Tabs’ review of The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away, Book 1) by Roni Loren
Contemporary Romance published by Sourcebooks 02 Jan 18
Roni Loren’s latest novel is a book that I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to read because the romance involves reuniting two survivors of a devastating school shooting. In the last year, my tolerance for contemporary plots with abuse and/or trauma has vastly decreased. Even in a good year, there are few authors I would trust with such a sensitive subject matter. Fortunately, Loren treats her characters with compassion and sensitivity. The characters are more than what happened to them and their story is about living, not just surviving.
More than a decade after a shooting devastated the Long Acre High School Senior Prom, survivors have gathered in their hometown to participate in a documentary with proceeds to go to charity. When four women who bonded in the early days following the tragedy get together and unearth messages from their former selves, they find that they may not have moved forward as much as they think they have. Is just hanging in there really enough?
In many ways, Liv Arias is prospering. She has a successful career and has reached a healthy place after some troubled years spent burying her troubles in sex and alcohol. Her teenaged goals may seem superficial – pursue photography and passionate love affairs – but they highlight the fact that passion in any form is something that Liv is definitely missing and maybe it’s time to take some risks.
Finn Dorsey is a fellow survivor who has spent the last decade mastering the lone-wolf approach. His relationship with Liv at the time of the shooting was complex in a way that only teenagers can pull off and he carries a lot of guilt and regret for what happened to her that night that he hasn’t processed fully. He is also an FBI agent coming off of a difficult years-long undercover assignment. He needs to recuperate and transition back to normal life before his superiors will allow him to take another long-term undercover assignment. When he confides his “live alone at a remote lake house” summer plans to Liv, she quite reasonably points out that they’re pretty much crap.
“That is such a man plan.”
“A man plan.”
“Yes. You don’t know how to be among the living anymore, so you’re going to…go live alone in a cave. Right. Good thinking. That will pop your how-to-be-human skills right back into place.”
A summer romance becomes truly inevitable when Finn and Liv come up with a plan that mutually benefits them both. Finn will still hermit away at his lake house for the summer, but Liv will come up for long weekends to keep him company and to work on her photography. They, of course, agree to keep things platonic but that quickly goes out the window.
Finn and Liv’s romance is, in many ways, the easiest part of their story. Their chemistry is palpable and the joy and comfort they bring each other is beautiful. They’ve always fit well together and, since coming together for the first time, neither has met anyone else who lights them up in any similar way. Picking things up again is almost effortless and it’s nice to see neither of them struggle with admitting how they feel. Being in love is easy for them. Maintaining a functional relationship and letting go of baggage and distractions is harder.
I can’t wrap up this review without touching on the truly lovely female relationships in this book. The women in this story have been through hell and back and they have each other’s damn backs. They celebrate each other’s triumphs and they support each other unequivocally. I have no doubt that this thread will continue through the rest of the series, and I’m excited to see it play out.
These women were fierce and tough and brave. And for the first time in longer than she could remember, she realized she was one of them. Those words applied to her, too.
The Ones Who Got Away is ultimately a story of hope and perseverance. It isn’t a gentle read, but it is a powerful and hopeful one.
It’s been twelve years since tragedy struck the senior class of Long Acre High School. Only a few students survived that fateful night—a group the media dubbed The Ones Who Got Away.
Liv Arias thought she’d never return to Long Acre—until a documentary brings her and the other survivors back home. Suddenly her old flame, Finn Dorsey, is closer than ever, and their attraction is still white-hot. When a searing kiss reignites their passion, Liv realizes this rough-around-the-edges cop might be exactly what she needs…
Liv’s words cut off as Finn got closer. The man approaching was nothing like the boy she’d known. The bulky football muscles had streamlined into a harder, leaner package and the look in his deep green eyes held no trace of boyish innocence.