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Rotten - J.L. Brooks ARC received in exchange for an honest review for Have Book Will Read.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. Sometimes God knows we need a little proof though; we’re only human.”

I will be honest. I was not sure WHAT to expect going into this book. I’ve not read any other books by this author, but the cover alone sold me from the get go! To say I was blown away is a sever understatement! The writing was woven together so beautifully, it appeared to be effortless. The characters ALL had such depth and practically jumped off the pages, whether they were in every scene, or only in the book for a few pages. Surely these lyrical talents were from a seasoned author. I felt as if I was there, experiencing this all with them, a not so innocent bystander. I immediately went to seek out her other works.

I loved this man with all of my being. I couldn’t confess it, but it was engrained in my soul. He was the first man I ever loved, and probably always would love. Before me laid my heart’s desire, caught in a deep slumber in my arms. If only all of life could be this perfect, my broken heart might actually mend.

Rotten is the journey of Toni and David. Having fled home years earlier, escaping a painful childhood, Toni is now in an otherwise loveless marriage, devoid of any intimacy. She is a shell of the person she formerly was. A devout Catholic and psychologist for kids going through the court system, Toni wears her pain like a shield. She is determined to not let her past affect the rest of her life, but when you push things so deep inside they have no chance of crawling out, true growth can never really occur. Even at 29, Toni is very much the insecure girl of 18, who only wanted to be loved for who she was, not just be judged by those around her. Let not these descriptions deter you though, Toni is one strong woman. Many others would have let her struggles drag them down, and they quite literally almost did. Were it not for one person……

“Please kiss me.” My voice was shaky and pleading as if I needed this kiss to keep me among the living. I did.

David Stark. Mmmm….let’s just let that sink in for a minute. Ever the protector, David is the first love, best friend, and confidant that every girl wishes for. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a couple so right for each other. When our story begins, these two haven’t seen nor spoken to each other in over 10 years. Many things may have changed over the course of their lives, but the key elements, who they are to the core, have remained the same. Their love has only festered and manifested itself into something neither can nor want to explain. It just is. We all have that comfy pair of pants that we put on when we are feeling bad, instantly knowing they will bring us comfort. That is David for Toni. I won’t lie and say the man doesn’t have faults; he is human after all. But to me, he is just simply delicious perfection!

Being alone is a strange feeling. Not just separated from the physical presence of another person, but also emotionally and spiritually feeling as if every bond with humanity has been severed. Your mind struggles to wrap itself around it, fabricating excuses as to why. Despair was an emotion that I had feasted on for weeks, and this – this was absolute and utter desolation. My soul was as dry as the desert that surrounded me.

The story started off a tad slow for me, but once I connected with the characters I was completely and utterly immersed into their world. I think this had more to do with how fast I read and how many books I go through rather than the story itself, so don’t judge it solely based upon that. I loved this book from start to finish and everything in between. This is a standalone novel, and while I won’t spoil the ending, I can assure you that every party introduced will be more than satisfied. This was a great introduction to this author and a solid 5 star read for me!

“Saints are the sinners that keep on going. Don’t ever give up.”