Review: Amber to Ashes (#1, Torn Hearts) by Gail McHugh - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Review: Amber to Ashes (#1, Torn Hearts) by Gail McHugh

My Thoughts

A dark, twisted and emotionally turbulent romance—a story that spirals addictively, gripping you until the very last page.

4stars

Synopsis

Amber to Ashes coverFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Collide and Pulse comes a gritty new novel about a shattered young woman who unexpectedly falls for two best friends as she struggles to overcome the trauma of her tormented childhood.

They were a storm I never saw coming, an unforeseen heartbreak on the edge of a dangerous cliff.

Amber Moretti’s life changes in the span of minutes. An orphaned outsider, she is desperate to start fresh the moment she walks onto campus. In the time it takes to cross the university’s dining hall, she meets two men who bring color, air, and light to her darkened world.

They became my addiction, each a needle to my next hit, my high.

Brock Cunningham’s appeal is dizzying, a potent force Amber can’t deny. A green-eyed smooth talker, he instantly attracts Amber. It doesn’t take long for him to consume her every thought, her every breath.

Ryder Ashcroft, a blue-eyed, tattooed, and pierced bad boy, turns Amber off immediately—that is, until he kisses her, stealing a piece of her heart, her soul.

They were as opposite as fire and ice, yet I ached for them equally.

Never knowing she could be broken down in so many unexpectedly beautiful yet petrifying ways, Amber finds herself falling for both men.

Immoral? Maybe. I say undeniable. Uncontained.

But one event changes everything, shattering each of their lives…and Amber isn’t sure she can come back from it.

My Review

“If falling in love can turn into a bullet in your skull, what’s the point of giving your heart away? Yet how do you stop your heart from reacting to what it needs?”

Gail McHugh makes a bold departure from the angsty, emotional romance of Collide and Pulse. This story does deliver angst, as well as emotions, but a different kind altogether and certainly with a darker, grittier twist. Readers should go into this novel with a new state of mind, with the expectation that Amber’s story will challenge you, trouble you, maybe even devastate you. You won’t know who to root for, you won’t find solid ground as you experience a turbulent, uncontrolled ride as she falls in love with two men, driven into a world of heartache, pain, drugs, sex and yes, love.

“I fell for the two loves of my life when I was nineteen. Yes, two. Plural. More than one. Immoral? Maybe. I say undeniable. Uncontained. Some say I’m wrong to feel this way about two men. Most call me a whore, a skank, or the town slut. I don’t care.”

From the very beginning, McHugh drew me in with haunting, foreboding prose in the prologue, with an unavoidable directness that gripped me immediately. Gail is an amazing writer, and her manipulation of words feels like a storm brewing. We meet Amber Moretti, an orphaned, outspoken, broken girl with a hardcore edge. She’s no nonsense, all hard exterior with a shield she’s erected to hide the vulnerability and hurt within. As a child, she’s seen more than anyone should. As a teenager, she bounced from foster home to foster home with hateful words slung that cut deeply. She’s used and has been used, but she’s never let anyone in.

“I can’t deny I want to be touched by love so I can feel something … anything. But the reality of what love ultimately ends up like screams loudly in my ears, its warning seeded deep within my numb, hollow heart.”

The sum of Amber’s experiences have left her numb. But the moment she stumbles onto the lap of a blue-eyed, tattooed troublemaker, life irrevocably changes. Especially when his best friend, Brock Cunningham, “saves” her from the rebellious Ryder Ashcroft. They are completely different guys. Ryder seems rougher around the edges… he’s fire and sex and everything she needs to stay away from. Brock is cunning with sweet words and promises, assuring her that he’s the perfect man to put the broken pieces of her shattered heart back together. Amber is swept away by Brock and her heart lets him in, as she confides the terrible truth of her past to him.

As it turns out, however, Ryder, Brock and Amber are all tortured souls, haunted by the ghosts of their pasts. Each one of them hides secrets, especially as Amber’s desire continues to burn for Ryder while in a relationship with Brock.

“… how do you pick your right arm over your left, your ability to walk versus sight? How do you choose night versus day, water versus food.”

The story spirals in unexpected ways, seduced by two men, by a lifestyle, by feeling. Undoubtedly, Gail McHugh can write some scorchingly hot scenes. I felt the chemistry between Amber and Ryder, the need between her and Brock, the indecision she warred with inside. Oddly enough, for as much emotion as the situations evoked, I sometimes struggled with really feeling that what they felt between each other was real and grounded. Perhaps it was the way the story was framed, or the circumstances of how they formed the connections, I’m not sure. I did however, have a favorite man in the game, and I have to say I felt most for Ryder and his story. Nonetheless, the story takes some dangerous and bloody turns, ending in a heart-stopping way.

If you love gritty, dark and troubled stories written exceptionally well, this is the story for you. Again, I want to emphasize that readers who loved Collide and Pulse shouldn’t expect the same kind of story… I think if you go into this book with the same mindset, you’ll be disappointed. It’s simply different… grittier… edgier. This is the first book in the series and there’s certainly more to come.

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