⚠ Warning: This review contains spoilers!
• BLURB •
Some things aren’t meant to be broken, and therefore can’t be mended – ever. I was one of those things. Whatever had been shattered in the incident would never be whole again.
Amber struggles with the memories of a cruel attack that destroyed her life years ago. Realizing that she’s close to ending it all – something she promised her family to never try again – she moves in with her brother Brian and his friend Zachary to start a new life, and maybe even college. But how can she possibly live a normal life, when even a hug from her brother sends her into a panic attack? While Brian pulls back, Zach seems determined to make her feel relaxed in his presence, and soon her longing to be near him is stronger than her fear. But how can someone like Zach, someone who can have any girl, want someone like her? Someone broken.
When Zach spots Amber for the very first time, he can’t believe she is the same girl his friend Brian described as broken. Suddenly, Zach wants to give up his womanizing ways and help Amber live again – show her that closeness can be something wonderful.
But her brother Brian isn’t the only one who’s worried about the bond that’s growing between Amber and Zach. Even Zach knows that there’s more at stake than the fury of a scorned woman. Amber isn’t like all the girls Zach discarded after a night together – if he messes up, that could break her for good. But Zach can’t stay away from Amber.
Can Zach help her heal? Or will he be the one to push her over the edge?
• MY REVIEW •
Please note: This book contains sensitive subject matter that may be triggering for some readers. It contains graphic sexual assault, violence, attempted suicide, and mental/ psychological abuse. Take into consideration before starting this story.
I’ve been a massive fan of Cora’s for years and whilst I had initially discovered her through her mafia series Born in Blood, I knew I wanted to go through her backlist of books when I had the chance. Not Meant To Be Broken was one of her most earliest stories and not mafia related at all. I had previously read reviews on this book and I admit it was partly the reason as to why I hadn’t read it sooner (and partly because for a while there I was strictly an adult, dark romance mood reader). 🤷♀️😅
After having read it, I have mixed feelings about the story… mostly the direction it headed and the overall flow. I loved the initial premise. I thought it was intriguing having a main character who had suffered from a brutal, totally heinous experience and is now living a debilitating and limiting life. I’ve read a couple of contemporary romance books that centred around young heroines who were rape victims. Their stories were personal, life-changing journeys of overcoming their demons and having the strength to move on and live their lives.
Whilst Amber’s story has the same structure, I found the vividness of Amber’s attack and the situations connecting to that event truly heart-wrenching. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of Cora’s earlier books, but one thing that she’s always managed to do with her writing style is capture readers’ attention. Right off the bat, you know there is something unusual about Amber, and as her story gradually unfolds, the more I was drawn to her as a person and wanting to see how her character would develop.
“Could I even feel safe in someone’s arms? Could I feel safe in Zach’s arms?”
There’s an unease in the atmosphere that plays well in making you feel not only for Amber and her circumstances, but those closest to her who have been just as affected. It feels overall realistic and quite relatable. It’s a tragedy; a work of fiction that hits so much with reality because it’s a situation that’s constantly happening in our society.
I felt for Amber’s struggle to interact with her brother and father the way she used to in the past. I also felt both Brian’s and their father’s frustration and heartbreak over not being able to help her the way they had hoped to. There’s a lot of guilt surrounding this family that you can’t help but sympathize their situation. But looking back, this entire storyline could easily have been depressing and all-out gloomy but Cora has managed to include some lighthearted and warming elements to keep it going too angsty.
I loved Amber’s cat, his presence alone always made me smile whilst reading this book, and I surprisingly adored Amber’s unexpected but very sweet friendship with Reagan. I hadn’t expected Reagan to have such a role that she did, but I quickly grew to love their girly time! To be real, she was the only constant goodness from all the secondary characters… *whispers* and the only one with good sense. 🤦♀️
Hmm. Is it weird to say that I actually preferred the hero, Zach when he was strictly being friendly and a hospitable roommate more so than when romantic feelings started blossoming between them?
