Sempre by J.M. Darhower

Posted March 2, 2014 by Sophia Rose in Reviews, Young Delight / 17 Comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sempre by J.M. Darhower

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Series: #1 Sempre
Genres: Young Adult Romance
Published by Pocket Star
Released on November 25, 2013
Pages: 528
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Get it at: add to goodreads

Ever once in a while, I come across a story that just defies description because of its scope and the emotions it produced in me.  When I added this one, I was taken by the title and by the cover and finally by the blurb.  I hadn’t heard anything one way or the other, but something told me this would be good stuff.  Love it when my instinct proves right.  Sempre was not an easy read, but it’s unforgettable.  It was dark and challenging.  It reminded me that the world is not a kind place and a person’s safe passage and well being is not guaranteed from one day to the next when the unforeseen horrors can strike.  Yet for all its backdrop steeped in danger and darkness, this is a story of hope, redemption and love.

Haven is a second generation slave.  Serving Master Michael and before him, Master Frankie on a remote ranch in the middle of the desert, is all she has known, but that changes when Dr. Vincent DeMarco buys her and brings her away to his home where she will live with him and his two teenage sons.  Haven is forced to separate from her mother who remains a slave in the desert and Haven is confused and terrified by the change in her life.  Dr. DeMarco tells her he only expects basic housekeeping and meals.  He gives her clothing, her own room and a gentler routine, but she can sense the menace toward her in his eyes and expression.  She is warned what will happen if she tries to escape and not long after she is there, he frightens her with more than words.

Carmine DeMarco has been a hot angry, volatile mess for years.  The year before he was sent away for an act of violence against his former best friend, but now he’s back.  He is in trouble constantly, he has a nasty temper and he can and does have any girl for the taking.  He is also good looking, son of a wealthy doctor and popular at his school as the starting quarterback.  When the girl comes to live with them, he finds it a shock that she avoids him and skitters around like he’s a monster.  It intrigues him.  His brother, Dom, who is a gentler and kinder person has better luck with her which frustrates Carmine into really making an effort to tone it down.

Slowly, Haven and Carmine reach out.  Haven is scared that she is doing a bad thing to become familiar with her new master’s son, but being with Carmine is too special even if it is just simply sitting together in the family room.  For the first time in his life, Carmine finds himself accepted with no judgment for who he is by someone who wants nothing from him.  He is awed to be the one to make Haven feel happy and safe.  Haven is honest about her past and he is appalled by what he learns.  He is determined to have something with her even if there are many barriers to overcome.  He is disgusted and wants answers for his dad’s actions.

Vincent’s actions and plans have him walking a tightrope of danger.  He lives apart from The Family, or Mafia, but he is still sworn to loyalty and duty whenever the Don Salvatore calls for him.  The secrets he is keeping and the girl in his home can get them all killed.  The Russian mob is pushing into their territory and he is at the Don’s beck and call more than ever.  He is determined that his boys have a normal life and are kept far away from The Family business.  Sal has his eye on Carmine as his future successor.  Vincent can see the changes in his son since the girl came.  He likes the changes, but he warns Carmine away from anything of a close nature with the girl.  The secrets swirling around her have the potential to tear open a painful past and destroy the future of his family.

This was a hefty book weighing in at over 500 pages.  At first, I looked on this with reservation, but once I got started I forgot how long it was.  Not once did I feel like the pace dragged nor was I bored.  The action, romance and character development was really given time and scope to unfurl and that was a very good thing.  It’s a story set against the Mafia and slave trafficking so it was never going to be sweet and pretty, but the author managed to keep the tone just right and not go down into utter darkness.

I loved the narrations of Haven, Carmine and Vincent in equal measure.  Their voices are distinct as is their point of view.  I thought this was skillfully done.  I should also mention that there are several dips into the past to explain the present better.  The story is allowed to unwrap layer by layer so that any assumptions I made as I started were blown out of the water at a later point.  Most characters have some larceny in them if not outright villainy as many were associated with the Mafia.  Haven was the one shining light of goodness in the beginning.  This girl is my hero for passing through the fires and coming out the way she did.  She might be a slave with a narrow sense of the world, but she is bright and beneath it all she has dignity and is not a doormat.  There are a slew of well developed secondary characters behind the three main characters, but I won’t take the time to speak on them all.  While I loved Haven and Carmine as individuals and together, my favorite characters were Vincent, Dom and Corrada Moretti.  I’d like to elaborate on why, but that would cause some spoilerage.

