The Hopeless Romantics Book blog are pleased to be a part of the Blog Tour for L.B Simmons "Under the Influence."
I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.
Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.
Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.
God this book made my heart hurt. I mean the synopsis for "Under the Influence" should have been enough warning that my vital organ would not go unscathed but nothing could have prepared me for the pain I experienced when I read Dalton and Spencer's story. Their journey to finding a HEA was one that was raw, gritty and often brutal with some of the subject matters covered particularly hard hitting. However, it was the epic love story woven amongst the pages that completely stole my heart and had me rooting for this couple. The day Dalton and Spencer met as children sealed their fate. It was written in the stars. They were meant to be together but it would take a lot of pain, suffering and sacrifice before they finally found their salvation... and so began the painful process of having my heart shattered.
"It's time for me to grow up.
And the only way to do that is to let you go.
I have to."
Told in three parts, I loved the way "Under the Influence" was delivered to the reader. It was unique and really added something special to Dalton and Spencer's journey. Each part gave me something different, pulling very different emotions from me but it was the the second part entitled "Withdrawal" that wrecked me. I was listening to this book on my long journey home (courtesy of kindle fire) and I was a complete mess. From the first letter to the last, my heart broke for Dalton and Spencer. The raw emotion, the heart felt honesty in those notes broke me and once the water works started, there was no switching them off. My chest hurt from the uncontrollable sobs that wracked it. My eyes were swollen and red from the tears. I dread to think what fellow drivers thought when they saw me as I waited in a traffic jam but I didn't care. This story had consumed me. It had affected me in such a way that I had to keep reading (listening). This wasn't how it was supposed to happen but it had to be this way. It was a balsy move to deliver such an important part of the book this way but it worked... it really worked as I got sucked into the emotional vortex of those notes.
Superman stares back at me as she states,
“You’re good like him. A hero. You just don’t know it yet.”
Each and every character in this book played a pivotal role in how this book played out. Rat and Cassie were loyal, loving friends who would do everything and anything for Dalton and Spencer. They were witty and definitely bought some much needed humour to what was (on the whole) a serious story line. And Spencer's mother ... just wow. The unconditional love and affection she offered not only to her daughter but the other kids left me in awe. Then there was Kirk Lawson who I was a little unsure of at the start but who really came through in the end.
So let's talk Dalton and Spencer. Both characters had suffered unimaginably as children, their past determining their future. Each had travelled a very different path but both were seeking the same thing... peace, solace, a home and that's what they found in one another. From the minute they shared their first sunset as children, an unbreakable bond was formed. A friendship that would span years. but when the past, the present and a potential future collided, would what they shared stand the test of time?
"There's so much more to you than you believe, Dalton. You think yourself
incapable of trust and compassion, of patience and empathy, but I know better."
She lifts her hand and flattens her palm on her chest. "I know because I feel you here.
The real you, not the concocted version you want everyone else to see."
Spencer's character was inspirational. She was selfless and what she offered was unconditional. she saw in Dalton what he couldn't see through the darkness that had consumed him and she made sure that he knew what a wonderful man he truly was. And Dalton...there was so much strength in his character yet this vulnerability that made me want to wrap him up in cotton wool and protect him from the big bad world. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he could see no way out of his situation. With no self worth, no self esteem, he saw himself as a nobody. A nobody that didn't deserve happiness or love. A nobody that didn't deserve the unconditional affection of the girl that had stolen his heart. What he didn't see was a man willing to sacrifice his own happiness for others. A man that would go to the ends of the earth to protect those he loved. And that (despite everything else) put him in my good books.
"I want you Spence, but I can't have you. I won't allow it. You're too good,
too pure, too innocent, and just as your presence soothes me, mine will eventually
flaw you. It's inevitable, and I care too much for you to let that happen."
It was difficult not to be affected by Spencer and Dalton's connection. The friendship they shared was beautiful and with the undeniable chemistry ever present in the background, this was a couple that truly belonged together. If only life was so simple.