There was something so endearing about Amber’s and Zach’s first introduction. I liked the dynamic he brought in by being the outsider who saw Amber in a different light in comparison to her family. What started swaying my opinion of him was his own personal issues outside of Amber and her circumstances. He’s described as a total man-whore who never even considered having a relationship with anyone, and whilst I always enjoy seeing a sexy hero eventually change his bachelor ways once “the one” comes a-knocking, for some reason I can’t quite pinpoint, I wasn’t completely sold on Zach. His behaviour gave me whiplash — one minute he’s the ever-so sweet and thoughtful guy, then the next he’s totally insensitive and such a…. ugh guy! 😒
“Maybe Zach was a mistake, but he was a mistake I wanted to make. It would be my choice.”
Unfortunately, the majority of the cast of characters in this story are of the male variant, and with the exception of Amber’s adorably broody cat and Amber’s father, the rest of the male population included are your stereotypical college douchebag boys — Yup. That’s including both Zach and Amber’s brother Brian! So in saying that, expect tons of eye-rolling drama that I, for one thought was both unnecessary and all around pesky to read through.
Honestly, more than half of the drama within this storyline was brought on by either Zach or Brian. If there wasn’t so much drama, this story would’ve been a lot shorter than it already was. Sigh.
I do however liked seeing the milestones and breakthroughs that Amber accomplishes. However, it would’ve felt a little more believable if they hadn’t come about all too quickly. She’s been in a reclusive, broken state for years, has extreme anxiety and not one for any physical contact… Yet she moves in with her brother and Zach, starts opening up, starts feeling more confident, which forms a romantic (and very much a physical) relationship with Zach all in a span of a couple months?! That’s quite a feat, am I right? 🤔
Whilst there were plenty of elements within that I thoroughly enjoyed, I can’t lie there were also parts that I wasn’t liking as much (hence my mixed feelings).
Amber’s and Zach’s relationship was somewhat of a slow burn at first. I thought their relationship was steadily developing, but halfway through I felt a shift in the pacing of the story. More issues started popping up at once and it felt like since it was nearing the end, it resulted in an abrupt wrap-up. Although the story was told from dual points of view, I truly think even a few more chapters would’ve done the trick in putting some depth to Zach’s life rather than a few scenes were you see him struggle and ultimately brush off his issues with his parents. Not to mention his parents’ relationship is totally fucked up!
The first half was gripping and set the world-building but in my opinion, the second half was a bit anticlimactic. I think if Cora was to ever go back and revamp this story, an epilogue is definitely in order. The ending completely left me with so much unanswered questions and the overall storyline just felt incomplete.
Not just with Zach and Amber but with the side stories and secondary characters as well. For example, Amber’s brother Brian had a seriously unhealthy relationship with his girlfriend. What happened to them? I can’t possibly (and sorta refuse to) accept that they’re still together. Then, there’s of course Zach’s own personal story and his own demons. They weren’t exactly sorted by the end. And one of the things I desperately was curious about was Amber’s self “therapy” sessions. It was never mentioned if she continued on with it, and if not, it seems a little sad knowing the girl she was having these chats with no longer has Amber as her support system.
Ugh. Questions. Questions. Questions. I could go on. I would’ve rated it higher if it had a proper ending.
It might not sound like it but despite all my hang-ups and issues with this story, I did overall enjoy reading it. There’s a bit of suspense included, and like all of Cora’s books it was easy to follow. I liked seeing Amber’s growth and the friendship she’s made. Even with Zach’s inconsistency, I respected the fact that he truly cared for Amber, a gentleman in regards to her feelings and ensuring her empowerment. And I can’t deny, despite all the drama surrounding Amber, she had people who were willing to go above and beyond to assist her, to make her as comfortable as possible, and to know that she is loved.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta fall before you fly.”
This was an ugly-cry type of new adult romance story. It had some great elements, an interesting plotline, and a complex heroine. Even though the storyline was centred around a tragedy, I found the realism of the characters’ emotions authentic that I couldn’t help but get invested in their lives.
If you’re a fan of Cora’s and like me, wanting to check out her non mafia related books, then give this one a go. You might find it refreshing to read one of her contemporary romance books! 😉
Read more reviews for Cora Reilly’s books!
🩸 Born In Blood Mafia Chronicles
🔥 The Camorra Chronicles
📚 Standalone Romance/ Novellas
Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo