***I received a copy of this book complimentary from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.***
A Hold on Me by Pat Esden
(Dark Heart #1)
Published: February 23rd, 2016 by Kensington
Genres: paranormal romance, new adult, contemporary, fantasy
Trigger Warnings: gore, violence, attempted murder, possession, exorcisms
Pages: 320 pgs.
2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge: A book published in 2016
She never wanted to return.
He wants nothing more than for her to leave.
But the fire between them is as strong as the past that haunts them.
Annie Freemont grew up on the road, immersed in the romance of rare things, cultivating an eye for artifacts and a spirit for bargaining. It’s a freewheeling life she loves and plans to continue–until her dad is diagnosed with dementia. His illness forces them to return to Moonhill, their ancestral home on the coast of Maine–and to the family they left behind fifteen years ago, after Annie’s mother died in a suspicious accident.
Once at Moonhill, Annie is shocked when her aunt separates her from her father. The next time Annie sees him, he’s a bizarre, violent shadow of his former self. Confused, she turns to an unlikely ally for support–Chase, the dangerously seductive young groundskeeper. With his dark good looks and powerful presence, Chase has an air of mystery that Annie is irresistibly drawn to. But she also senses that behind his penetrating eyes are secrets she can’t even begin to imagine. Secrets that hold the key to the past, to Annie’s own longings–and to all of their futures. Now, to unlock them, she’ll have to face her greatest fears and embrace her legacy…
PAT ESDEN would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts. An antique-dealing florist by trade, she’s also a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the League of Vermont Writers. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society’s Mythic Circle literary magazine, and George H. Scither’s
anthology Cat Tales.
Every family has their skeletons lurking in their respective closets and hoping they never are released. However, what some people are hiding might be far more sinister than others. When it comes to the Freemont family in Pat Esden’s A Hold on Me, it’s this devotion to keeping the family secrets under lock and key that might be the ultimate downfall for them all. Found within the pages of a rollercoaster of a paranormal romance, Esden tells a tale that should leave readers wanting to know exactly what lurks within.
Twenty-year-old Annie and her father have always kept a healthy distance away from his side of the family since her mom’s passing. Having grown up in the art appraisal world, Annie knows how to spot and crack a poker face from miles away. Once her father starts suddenly displaying the symptoms of dementia, though, they have no choice but to give up their nomadic life to move back to her family’s home on the coast of Maine. Upon their arrival, mysterious shadows keep popping up across the property and even her family members seem reluctant to tell Annie exactly what’s going on — or even give her the time of day. All she wants is to see her father get well again, but maybe this is more than what she’s wished for.
The root and main antagonists of this story are creatures that I never expected to be involved in a million years: genies. While, granted, I’ve never found myself attracted to that particular subsection of the paranormal genre, it was interesting to get a taste of what exactly genie stories are about; these definitely aren’t your Robin Williams-esque genies, either. Annie has a full fear of the dark stemming from a harrowing encounter early on in her life and, given the ferocity and viciousness of Esden’s genies, I’m not surprised. Furthermore, I appreciate that this story focuses more on the mystery that surrounds Annie’s dad’s possession rather than the blossoming romance between Chase and Annie. While the romantic element is nice, I always enjoy when it takes a backseat to the action of the story that really draws me in. Additionally, there’s a full cast of multi-faceted, interesting characters at play in A Hold on Me, which is not an easy feat to accomplish in a story like this. I definitely commend Esden on this aspect of character development.
However, there are some aspects of the book that give me pause and almost prevent me from fully falling in love with it. While I mentioned a moment ago that the romantic aspects are definitely in the background of the story, I feel like it’s only doing so because it doesn’t feel like something that’s naturally developing between Annie and Chase. They don’t seem to have any real spark between them from the first time they have an encounter, all the way through to the end. Chase has a line near the end where he mentions he’d go through the same hell Annie’s dad is going through to keep her safe, where up to that point, he hadn’t really shown too much more than a friendly interest in her? On top of that, some of the motivations behind the other characters’ actions don’t seem so clear, either. Annie’s aunt Kate treats her with so much derision and almost hatred from the start with no real reason. Between her, Annie’s Grandfather, and some of the other in-the-know family members, there are so many things being withheld from Annie for almost no reason other than their leftover spite from her father’s actions. Once she had proved herself as trustworthy, wouldn’t opening up to her about the truth made this situation a lot less complicated?
All in all, A Hold on Me is an intriguing contemporary mystery that has just the right touches of paranormal influence that make me wanting more. While Annie and her family aren’t entirely out of the woods yet with their genie problem, it was an entertaining ride to see how this large cast of characters came together to solve the puzzle. Although the romance was uncomfortable and there were some lacking details in character motivations, I still cannot wait to see what Esden has in store for the next installment in the series.
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