Sempre by J.M. Darhower
I first heard about Sempre when one of my Goodreads buddies reviewed it and gave it a raving five-stars. Of course, this made me want to see what the book was about and after reading the synopsis I thought I would give it a try because it sounded like it had the potential to be really interesting. I was expecting dark and dramatic and intense. I was expecting to discover and encounter characters that I had never come across before in my reading. I was expecting an epic Romeo and Juliet-esque romance. In other words, I had high expectations.
Not long after adding Sempre to my TBR, I was sent a copy from Gallery Books for review. I was super excited because never before had I received a physical copy of a book for review. Somebody just sent me a book. How amazing is that!? I was thrilled and couldn't wait to read it. I even pushed it up on my reading list because Gallery Books was generous enough to send it to me and so I felt like I should read it ASAP so I could review it for them. As I started the book though, I realized that it was a very real possibility that the book would end up being a sappy kind of romance story. I have nothing against sappy romances really, I'm just not a big fan myself. I was hoping that it wouldn't be that way and it didn't start that way but soon turned onto that path and never returned. I held on hoping eventually it would turn around and off the sappiness road but it never happened. Sadly, I found myself groaning multiple times throughout the book.
It wasn't even the story that I had the biggest problem with. The story was fine. If I was rating the story itself I would give it 3 stars. A girl who is a slave is bought my a new man and ends up falling in love with his bad-boy son who also develops the same feelings for her. There's mafia involved... and secrets, life-threatening secrets. That could have been an epic story. No, that wasn't really my issue with the book. I had a problem, a serious one, with the characters. None of them were believable.
I felt like they all were following stereotypes and were doing things that were very stereotypically expected from them. Carmine, for example, is the bad boy and so of course he's always getting in trouble, has temper problems, a past, repeatedly defying his father and cursing. Ugh! The cursing. Definitely unnecessary and completely unbelievable. He would just curse for the sake of cursing and I just wasn't falling for it. It seemed so forced. Then we have Haven, the innocent girl who grew up as a slave but after the first quarter of the book you would never know that she spent her entire life as a slave if it weren't for her mentioning it. I would think that if that is the kind of life she led and if she was being abused as she says she was that she would have little to no self esteem and that it would take a lot, and I mean A LOT, of work to get her to a point where she had a normal level of self-esteem. Am I wrong in thinking that going from having no rights at all to living a luxurious life would be such a massive change for her and that she should have had more trouble adjusting to it than she did? I'm even going to ignore the issues I had with her falling for Carmine so fast but her characterization was so very ideal that I was annoyed reading it. Carmine teaches her how to drive, they go on one single drive, a few days later she needs to go somewhere and Carmine is too busy so she tells her to drive herself and she is fully confident and manages to make her way to where she needed to be no problem. After one single drive. She's supposed to be the person who has barely ever been in a car before. Somehow one crappy first driving lesson which also involved a minor crash was enough for her to develop all the confidence she needed to drive. The dad, Vincent DeMarco, was playing the role of the evil dad who means well. Most of the other characters were weaving in and out of the story so much that I would forget they even existed.
"Dominic? Who's Dominic? Oh... right... Carmine's brother!!"
The most developed character in the book was Nicholas and we don't even know that much about his story.
The ending you can see coming from a mile away. From the beginning you know that it's going to happen. Well, part of it I expected the other part I didn't, but even the other unexpected part wasn't as exciting and dramatic and intense as I wanted it to be.
I wanted to like this book. I really really did. After about half-way, though, I kind of just gave up. I would have put down the book and not finished it but I really wanted to complete it so I could do this review and also because I was hoping that the secret about Haven and Carmine would redeem the story. That's another thing. The secret. When I read the part where we find out what this secret is I didn't even initially realize that that is what was happening. It was explained in such a confusing way. I still don't fully know what the secret is or why it's such a big deal in the first place. Maybe if you're in the Mafia you would know how the dynamics work but I'm not in the Mafia so I have no idea what the big deal was.
I skimmed my way to the end and was so glad when I finished because at that point I just really wanted to be done so I could move on. (I do not plan on reading the sequel)
Sempre was a story filled with two dimensional characters playing out very idealistic and unrealistic roles in a very predictable way.
Copy provided for review by Gallery Books.