Review: “Sempre” by J.M. Darhower

Sempre (Sempre, #1)Sempre by J.M. Darhower

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is probably going to be shorter than usual because it took me more than two months to read this one. I put it down and picked it back up three times.

I’m sure I’ll read the next ones in the series because I’ve been told it gets better and because the style is good. I’m curious to see how Carmine will deal with his choices and how his relationship with Haven will develop.

That being said, there were a few things that didn’t work for me. Usually, I love long books, but here I could have gladly made without all those scenes about Dr. DeMarco. And sometimes I found the scenes to be disjointed from one another. I didn’t mind the temporal lapses at times or the fast pace, but I’m not able now to pinpoint the focus points of the narration and this bothers me. So many things happened, some minor, other major. There were a few great secrets and plot twists I hadn’t seen coming and that goes on the pro list. But all in all I cannot remember or point out where the climaxes happened, besides the obvious last one.

Still, on the cons: the Italian. I know this may make me sound picky, but some of the sentences didn’t make sense. Or, better, they made sense if I translated them word-per-word from Italian to English. Things like Fucking translated in Italian with “Fucking” as in the sexual act and not as a swear word. Or the word:: “Puttani”. This word doesn’t even exist in our vocabulary. (It’s puttana, by the way). And this is not even the half of it. Nowadays, using Google translate is not an option and with tools like social media, it’s so easy to ask for language-related help. Although, I bought this book eons ago so I don’t know if the newer versions are more correct.

I think the worst part was that I lost interest while reading it and found it progressively harder to keep going. I also found it strange how little Haven’s arrival upset the DeMarcos’ life. Sure, they already had their weird dynamics even before she entered the picture, but I would have expected a bigger shock. You find a stranger in your house and… you’re kinda ok with it. No question asked.

On the pro list:
I loved how it was both Carmine and Haven’s first love. It had that “first love” taste made of hesitancies, insecurities and yet that desire of trusting another person with your feelings and body.

Carmine and Haven were complex characters. What I loved the most about him was how devoted he was to her, but nonetheless, he’s not perfect. He’s got a temper, impatient, easily annoyed. It was incredibly realistic.

“Haven? You look beautiful. Carmine may be an asshole, but he’s a lucky asshole.”
She smiled. “Thank you, but I think I’m the lucky one.”

About Haven, her best feature was undoubtedly her original view on the world. We find out in the prologue she’s a slave and it was empowering to read about her journey from slave to her own person. Still, some speckles of it stuck to her mentality and made for a fresh POV. Sometimes, in contemporary romance, NA or YA, you read of clueless, naive heroines and they’re not believable at all, but in Haven’s situation, I would have been surprised of the opposite. She’s experiencing everything for the first time, not just love, but life outside of slavery.

“Okay, Romeo.”
“Like in Romeo and Juliet. They come from different sides but meet in the middle. We have the forbidden love part, right?”
“Yeah, but we’re not killing ourselves, Haven, so that’s about as similar as it gets. Besides, Romeo’s an idiot. Pick someone else.”
“How about Shrek?”
His brow furrowed. “Shrek? Really? He’s an ogre.”
“Shrek and Fiona thought they were different when they weren’t.”
He contemplated that until he realized he was comparing his life to a cartoon. “Pick another.”
“Titanic? Rose and Jack weren’t supposed to be together.”
“Seriously? He dies. I’m not gonna jinx myself here.”
She was quiet, running her fingers across his abs and tracing his scar with her fingertips. “How about we just be Haven and Carmine? We don’t know the ending, but we can always hope for the best.”

There’s this freshness about them, this first love atmosphere clinging to them, which was one of the things I appreciated the most.

The message of the book came through strong and I liked how Carmine, who started as a guy who didn’t care about much, spoke so openly and passionately against slavery. Loving Haven changed him, made him grown up and think of someone else’s happiness beside his own.

So, whatever. Go on being naïve. Believe what the history books tell you if you want. Believe what Mrs. Anderson wants me to tell you about it. Believe the land of the free—blah, blah, blah—star-spangled-banner bullshit. Believe there aren’t any slaves anymore because a tall guy in a big-ass top hat and a bunch of politicians said so. But I won’t believe it, because if I do too, we’ll all be fucking wrong, and someone has to be right here.

Brownie points for the way the mafia was portrayed, not romanticized, but feared. I highly appreciated it because there’s nothing romantic about the Mafia. In here, it WAS the bad guy, the destiny to avoid, the thing to fight against. So super-kudos for that!

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which summarizes their romance perfectly.

The girl who had never been able to call her life her own taught a boy who had the world at his fingertips exactly what it meant to live. He wasn’t alone anymore.

Well, it actually turned out to be a pretty long review, eventually, and not too rant-y (*pats herself on the shoulder*)



4 thoughts on “Review: “Sempre” by J.M. Darhower

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