The romance has a slight YA feel to it, but then not really- which is true of the whole book.  Carmine goes to school and there are lots of scenes that have other kids and normal teen activities in them, but there is always the hidden stuff that have a more adult feel too plus it is an adult story when Vincent is doing the narrating.  Because of who and what they are, Carmine, his brother and Haven are older beyond their years.  Carmine comes across as an abrasive punk (though I still liked him b/c he had a tough row to hoe) and Haven naive about regular life stuff outside the home, but they don’t seem like teenagers to me.  This is good because these two took their time, but eventually they were together as a couple in all ways.  They were attracted almost immediately, but Carmine and Haven’s romance development took quite some time and they had several moments of conflict to work through too.  I enjoyed the inclusion of several types of moments with them.  My favorites were the firefly night, Haven reading while Carmine played guitar and I have to include the hilarious learning to drive scene (Carmine is a crappy teacher and we’ll leave it at that).

Because of the nature of this story which includes strong violence, strong language, moderate substance abuse and moderately detailed sex scenes, I’m going to recommend this for older teens and the teens at heart.

As to type of readers, those who enjoy dark, gritty action and spicy romance in their Contemporaries should give this one a try.

My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • Wow Sophia. That sounds like an incredible read! Love a dark gritty read now and again. And that it held you for that many pages? Even better. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up on it. I probably wouldn’t have grabbed it otherwise 🙂

    • I know…sometimes you just get lucky and stumble across something good. Now that its the new month. I can grab up the sequel. I’ve heard its not as good as the first, but I still want to read it.

      • Aw hopefully it’s a good read for you. The sequels can be hard sometimes but still worth the read. Can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

        • I suspect that I’ll like it better than those reviews promise b/c I’m okay with a transition book. It’s a five book series and the biggest complaint was the two characters spent a great deal of time apart getting used to their new roles. I can be patient knowing that things won’t stay that way and the romance and character development may be slow. Yep, eventually you’ll see my thoughts on it though I have a pile to get through first.

          • Oh that doesn’t sound too bad. Sometimes those books are needed to get things going where they need to go. And oys yeah I have that pile too. Making some progress but dang all the blog visits smh they do their damage. lol

            • Hehe! Yeah, blog visits do a number on my wish pile too.

  • I felt the same way about this one Sophia. Definitely was more than a YA read especially with dark tones that were in the book.

    • I remember reading your review and I was glad I did b/c you mentioned some thoughts to prepare me for what I was getting in to. I loved how she managed to stay real with the dark stuff and yet I didn’t feel it was all doom and gloom either.

      • Excactly! not all doom and gloom. And I really did like how she made her character “adultish”. This is what draws me to YA stories when i read them.

        • This one really seems to defy classification. It didn’t have a YA feel much of the time, but I suppose it is based on their age and that there are many school scenes. I don’t know what she’ll do with the rest of the series b/c now they’ll be more like New Adults. I have the same preferences when I read YA. I like it when the plot and characters are more mature.

          • yup…definitely out the YA genre, especially given the tone of the story itself. I think NA is a good genre for it, but I feel they should lean more towards an adult audience with this one.

            • I think you’re more right than me. While the age might be NA, I don’t think it will take that tone. I think they deal with adult issues particularly now that Carmine is part of The Family. There are supposed to be five books that I’m guessing take them well into their adult years if all five books are about them. Personally, I like the tone of adult-ishness. I read a good bit of YA and NA, but I really don’t like immaturity, high angst or other issues that seem to crop up a lot in those age levels of books.

              • thats my thing too…I can’t deal with the immurturity of the characters,its irritating to read..see. If they take a more of a adult tone with the books, then I’ll continue with the series. I think she had a good story as a whole on her hands, but I think she should keep it geared more towards adults. Like you said, with Carmine now being a part of the family…its going that way.

                • Have you read the second one, Redemption?

                  • no. I saw it on Edelweiss and wanted to get it, but didn’t. But now I’m thinking about it.

                    • Ooh, that’s cool that its still available for review. I’ve read many reviews that say the next book isn’t as good as the first one, but I still want to continue with the series. I haven’t used Edelweiss yet. I’ll have to nose around there.

          • yup…definitely out the YA genre, especially given the tone of the story itself. I think NA is a good genre for it, but I feel they should lean more towards an adult audience with this one.