Friday, April 3, 2015


Impossible Promise by Sybil Bartel 

Publisher: Carina Press HQN (3/23/2015)
Series: Impossible Promise, book 1 
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
Purchase links || amazon | bn | ibooks | kobo || add to goodreads

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Three years ago, Layna Blair listened in horror over a telephone line as her parents were murdered. When the killer said she was next, Layna panicked and made a deadly deal—his secret in exchange for her life. She’s paid the price every day since, becoming a prisoner in plain sight.

Marine Sergeant Blaze Johnson offers Layna a way out—her freedom, his rules, no questions asked—and she takes it, despite knowing what her keepers do to people who get too close. She doesn’t know Blaze is fighting his own demons or that beneath his warrior fa├žade is a man on the verge of breaking.

Embarking on a wild revenge mission with Blaze and his smooth-talking best friend, Talon, is not what Layna signed on for. But attempting to run when Blaze has made no secret he intends to make her his is a reckless mistake. With the killer closing in, it’s up to Blaze to save them all—and to Layna to realize that she’s risked the one thing she can’t afford to lose.

Book one of two / 93,000 words

Heat level: Steamy; not for under 17, it has open door sex scenes.

I grew up in Northern California with my head in a book and my feet in the sand. I dreamt of becoming a painter but the heady scent of libraries with their shelves full of books drew me into the world of storytelling. I love the New Adult genre, but any story about a love so desperately wrong and impossibly beautiful makes me swoon.

I now live in Southern Florida and while I don’t get to read as much as I like, I still bury my toes in the sand. If I’m not writing or fighting to contain the banana plantation in my backyard, you can find me spending time with my handsomely tattooed husband, my brilliantly practical son and a mischievous miniature boxer…

But Seriously?

Here are ten things you probably really want to know about me.

I grew up a faculty brat. I can swear like a sailor. I love men in uniform. I hate being told what to do. I can do your taxes (but don’t ask). The Bird Market in Hong Kong freaks me out. My favorite word is desperate…or dirty, or both—I can’t decide. I have a thing for muscle cars. But never reply on me for driving directions, ever. And I have a new book boyfriend every week—don’t tell my husband.

{ review } .
Forewarning... this 'review' will be lengthy. I have 'lots to say, and it may be a bit jarbled. Sorry... This was a book where I had so many opinions and so many feels to work through.

This book had the promise (no pun, I swear) to be a 5, but there were just too many little things that bothered me. So then it was a battle between a 4 and a 4.5.

In the end, the 4.5 won.

Here's why.

On the one hand, being a pretty girl, you get annoyed with Layna soaking in the nice comments but then yelling about them later. On the other hand though, while yes, she's nineteen, this has been going on since she was seventeen. Sure, she could have been flirted with in school but being a congressman's daughter, she probably saw all sorts of untrue advances. 

At the beginning of the story, you see how she classifies herself --

Yeah, she doesn't.

She feels her lineage has given her all the poor features, such as a Greek nose. She may very well not think she's a pretty girl. However, it annoyed me by the third time when Buck told her he found her attractive. It was as if he kept saying it and that she was beautiful, to try and get her to believe it. One of the rules in writing/talking is that people will say things over and over again to try to get themselves to believe it. On that front, it would be as if Buck is trying to convince himself that Layna is pretty. While we don't get insight to Buck's mind, his words and actions prove that he believes it, that he's trying to get her to believe it too. She's also always going on and on about being patronized. Quit patronizing me, you're patronizing me... I feel like she just really enjoyed that word.

Another aspect that got old after a while was all of her crying. 


This story takes place over a matter of weeks. She's been on the run and fighting for her life for three years. She finally has not just one, but two people who want to help her. 

...she's allowed to break.

And break she does. 

Then there's the big hoopla with Talon and the ocean and some flying bullets... I got annoyed with Layna there too. I understand the need to feel, especially after a moment where she was completely ready to let go. But Talon?! The big ol' flirt who's either flirty with a southern drawl, or serious with no accent... the same one who warns her to either be with Buck or not be with Buck, don't draw him in to that mess... Yeah, that Talon. Wrong guy, girlfriend.

But yeah... that Talon... he can be sweet.
“What’s missing?”
Piercing green eyes held mine for two beats of silence. “A smart-mouthed little girl who sees me for what I am,” he said low and quiet.
And even when he knows that Layna is not his, that his and Buck's friendship may be ruined, he still manages to be a good guy (dang, how I prefer him stripped of that cocky attitude).
“Look at her. For once today, take a look at her. Is she naked? Is my tongue down her throat? No, you asshole, she’s been cryin’ her eyes out. I didn’t throw her away, you did.”
As much as I prefer Buck and Layna together, I want to see this man fall for good. I want to see him completely, forever-ly stripped of the front he gives everyone.

All in all, I found Layna to be hot and cold. She'd be all warm and cuddly with Buck one moment, then on a drop of a dime be yelling at him. 

