasts? And, most of all, what does it mean to be free?

My Review

It is an interesting and unusual YA story, mainly because it has to do with the Italian Mafia in the US. There are also strong suspense elements surrounding the romance in the book.

The hero and heroine, Carmine and Haven, are both broken and living empty lives without hope. Their meeting sets in motion a series of events that ultimately lead their salvation and destruction.

Haven is a really unique characters. She undergoes an amazing and very difficult journey from being a slave to becoming her own person. It is more than simple coming of age story for her. Her life is filled with some much suffering and justice, she has been deprived of any choice and her biggest achievement is finally being free - both physical and mentally. The author presents her with compassion and makes you feel deeply for her. Throughout the story she really shines like the light she brings into Carmine's life. All the terms of endearment Carmine uses with her, especially the ones in Italian (tesoro), help create a very gentle and emotional portrayal of Haven.

Carmine himself is also an interesting character. In a way he is a victim as much as Haven. His change is a bit more predictable as compared to Haven's. He falls in love with this helpless innocent girl and this changes him completely. She helps him deal with his pain and guilt over the loss of his mother and ultimately, makes him a better man, one who cares about the others and is willing to sacrifice himself for the woman he loves. Just like his father did. 

Dr. DeMarco was a rare parental figure is YA literature. In most YA books that I have read the parents are usually pretty bad, irresponsible, some time downright cruel towards their children, but here, Dr. DeMarco was a refreshing exception. He is a rather complicated person, struggling with his own demons, trying to do the right things while still working for the Mafia and harbouring anger and pain over the death of his wife. He had his bad moments and did quite a few bad things but still, he was a good person. 

I liked the glimpses we get into the Mafia world, they didn't overshadow the romance but added a background to the story both justifying some the characters' actions and at the same time setting the stage for what is to come in the future for Carmine and Haven. 

The ending is bitter-sweet, the freedom they longed for and fought so hard for is put into question again. No one can really escape their past, least of all Carmine and Haven. Their struggles for a future of their own making are far from over in the end of this book.

My main complaint is the even flow of the story. It started really strong but then lost its pace around the middle. I felt that there were too many unnecessary details and some plot lines were left loose. The pace picked up in the final 1/3 and it is very much action-packed and emotionally intense. Some streamlining and tightening of the plot could great improve things for me. 

The next and final book in the series, Sempre: Redemption is coming out on 16 December and I look forward to reading it.

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  1. I keep meaning to read this one, but its length constantly intimidates me and I'm left feeling as if it would drag - which is does seem to. Still, it seems like this is a fairly good read overall, so I'll have to give it a shot. Wonderful review!

    1. Thanks, Keertana! You shouldn't let the length stop you, the book reads rather quickly, except for the middle which was slow for me. I hope you will read it and enjoy it!


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