"Under the Influence" was about the unconditional hand of friendship. It was about love, sacrifice and atonement. But most importantly, it was a story about hope and never giving up. Spencer and Dalton's story was one that captured my heart. The writing, the characters, the direction the story line took, the curve balls... all of these elements made it a book I was 100% invested in and one that I just couldn't put down. Honestly, this is definitely worth the read. If you love L.B Simmons (in fact even if you've never heard of her), get this book!!! You won't be disappointed. I rated "Under the Influence" ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Excerpt: Dalton POV:
All that remains is the orange in the sky and the sweet scent of the angel lying next to me. Nothing else.
We watch in silence as we always do until the sun finally sets, then both breathe out a long sigh before I turn to face her. “I have something for you. It’s not much, but I saw it and thought of you.”
Her eyes widen with excitement as an equally joyful smile spreads across her beautiful features. I reach into my pocket and pull out the item I spied just a couple of days ago, buying it as a gift for her birthday, but it turns out I really suck at surprises. Who knew?
Dangling the long strand of black beads in her face, an unexpected rush of anxiety races through my system. I’ve never given anyone anything. Ever. I find it extremely unnerving.
Her grin widens further as she extends her hand, uncurling her fingers and exposing her palm. I lower the bracelet and watch as it coils into her grasp. My eyes rise to meet hers and I swallow deeply, trying to rid the nerves constricting my throat. “It’s uh … They’re onyx—the beads. I read that they offer protection for the person who wears them. I just…” I clear my throat. “I wanted you to be protected even when I’m not around.”
Her smile is hindered as her teeth graze her bottom lip. I fight the urge to take that pouty lip in between mine, breaking my stare from her mouth and bringing it back to the bracelet before glancing back to her sky blue eyes.
She turns to fully face me, the bracelet still secure in her clenched hand. Her expression timid, she inquires, “Put it on me?”
I nod and slowly uncurl her grip, allowing my touch to linger on the soft pads of her fingers with each one drawn away. She shivers in response and I breathe a light chuckle through my nose, still amazed each time I elicit those involuntary reactions from her. Once the bracelet is pinched between my fingers, she turns her wrist and waits patiently as I hook the ends together. Releasing it, I watch as it slides gracefully along the skin of her arm to land across the bones of her wrist. My hand instinctively rises and my fingers trace its traveled path, raking over the bracelet as I clench her hand in mine and press a soft kiss in the center of her palm.
Her breath shudders before she whispers, “I love it, Dalton. It’s…perfect. Thank you.”
I feel my face warm with her compliment, so break my eyes away from her to focus on the stars. After a couple of moments of peace-filled silence, I inquire, “If you were a color, what color would you be?”
Taking her eyes away from the bracelet, she giggles and twists to look at me. “What color would I be?”
I nod. “Yeah…” I stall, stunned with my need for honesty. “It’s just, sometimes I feel like a chameleon, you know? Forced to change my colors based on where I am in my life.”
I release a weighted breath. “Lately it feels as though I change them so often, I’m nothing more than a fucked-up version of an impressionist painting.”
Glancing to the side, my heart lurches as she crinkles her nose in confusion, my absolute favorite of her expressions. My eyes linger the light scattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose before once again seeking comfort in the obscurity of the night sky. “To those far away, I project a solid, recognizable image. But in reality, I’m comprised of nothing but a series of angry, incoherent brush strokes in every color imaginable. Disjointed.”
I twist my neck and pin her with my stare. “Broken.”
Her mouth dips at the corners before she turns on her side and tucks her hands under her cheek, her blue eyes sincere. “Do you think Renoir and Monet didn’t know what they were doing? That they didn’t purposely place each stroke of their paintbrush in order to create their envisioned masterpiece?”
She tightens her gaze. “You are a work of art, Dalton. Your own masterpiece, regardless if you choose to acknowledge it or not. Every experience that paints your picture is a stroke made just for you. Each one of them is essential in order for you to grow, to learn, and to teach.”
She shrugs her shoulders. “You ask me what color I would be? Well, I would be every single color I could because to me, those colors are emotions. Feelings. And life would mean absolutely nothing without the many colors that surround us. The many … experiences we live through that propel us forward into the people we are meant to become.”
L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.