So no, Layna, when he tells you that you don't deserve him, it's absolutely true.

I would say Buck was the most even-keeled of the main characters. He was loving, protective, honest, true to his word. Yes, when he felt betrayed, he took it out on Layna (and Talon) in a not-so-adult form but he was hurting on more than one front. Granted, he would be all "lay with me, let me hold you, I want to help you" and the next he'd be stone-faced saying that this couldn't go anywhere.

Speaking of not-so-adult fronts...
His honesty was so disarming, I felt like an immature teenager.
Well, honey, it's 'cause you act like one. Stringing along one guy, flirting with another...

So those are the negatives. Yeah, maybe you're wondering why I liked this book so much after all that.


Layna was a strong lead. Yes, she cried; yes, she ended up pitting two friends against one another, but in the end, as a reader you need to remember that she's been on her own for three years. She's nineteen years old -- and has nobody. Which Buck seemingly forgot at the end when he asks who she'll have back home when he goes overseas. She made some stupid moves -- both where Buck was concerned and where her own safety was concerned (really, you're going to leave a sure bet and go out on your own again?). When given the choice to fight or die, she chose fight. When death is literally at her door, she almost gives in to it -- yeah, she's pissed when Talon helps her, but then she realizes how scared she is at the idea of dying. And who is it she thinks about in those moments?

Not Talon.

Buck was the epitome of a 'lifer. He joined the Corps for a reason, he loves his job, and he fully believes that there's no more honorable way to die than while fighting for his country. Now, Marine brat that I am, I had a little bit of an issue with the whole "Basic Training" thing. The more correct term would be "recruit training" or simply "boot camp" (to which he would likely shorten it to 'boot'). It's the whole drill sergeant vs drill instructor argument. Now, off that soapbox..

Layna and Buck are bicker-ers. 

And I love it. I love bickering stories. I don't know why... keeps 'em young and human, I suppose.
“I can’t afford these prices. We should leave.”
“You’re not paying.”
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“Have a salad.”
He didn’t even look up from his menu.
“I want to leave.”
But if I was being honest, which I wasn’t, it was a total lie. Every smart-ass answer out of his mouth made me more intrigued. Besides, why make it easy for miss cheery hostess?
“We will, once you’ve eaten.”
That did it. Five words and I was pissed. Five bossy, presumptuous, arrogant, words. “Once I’ve eaten? I’m not hungry.”
Screw him.
[...]“I’ll have what he’s having.”
Fire Boy didn’t miss a beat. “Two rib eyes, medium, two baked potatoes with the works, one spinach salad and one Caesar salad.”
“You got it. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
Off the waitress went.
“Who’s the Caesar salad for?” I asked.
“Me. You’re vegetarian, remember?”
“But you ordered me a steak.”
“Yep,”he said, unapologetically.
“Not very considerate, are you?”
“You’re not a vegetarian.”
I love how attuned to Layna Buck is. And I love how Layna gets nervous around him. I mean, c'mon, big bad attractive Marine? Yeah, my mouth would be runnin' too.
Then I did something really, really stupid. I blurted out four little words I never should have strung together. “I love your smile.”
Buck’s face dropped. His mask fell back into place and I wanted to crawl into the glove box. Then, because I’d never been in this situation with all these uncomfortable emotions swirling in my brain, my mouth took over—at warp speed. “I mean, your smile, it’s great. As far as smiles go, yours is, you know, like super. All white teeth, dimples, all the way to your eyes, I’m just saying, it’s like a picture smile. You know, model smile? Not like I mean it’s great for me, but in general great, for everybody. Like, you should share it more with the general populous, smile. That kind of smile.”
Buck’s hand closed over mine. “I get it,”he said quietly.
My breath whooshed out of me. “Okay, good, because...”
He squeezed my hand. “Layna.”
Gulp. “Yeah?”
“Your smile is beautiful.”
Damn. Just...yeah, wow, okay...damn. Totally wasn’t prepared for that. “Thanks,”I muttered. Sinking further into the soft leather, I stared out the windshield like my life depended on it. Buck brought our clasped hands to his lips and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s going to be okay,” he whispered. I didn’t say another word, I couldn’t. Buck held my hand all the way to Daytona. 
I just... Yes, I really enjoyed this story. Like I said all those words up there ago, I had my problems with it, but the bones of the story, the true meat and potatoes of it? I just loved. I'm excited to see where the next book brings us, especially due to the little teaser that that end of IMPOSSIBLE PROMISE gives us. Oh, and Layna and Buck's conversation at the end, totally want to see what came of that, too. Ack, I can hardly wait...!
“I’m not finished with you, Layna. I haven’t even started. I’m not going to let anything take that away from me. I’m coming back to you, tonight, tomorrow, after my next deployment. I’m coming back. I promise.”

{ giveaway } .

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