Wednesday, October 21, 2020

TBR Challenge: Layla Hagen - Withering Hope

Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.
But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.
As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.
Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.
Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.

Comment: The year is quickly going to its end and, for all of us, seeing 2020 end will likely be a good moment...

So, it's time for another post in the TBR Challenge and in October the theme was "danger" which could, obviously, mean several types of stories/ideas. I went with a story where the protagonists would be in danger because their small private plane crashed in the jungle and they would have to find a way to survive until helped came. I had high hopes for this because the idea felt like an interesting one but the result wasn't as well executed as I hoped for.

When this story begins, heroine Aimee is traveling to her fiancé's ranch on Brazil, where they will be married. She decided to go a day earlier than planned and that is why the only person with her is Tristan, the pilot. However, something goes wrong and the plane crashes in the middle of the Amazonian jungle. They both survive without big injuries but the plane crashed into an area surrounded by water and that means they need to wait months until the water level decreases so they can start to walk and find help, if that doesn't come before that. In the meantime, they need to help one another, they need to find a way to keep predators away, they need to find food and all the time, they only have each other for company and for support when some days get harder. Is it any wonder they bond over their experience? What about Aimee's fiancé, a good guy they both care about but who isn't there when their feelings get too strong for them to ignore...?

As often happens with romance novels, here too did I create an idea in my head of how this story could develop and how the situations would be portrayed to show case how the protagonists would slowly start bonding and falling in love. The idea of the story isn't original but done well could be quite a fascinating read. I think there were some details which worked out well enough and the fact this has an HEA is good too but there are a few elements which I didn't appreciate much and made me downgrade how I felt about this book.

This is a story about how two people survive and deal with a traumatic experience. But it's also a romance. I'm certain that it can be done, but when it came to this book, the first thing I disliked was how the story is told in first person. I think this was a very poor choice because for it to work or the "voices" of these characters had to be perfect or the focus should have been in something else and not the romance. The way things play out, it felt like they only thought about sex and did things no one would be fully prepared to do as easily as they accomplished them. To me, this made the story feel very superficial and rushed (the short page count also doesn't help).

Another little issue I had is how, by this being first person, the whole situation and their feelings need to be shared by the characters, mostly the heroine's. The story is told to us by them, and not shown. So, for me, every thing they accomplished, every feeling they had, every thought they wanted to share, every action they took was told. I feel I didn't get to see any evolution of them, nor improvement or change because they were put in such a situation and had to survive. It seems the only change they had to be worried about was the emotional one and, even that, was told to us in a very unbelievable manner... it felt weird to think people could talk and behave like that when their lives were in danger!

I thought this book would mostly deal with how they started caring for one another but in a slow, unassuming kind of way. As if they "couldn't" help it. And the way this plot develops? They certainly could help it because everything happens in a quick time frame (yes, this can be debatable if one doesn't live through the same thing) and they manage rather easily to find food and they take showers in the plane's bathroom, etc. I felt the author wrote things so that the situation would look bad but not irreversible.

Tristan and Aimee tell us about their personal lives here and there but I had the impression there weren't too many layers to them...the goal was a romantic one, of course. Also, for such a dire situation they see themselves in, I was not moved enough to connect with their fears and doubts on whether they could survive or how they would deal with possible problems in the jungle. As it happened before with other books where my opinion ended up being the same, it just felt as if the author wanted to use this element, that element, the other and so on, to get to a point and the "how" didn't have to be as layered/complex.

This story has two epilogues, one surely works as closure so we can see what happened to their life after they were rescued and there's a second one so the author could put a bow on a specific detail the characters do during the plot. I think this second one was totally unnecessary, rather pointless, considering the tone and the type of the story. 

So, this book with characters facing danger wasn't all bad, but it might feel I've focused on the negative aspects more... well, they did caught my attention more too and I can't help thinking my expectations really betray me sometimes....

Grade: 6/10

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